Strikeforce World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament: Barnett vs. Cormier – Preview, Guest Panel Picks & Event Coverage
By PDG Staff
This weekend Strikeforce concludes it’s Heavyweight Grand Prix with Josh Barnett versus Daniel Cormier. Despite losing tournament favorite and former Strikeforce champion Alistair Overeem, the tournament has still been an exciting piece of mixed martial arts – especially now that the previously shallow heavyweight talent pool is growing rapidly.
In the semi-finals PRIDE 2006 Open-Weight Grand Prix finalist and former UFC champion Josh Barnett submitted PRIDE star Sergei Kharitonov while Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva – who was riding high off of a win over the legendary Fedor Emelianenko, was crushed by former Olympian and tournament alternate Daniel Cormier. Now one fight will decide the tournament champion.
Also on the card is Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez as he takes on the former champion Josh Thomson in a rubber-match. Heavy hitters Mike Kyle and Rafael Feijao face off in light heavyweight action as Feijao looks to avenge an earlier loss to Kyle. Rounding out the main card on Showtime, welterweights Nah-Shon Burrell and Chris Spang will look to give fans exciting fast paced fight.
The undercard will be televised on Showtime Extreme and will be headlined by Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante as he takes on Isaac Vallie-Flagg.
Josh Barnett (31-5) vs. Daniel Cormier (9-0)
Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Finals
Josh Barnett has consistently established himself as one of the world’s premiere heavyweights. Making his biggest impact in PRIDE, Barnett compiled a 5-4 record in the promotion with wins over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Aleksander Emelianenko, and Mark Hunt. Barnett’s most impressive run with the Japanese promotion came when he was the runner up in the organization’s 2006 open-weight tournament.
Following the downfall of PRIDE, Barnett fought twice under the Sengoku Raiden Championship banner where he submitted Olympic gold medalist judoka Hidehiko Yoshida with a heel hook and outpointed former UFC heavyweight contender Jeff Monson. Barnett then won a pair of bouts in Affliction by avenging a prior knockout loss to Pedro Rizzo with a knockout punch of his own and then submitting Gilbert Yvel with punches.
Barnett returned to Japan where he fought once for Dream, submitting K-1 star “Mighty Mo” Siala-Mou Siliga. “The Warmaster” then traveled to Australia to fight in the first Impact FC event, stopping Geronimo dos Santos with strikes inside three minutes. Most recently Barnett defeated Sergey Kharitonov in the Strikeforce HW GP semi-finals with an arm-triangle choke. Prior to that Barnett won his Strikeforce debut in the quarter-finals of the promotion’s heavyweight tournament, submitting Brett Rogers with an arm-triangle choke 1:17 into the second round. Barnett is currently riding an eight-fight win streak.
Strikeforce Record: 2-0 (2 Submissions)
Strengths: CACC background, underrated striking, 17 wins by submission
Weaknesses: Struggles sometimes striking with stand-up specialists
Key Wins: Sergey Kharitonov, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Aleksander Emelianenko, Kazuhiro Nakamura, Randy Couture, Jeff Monson, Hidehiko Yoshida, Mark Hunt, Siala-Mou Siliga, Semmy Schilt, Pedro Rizzo, Brett Rogers, Gilbert Yvel, Geronimo dos Santos, Yuki Kondo
Notable Losses: Mirko Filipovic (3), Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Pedro Rizzo
Daniel Cormier entered mixed martial arts with a strong wrestling background. Cormier was a two-time junior college national champion and an NCAA Div I runner-up. Cormier competed at the 2004 Olympic Games, finishing fourth. He was set to compete at the 2008 Olympic Games but did not due to suffering kidney failure from weight cutting.
He holds a perfect record in professional mixed martial arts. He debuted in the Strikeforce Challengers series with a TKO stoppage before winning by knockout in his second Challengers appearance. Cormier then competed once under the XMMA banner where he won by TKO.
