Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Final: Josh Barnett vs. Daniel Cormier
-Is this thing worth watching? Let’s see…
Written by Jaycen De Norscia
On Saturday, May 19 at Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier, Josh Barnett & Daniel Cormier are set to wage war in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Final! With little time remaining before this fight unfolds, I feel it’s of the utmost importance to address something most relevant to it. As most MMA fans know, the UFC is the adult in the MMA room. All other MMA organizations are certainly just competing for second, including its fellow Zuffa, LLC owned entity, Strikeforce. So, with that cold fact on the table, a rational fan would instantly assume that anything Strikeforce must be below anything UFC – But that’s where there’s been a misconception. While that frame of mind may be accurate most of the time, the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix is the exception to that rule, and thus, the Final should be acknowledged and anticipated as such!
This began as an eight-man tournament, and has come a long way to reach the finals. To really do it justice, we must look back through time and see how this finale came about, beginning with its opening round match-ups, the Strikeforce 2011 Grand Prix Quarter Finals:
2/12/11 – East Rutherford, NJ – Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva: Sergei Kharitonov def. Andrei Arlovski via KO (punches) at 2:49 of round 1. The only man in the tournament withholding a prior win over the favorable Alistair Overeem, Sergei Kharitonov adds Andrei Arlovski’s name to his dispatch list!
2/12/11 – East Rutherford, NJ – Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva: Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva def. Fedor Emelianenko via TKO (doctor stoppage) after round 2. Unbelievable! Fedor lost again! And through this, Bigfoot picked up the biggest win of his MMA career, bar none! Update: M-1 Global will no longer be co-promoting any of this tournament. (lol!)
It’s of interest to note that Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva contained three more heavyweight bouts, all listed as “Grand Prix reserve bouts,” for in case a fighter who qualified in the actual tournament were to suffer injury, then a suitable replacement could be made. Most notably of these reserve bouts, Shane del Rosario def. Lavar Johnson via submission (armbar) at 4:31 of round 1.
6/18/11 – Dallas, TX – Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum: Josh Barnett def. Brett Rogers via submission (arm-triangle choke) at 1:17 of round 2. Josh hasn’t lost a fight since he met Big Nog in PRIDE on 12/31/06, and he’s been on a roll ever since. This victory over Rogers puts him on an seven-fight winning streak and, of course, sends him cruising into the Semi Finals!
6/18/11 – Dallas, TX - Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum: Alistair Overeem def. Fabricio Werdum via unanimous decision (30–27, 30–27, 29–28). Shortly after ending Fedor’s legendary streak, Fabricio Werdum tried to make Alistair Overeem the next casualty on his path of destruction, but the Reem wasn’t having any of that. And after Alistair got through with him, the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix would no longer be having anymore of Werdum!
It’s of interest to note that Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum contained a couple more heavyweight fights on its undercard. However, these fights were not listed as Grand Prix reserve bouts. Most notably of the aforementioned couple, Daniel Cormier def. Jeff Monson via unanimous decision (30–27, 30–27, 30–27).
With the Quarter Finals in our rearview mirror, we quickly looked ahead in the hopes of setting our sights on the Semi Finals, which were announced to be fought on September 10, 2011. However, Alistair Overeem felt that the Semi Finals were set to take place too soon following his Quarter Final fight, which was less than three months prior to this! Overeem opted to withdraw from the tournament, which left a huge hole in the Semi Finals. Would one of the winners of the reserve bouts step in and take the spot? Not exactly! The company went in a different direction, awarding the spot to undefeated Daniel Cormier! I personally approve of this decision, as I feel it’s always more exciting to watch a fight when you know one of the men involved is undefeated. The whole time it’s happening, you’re asking yourself: “Will this be it – Is the streak about to end? Or can he somehow persist and keep that thing going?!” Questions like this enhance the experience, ten-fold, and make being a fight-fan that much more enjoyable.
