With less than 24 hours until we find out who advances to the next round of the Strikeforce Grand Prix, it’s time for us to weigh in with our (sometimes less than accurate) opinions. While we don’t claim to read the future or have the best track record, we can’t say we always pick who we’ll think will win, but rather who we’d like to see win. In my case, I did not fare so well in our last Strikeforce predictions and I have not been faring well in our MMAPlayground league (mmaplayground.com, if you want to join!). Nevertheless, I’m still entitled to my (wrong) opinions and predictions.
Nate Ranson’s Predictions
Valentijn Overeem vs. Chad Griggs
Chad Griggs put on a hell of a show in the first round of the Strikeforce Grand Prix, where he defeated Gianpiero Villante in an absolute slugfest. Little Big Overeem, however, is also coming off of a win, as well, from the opening round of the reserve bouts. His win over Ray Sefo seemed to be the result of many more years of MMA experience than sheer brute force. However, I would not be quick to dismiss Overeem’s standup prowess, either. I think Griggs and Overeem are going to lace ‘em up and slug it out four about two or three minutes before someone bites the dust.
Overeem has stood in the ring with some of the sports best. Even though he didn’t always come out on top, you can’t buy that kind of experience. I mean, hell, he has a win over Randy Couture, even if it was a decade ago. Griggs on the other hand possesses raw power and a mean streak for days. Just ask his opponents. Which ones? All of them. All of his wins come by KO, TKO, or submission from strikes. In short, this dude destroys people.
Final Decision: I picked against both of these guys in the first go around. That shows you what I know. With Griggs’s performance last time, he’s earned the nod from me. I think this one ends in the first round with someone entering the neitherworld. Griggs is going to come out and land a big shot that rocks Overeem. Overeem will try to take it to the ground, but Griggs will put it on him. First round TKO.
Daniel Cormier vs. Jeff Monson
Daniel Cormier has put in his time in the Strikeforce Challengers series. He’s accrued a record of 7-0, only going to decision once. In short, this is a man that likes to get things done. He’s a scary combination of punching power and wrestling that he can use to his advantage on offense or defense. If he wants to keep the fight standing, he can use his Olympic level wrestling to dictate the pace of the fight. And, generally, he hasn’t been the type of fighter to use his wrestling to stall and win on points. He uses his wrestling to gain an advantageous position and either choke you out or punch you so hard you wish you were unconscious.
With Jeff Monson, I have a confession to make: I love Jeff Monson. I openly root for this dude any chance I get. I’m not on board with all of his politics, but I applaud him in standing up for what he believes even though it’s totally outside of the mainstream. Also, not only does Jeff Monson look like a guy that could beat you to death with your own severed arm, he probably actually could beat you to death with your own severed arm. He’s a total fighter’s fighter. Monson fought 10 times in 2010, which is fucking incredible. Even better, he went 8-2 and is a total submission machine.
Final Decision: Admittedly, I’m a total homer. I love Monson, but Cormier has more weapons and a better all-around pedigree that Monson just can’t match. Cormier can keep the fight on the feet, or take and hold Monson down (which I think is probably not the smartest idea) to punch his face incredible hard. I think the smart money is on Cormier, which is why I’m picking Monson to win.
K.J. Noons vs. Jorge Masvidal
I don’t know much about Jorge Masvidal, but what I do know is that this guy can throw some punches. In his 21 career wins, Masvidal has exactly 1 submission win. His other wins are split exactly down the middle between knockouts and decisions. Apparently, he once fought one of Kimbo Slice’s friends in a streetfight for the internet, too. I like the sound of this guy. He has wins over Joe Lauzon, Yves Edwards, and Billy Evangelista. I can not think of a better opponent for KJ Noons than this guy: someone who wants to stand and bang.
KJ, on the other hand is someone that I’m pretty familiar with. His beef with Nick Diaz was epic. Hell, his fight with Diaz last year was a contender for fight of the year in many people’s eyes. Even though he lost the rematch, it could be considered one of the few “moral victories” in MMA. In that fight he took a fantastic-looking Nick Diaz the distance and gave as well as he got. KJ is looking to get back on the winning track with this fight by using his technically superior boxing over Masvidal’s slugging.
Final Decision: Both of these guys are tough, tough dudes and both are looking to knock the other guy’s head clean off. I think this fight will go the distance with KJ getting the nod from the judges. Don’t ask me why, but that’s my pick.
