According to Sherdog.com, the second half of the opening round for Strikeforce’s highly-touted Heavyweight Grand Prix has been postponed. The April 9th card was supposed to feature bouts between Alistair Overeem and Frabricio Werdum and Josh Barnett and Brett Rogers. According to sources close to Strikeforce, the Overeem/Werdum and Barnett/Rogers fights have been moved off the card indefinitely. In their stead we will possibly see Japanese star Tatsuya Kawajiri take on Gilbert Melendez and Paul Daley fight Nick Diaz.
While I’d really like to say that I’m surprised about the move, when it comes to Strikeforce making promises it can’t keep, this is nothing that should take anyone off guard. April 9th is just over 6 weeks away and there had been no mention of where the card would even take place. Considering Barnett’s licensing woes, you had to imagine they were going to be forced to have it overseas. As much as I’d like to see Strikeforce gain a foothold in Japan, it’s not a cheap venture by any means.
I wrote a few weeks ago about some strategies that Strikeforce should consider (in my opinion) in order to gain that competitive advantage and maximize their talent pool. While I’m not shrewd businessman, it is good to see that perhaps Strikeforce is on the same page. Having both Overeem and Barnett on the same card in Japan would be a blockbuster event for Strikeforce. While interest in MMA is on the decline, having something new (and foreign) might just be what Japanese MMA fans need to get excited again. If they want to see a couple of big guys get in there and bang it out, Strikeforce’s heavyweight division is right at home.
Still, having your heavily promoted Grand Prix derail before the first round is even over does not bode well for the promise that a champion would be crowned by years end. Couple this fiasco with Fedor losing to a man he was heavily favored to dominate, and you’ve got a recipe for disinterest from the casual fan. While I do understand that certain precautions need to be taken to ensure that Barnett is allowed to fight, I would have assumed that these measures were taken BEFORE the scheduled event.
Perhaps I’m being exceedingly harsh on Strikeforce, though. The silver lining to this fiasco is instead of seeing those two fights, we should be treated to at least one very good bout instead. Kawajiri beat Strikeforce number one condenter, Josh Thompson, on New Years Eve in Japan. As much as a Thompson/Melendez rematch sounds entertaining, seeing Kawajiri is infinitely more exciting.
Another proposed bout for the April card is Paul Daley getting a shot against welterweight champ, Nick Diaz. Although Diaz’s camp has hesitant to confirm the rumor (especially on 6 weeks training time), if this bout does take place, it’s sure to end in highlight reel fashion. Daley is one of the few guys in the division that Diaz probably shouldn’t want to stand and trade with. Where Cyborg connected and hurt Diaz, Daley has the power to finish.