Moving forward on our little history lesson, let’s take a look now at the Strikeforce 2011 Grand Prix Heavyweight Semi Finals:
9/10/11 – Cincinnati, OH - Strikeforce World Grand Prix: Barnett vs. Kharitonov: Daniel Cormier def. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva via KO (punches) at 3:56 of round 1. Cormier legitimizes his entry with a big knockout over Bigfoot Silva in the first round! Cormier is headed to the Finals, and with 9-0 momentum in his favor!
9/10/11 – Cincinnati, OH – Strikeforce World Grand Prix: Barnett vs. Kharitonov: Josh Barnett def. Sergei Kharitonov via submission (arm-triangle choke) at 4:28 of round 1. The Warmaster extends his winning streak to eight, seizing advancement to the Finals, where he will meet the undefeated Daniel Cormier!
Now, before we get back to that, let’s “look up” at the UFC for a moment. Most recently, we got an awesome freeby, UFC on FOX 3. Any names we covered in our Grand Prix history lesson on that card? Yup! Lavar Johnson, who lost a reserve bout to Shane del Rosario, was featured in heavyweight combat against Pat Barry. This time, Johnson was victorious! And how about the UFC’s next PPV, UFC 146: Does that have anyone we just learned about competing on it? Yup! Shane del Rosario, whom we just covered, will collide with undefeated (8-0) Stipe Miočić! Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva will also be featured on this all-heavyweights knockout of a PPV, as he takes on perhaps his greatest task to date: The former UFC Heavyweight Champion, Cain Velasquez! And that’s not all! Rather than highlight what would’ve been (in regards to Alistair Overeem no longer headlining UFC 146), lets talk about what will be (in regards to another fighter we highlighted on our Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix journey): UFC 147 comes our way on June 23, and features Fabricio Werdum (coming off of a win over Roy Nelson at UFC 143 in February, 2012) going head-to-head with Mike Russow!
Now are you seeing the trend? All the men who lost or withdrew from the Strikeforce Heavyweight World Grand Prix (excluding Fedor Emelianenko, but he dug his own grave in Dana’s backyard) are now under UFC contract. So, if you’re an MMA fan, but are one of those who, for good reason thus far, likes to just keep his eyes on the big stage of the UFC, make an exception this one time – Because as I’ve shown you through the wonders of history, this is the one exception to the UFC superiority rule.
So what should YOU do? Call up your boys, spread the word, set your TV reminder for the Showtime channel on Saturday, May 19, pickup a few cases of beer, pop those suckers open and enjoy this heavyweight showdown, and a glimpse of the UFC’s future:
Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Final: Josh Barnett vs. Daniel Cormier
Can Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, “The Warmaster” Josh Barnett extend his winning streak to nine, earn what would undoubtedly be his greatest accolade to date, and unquestionably write his own name in permanent marker near the top of everybody’s respective heavyweight ranking sheets?! OR will the decorated wrestling phenom, Daniel Cormier keep his undefeated streak alive in the sport of MMA by simplifying the name, ‘Josh Barnett’ to ‘Number 10,’ symbolic of his would-be place in Cormier’s record, thus causing a tremor to globally rumble at the world of MMA, merely a teaser for the earthquake that would then await the UFC’s heavyweight division, courtesy of Cormier?!
Remember, history shows us that even losing this tournament is good enough to get a spot in the UFC (unless your name is Fedor, and you’ve been plagued by a manager’s awful decision-making on your behalf to result in you getting blackballed), so expect whoever loses to come to terms on a UFC contract, as well. Having said that, though, what kind of red carpet treatment will the WINNER of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix receive from the UFC? …A shot at the Heavyweight Championship?! Anything’s possible.
It all comes down to this – Who wants it more: Barnett or Cormier?!
Fight fans, do NOT miss this epic encounter unfold on Saturday, May 19 – Only on Showtime!
And, of course, order the all-heavyweights UFC 146 PPV on Saturday, May 26 to see Junior dos Santos defend his UFC Heavyweight Championship against the former Champion, Frank Mir!
…Is there a better time to be a fight fan than right now?!
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