Brett Rogers vs. Josh Barnett
Brett Rogers might be the only man in history to get a title shot coming off of a loss. I don’t consider that a knock against him, personally though. Rather, it’s more of a tip of the cap. This dude faced a literal murderer’s row of opponents, back to back to back: Arlovski, Emelianenko, Overeem. He’s now stepping into the cage with an equally dangerous opponent in Josh Barnett. Rogers made a name for himself by painting a masterpiece of knockouts. 10 out of 10 of his first fights all ended in TKO or KO. So, this dude hits exceptionally hard. When Scott Coker called for a heavyweight to step up and challenge Overeem for the belt, Rogers answered the call. There’s absolutely no shame in that for him. He got beat by one of the best heavyweights on the planet. He’s since changed up his game plan and hopefully righted the ship. Apparently his diet and routine have changed to make him a significantly more dangerous dude once that door closes. Although, I’m sure, he’s going to keep looking for that right hand to put Barnett to sleep.
Josh Barnett on the other hand is a jack of all trades. He likes to throw punches, but he’s also a VERY skilled submission wrestler. Oh yeah, he also does pro wrestling. Like steel chair to the head pro wrestling. For the sake of this column, we won’t delve into the somewhat seedy past that Barnett has been stigmatized with. However, Josh Barnett has only lost to 3 men, total, throughout his MMA career. Pedro Rizzo caught him in a “timber” moment early on in his career, but he recently avenged that loss and returned the favor at an Affliction card. The other two men that have been able to stop him: Minotauro Nogueira and Mirko CroCop. Barnett was beat by a prime CroCop a total of 3 times and by Minotauro once. Every other man that’s stepped into the cage with Barnett has come out on the wrong side of the official result. He’s racked up a pretty impressive resume with wins over Semmy Schlt (twice), Randy Couture, Aleksander Emelianenko, Mark Hunt, Jeff Monson, and even managed to win a split decision over Nogueira (Big Nog won their rematch). All in all, Barnett is no slouch in the ring or cage.
Final Decision: This one is a tough call. It really depends on how Barnett approaches this fight, in all honesty. If he simply tries to trade with Brett Rogers, I think there’s a chance Rogers can get the better of those exchanges. However, if he fights a smart fight (like he has shown he can do in the past), I think Barnett takes this one via submission. Rogers is still growing in his career, and a loss here is no mark against him. Barnett just has more ways to win other than relying on that severely damaging right hand.
Alistair Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum
Jesus, where do I start with these two? What a difference five years can make. For Overeem, 5 years ago, he was a middle of the road light heavyweight fighter. He definitely was not “bad”, by any stretch of the imagination, but he simply didn’t possess the skills to hang with the top echelon of light heavyweights (or Japanese middleweights) out there. After losing to Rua, Arona, Rogerio Nogueria, and Werdum, Overeem decided that something had to changed. So, he started packing on the pounds. After his transformation into Ubereem, Overeem has been nearly unstoppable. In his tenure at heavyweight, he has lost only one fight (to fellow Strikeforce Grand Prix competitor and Scary Eastern European, Sergei Kharitonov). Overeem has laid waste to six in a row and not lost since September of 2007. Along the way, he’s picked up some serious hardware, as well. Currently, he’s the K-1, DREAM, and Strikeforce champion. If he wins the Grand Prix, he might get a shot at adding a new belt around his waist: UFC Heavyweight Champion.
Fabricio Werdum is the black sheep of this grand prix, it feels like. The man doesn’t possess a hulking build, he hasn’t made a career out of knocking people out, and he’s never been a UFC heavyweight champ. However, one thing that he can add to his resume is that he was the first man to outright defeat Fedor Emelianenko ever. No doctor’s decision, no controversy, just a triangle and armbar combo that forced the Russian to give one tap to admit defeat. That after the UFC said he wasn’t fit to compete at their level and discarded him like yesterdays news. Werdum already has a win over Overeem at a catchweight fight of 222lbs, but it should be interesting to see how he deals with a man who’s inflated another 30lbs and sharpened his striking to world class status.
Final Decision: Oh good Lord. I think this fight could go either way. But, a decision has to be made, I guess. I’ll give Overeem the nod in this bout. He’s going to try to use his strikes to keep Werdum at bay. If Werdum shoots, Overeem can always throw that nasty knee to the face. The same knee that put Fujita in a coma. I think Overeem has too much momentum coming in and there’s no one that can derail him at this point.
Tommy Hewson’s Predictions
Valentijn Overeem vs. Chad Griggs
This is one of those fights that has absolutely no effect on it’s respective division, but has the potential to be a seriously fun match up. Valentijn is coming off a submission win over feared K-1 legend Rey Sefo and frankly, has been largely unimpressive throughout his entire career. That isn’t to say he hasn’t earned impressive wins. He’s submitted the likes of familiar faces Randy Couture and Babalu Sobral, albeit earlier in all of their careers. It’s just that his “impressive” wins are next to nowhere in an almost 50-50 career. With that said, Valentijn is definitely a dangerous striker (just like most of his team) and a dangerous opponent.