After a win in King of the Cage, Cormier returned to Strikeforce, stopping journeyman Jason Riley with strikes. Cormier then picked up a win over one-time UFC veteran Soa Palelei with XMMA before making a more permanent return to Strikeforce. In his most recent performances he earned unanimous decisions over Devin Cole and one-time UFC heavyweight contender Jeff Monson before entering the Strikeforce HW GP and crushing Antonio Silva. Following Alistair Overeem’s removal from the Strikeforce heavyweight tournament, Cormier found himself as the dark horse for fans and critics alike and so far he has taken advantage of the opportunity.
Strikeforce Record: 6-0 (3 TKO, 1 Sub)
Strengths: Olympic wrestler, athleticism, improved stand-up
Weaknesses: Experience, size
Key Wins: Antonio Silva, Jeff Monson, Devin Cole, Soa Palelei
Notable Losses: None
Strikeforce HW GP: Josh Barnett vs. Daniel Cormier – Guest Panel Picks:
Diamond Dallas Page (DDP Yoga, former WWE & WCW Superstar) – “I believe it is going to be Josh Barnett all the way bro.”
Paul Daley (29-12-2, Former Cage Rage British Welterweight Champion) – “Barnett with a submission win in the 3rd round.”
Jesse Finney (6-1, Owner of Finney’s H.I.T. Squad Gym) – “I am really looking forward to this fight. I think I am going to go with the upset and go with Comier by KO in the 3rd round. I just don’t think Josh will be able to take him down. I am looking forward to a great overall fight card.”
Scott Casber (Takedown Wrestling Radio) – “This is a real simple pick for me. DC! Daniel Cormier is the man!”
Ian McCall (11-2-1, Former Tachi Palace Fights Flyweight Champion) – “Barnett is going to win with a submission.”
Paul Bradley (19-4, Strikeforce & UFC Vet) – “I am going to go with Cormier on this one. He seems to be on a hot streak as of late and I’m going to say he takes this one by decision.”
Gilbert Melendez (20-2) vs. Josh Thomson (19-4-1)
Strikeforce Lightweight Championship
Gilbert Melendez (10-1, Strikeforce) has earned the right to be considered the top lightweight in the world. He is without a doubt the top lightweight outside of the UFC, and is one of the most anticipated future signings since Zuffa purchased the promotion.
After losing his Strikeforce lightweight title to Josh Thomson, Melendez knocked out Rodrigo Damm before avenging the only other loss of his career by stopping Mitsuhiro Ishida. He then dominated Thomson over five rounds to reclaim the title in a rematch.
In his first title defense, Melendez dominated Shinya Aoki over five rounds, nearly finishing the Japanese star and then he won a rematch with Tatsuya Kawajiri, stopping the former PRIDE star inside the first round. In his last cage appearance Melendez won a unanimous decision over Jorge Masvidal back in December.
Melendez trains under Cesar Gracie with the powerhouse team featuring Nick Diaz, Nate Diaz, and Jake Shields. Melendez holds a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and owns eleven career wins by TKO and one by submission.
Strengths: Heavy handed, Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, good wrestling
Weaknesses: Tends to throw wild strikes
Key Wins: Jorge Masvidal, Shinya Aoki, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Josh Thomson, Mitsuhiro Ishida, Hiroyuki Takaya, Stephen Palling, Rumina Sato, Clay Guida, Harris Sarmiento
Notable Losses: Josh Thomson, Mitsuhiro Ishida
Josh Thomson (9-3, Strikeforce) was on the cusp of being the greatest lightweight in the world in 2004 until one headkick from Yves Edwards spoiled everything. Owning wins over Hermes Franca, “Razor” Rob McCullough, and Victor Estrada, Thomson tasted defeat for a second time in a championship bout against Clay Guida before turning things around and approaching top-ten status.
After losing to Guida in 2006, Thomson strung together a series of six wins, including defeats of Harris Sarmiento, Nam Phan, and Duane “Bang” Ludwig to earn a shot at Gilbert Melendez’ Strikeforce title. Thomson won a one-sided decision then stopped Ashe Bowman in a non-title affair.
Thomson then rematched Melendez, but this time found himself on the losing end of a unanimous decision. After the loss Thomson returned strong with a rear naked choke against Pat Healy, and then a controversial decision over Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante. Then it was off to Japan where Thomson lost by decision against Tatsuya Kawajiri at Dynamite!! 2010 but he was able to rebound with a unanimous decision over KJ Noons just a few months ago to earn another shot at the belt
Strengths: Great conditioning, well rounded, durable
Weaknesses: Struggles off his back, prone to injury
Key Wins: KJ Noons, Gesias Cavalcante, Gilbert Melendez, Pat Healy, Hermes Franca, Rob McCullough, Harris Sarmiento, Nam Phan, Duane Ludwig, Nick Gonzalez, Doug Evans, Victor Estrada
Notable Losses: Tatsuya Kawajiri, Gilbert Melendez, Yves Edwards, Clay Guida
Rafael Feijao (11-3) vs. Mike Kyle (19-8-1-1)
PunchDrunkGamer’s Match-Up of the Night
Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante (4-2, Strikeforce) first appeared in the main stream with a short run in the IFL where he went 1-1 with a TKO win over Devin Cole and a disqualification loss against UFC veteran Marcio “Pe de Pano” Cruz. He then fought three times for Elite XC before making the move to Strikeforce.
In his EXC debut Cavalcante stopped John Doyle with a knee to the body in just 2:17. He then earned a dominant TKO stoppage over Wayne Cole in 1:47 and stopped Travis Galbraith in 3:01. After the downfall of Elite XC, Cavalcante made the move to Strikeforce where he was upset in his promotional debut by Mike Kyle in a late second round stoppage and now he gets the chance to revenge that loss.
“Feijao” rebounded and put together three-straight wins, all by TKO. Following his loss to Kyle, Cavalcante stopped Aaron Rosa with strikes at Strikeforce Challengers 5. “Feijao” then earned a first round knockout over Antwain Britt and was offered a shot at Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal’s 205-pound title. “Feijao” handed “King Mo” his first career loss with a third round TKO to claim Strikeforce’s light heavyweight title. “Feijao” only had one title defense though as Dan Henderson stopped him in third round of their fight but he did pick up a win in his most recent fight against Yoel Romero Palacio.
Strengths: Devastating striker, aggressive, most wins by TKO
Weaknesses: Susceptible off his back
Key Wins: Muhammed Lawal, Aaron Rosa, Travis Galbraith
Notable Losses: Dan Henderson, Mike Kyle, Marcio Cruz (DQ)
Mike Kyle (3-2-1, Strikeforce) started his career over a decade ago with a 3-0 record before he moved up in competition where he suffered back to back losses under the King of the Cage banner. He was able to rebound though winning seven of his next eight bouts across several promotions including the UFC with impressive wins over James Irvin and Wes Sims (first round knockouts).
Kyle had a reputation for losing his control though throughout the middle of his career beginning with biting Wes Sims on the chest in their fight, putting a thumb in Krzysztof Soszynski’s eye and knocking out Travis Wiuff after the bell rang to end the round.
Since the no-contest against Wiuff though, the American Kickboxing Academy fighter has been a different fighter and has also improved his behavior. He has won five of his last six fights including choking out Abongo Humphrey at Strikeforce Challengers: del Rosario vs. Mahe and most recently rebounding from a loss to Antonio Silva with a unanimous decision victory over Marcos Rogerio de Lima.
Strengths: Heavy hands, strong ground ‘n pound
Weaknesses: Footwork and over aggression
Key Wins: Rafael Cavalcante, Tony Lopez, James Irvin, Wes Sims
Notable Losses: Fabricio Werdum, Antonio Silva, Paul Buentello
Main Card (Showtime):
Strikeforce World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament Final
Josh Barnett vs. Daniel Cormier
Strikeforce Lightweight Championship
Gilbert Melendez vs. Josh Thomson
Rafael Feijao vs. Mike Kyle
Nah-Shon Burrell vs. Chris Spang
Preliminary Card (Showtime Extreme):
JZ Cavalcante vs. Isaac Vallie-Flagg
Virgil Zwicker vs. Carlos Inocente
Gian Villante vs. Derrick Mehman
Quinn Mulhern vs. Yuri Villefort
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