Griggs is the guy who was brought in to lose against then-prospect and former WWE star Bobby Lashley. In just two rounds Chad was able to show that Lashley’s main weapon (wrestling) was his only weapon and that he wasn’t the second coming many were making him out to be. A few months later he took on, and knocked out, Gianpiero Villante in the first round of their ridiculous slug fest. Along with his trademark sideburns, Griggs is now known for his tenacity and his desire to finish fights in an exciting fashion.
Final Decision: It’s hard to pick a winner here, especially with both guys having the reputation of dueling it out against their opponents. This seems like a matchup where someone is getting finished. With Valentijn’s gastank, I just can’t expect a win for him should this manage to go to a decision. We should be in for a fun fight with a lot of back and forth action that ends with Chad Griggs on his back somehow. If that happens, Overeem should take home one victory for his family tonight and via submission. If not, Chad finishes this in the first round via TKO.
Daniel Cormier vs. Jeff Monson
Jeff Monson is the kind of guy many fighters should aspire to be. Never the one to make excuses, “The Snowman” has had a long career of 42 wins with just 11 losses. He’s finished over half of those wins via submission, and has only been finished just four times. That’s pretty ridiculous for such a long career. A grappling expert, he’s been everywhere and fought just about everyone. From the UFC, to Pride, to DREAM, he now finds himself back in America fighting for Strikeforce against up-and-comer Daniel Cormier.
Cormier is a project of the American Kickboxing Academy, and another fighter who is coming into the sport from a wrestling background. If you know who he is, you’ll know his credentials and just how impressive they are. He’s had a decent run with some good wins, and now Strikeforce feels he’s ready for the big show as him and Monson (as well as Griggs-Overeem) are fighting for an alternate position in the tournament.
Final Decision: A lot of people are saying Monson is too old here, but not a lot of people are addressing Cormier either. At 32 years old, what kind of career does the “up and comer” have. Heavyweights usually don’t have a large shelf life, with few including Monson being the exception. You figure if Daniel wins this fight, he has two-three years to make it to the top and I’m sorry, but I just can’t see it happening. He may win this fight on wrestling-friendly decision, but I feel like Monson can pull this one off and make it competitive fighting from his back. “The Snowman” takes this one, submitting the “prospect.”
K.J. Noons vs. Jorge Masvidal
I’m gonna get this out of the way before I continue: K.J. Noons probably has the best hands in the 155 pound division. Not only that, but he has excellent takedown and submission defense, along with everything else that goes into grooming a future champion. He’s had a solid MMA career so far with some great victories including one over Nick Diaz who he would rematch at welterweight, and ultimately lose a decision in an exciting five round affair.
Masvidal is another great fighter, and a damn good striker in his own right. He put up a competitive fight against the much larger Paul Daley and also comes from a boxing background. Some even say he should have won the decision against Daley. If you search, you’ll be able to find some videos of him beating up another guy in Kimbo Slice’s entourage. Jorge will be looking to make this fight his mark on the lightweight division.
With that said, I think K.J. has more tools, more ways to win, and better hands than Masvidal. The obvious pick is Noons but something in my stomach is expecting an upset….especially when the winner is likely to be the next man to challenge Gilbert Melendez for the Strikeforce lightweight championship. Even with that feeling I’m still gonna say K.J. Noons wins this one via unanimous decision in a war, damaging and hurting Masvidal throughout the fight. A knockout is the most possible, but with the amount of fights that were supposed to end in knockouts actually going to a decision instead, I’m gonna say this follows that trend.
Brett Rogers vs. Josh Barnett
Nate summed this one up perfectly, so there really is no need for me to go into too much detail here. Josh Barnett is returning to the U.S.A after a long stint of overseas which was caused from him testing positive for steroids a record third time in his career. He’s been to the top of the mountain, and certainly in the pits but has still managed to look good all through out.
Shortly after Rogers lopsided TKO loss to Alistair Overeem, it was pretty obvious that “The Grim” wasn’t the fighter he was promoted as. With knockout wins over tomato-cans and one over Andrei Arlovksi that just screamed “lucky,” he was groomed as the man to beat long reigning Fedor Emelianenko. That didn’t happen though and instead, he was knocked out in the second round by the stoic Russian after cutting Fedor on the bridge of his nose in the first.
Final Decision: We can go back and forth here saying that Rogers has a chance to knock Barnett out (which he does), but it’s a relatively small chance that makes it almost irrelevant. Barnett has been in there and beat the best this sport has to offer, steroids or not. He has the experience just about everywhere and I see him taking Rogers down early on in the fight and locking up one of those tire-changing arms for a submission win which sees the now “Bearded Faced Assassin” advance through the tournament.
Alistair Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum
This is the toughest fight on the card, and it’s not because of each fighter being so close skill-wise to one another. It’s mostly because of the sheer difference in talent that can dictate who the winner will be. A classic striker vs. grappler match up, this one should be the hardest hitting fight on the card is Overeem manages to grab this one.
You know who he is, and you know what he’s done. Alistair Overeem is probably the most praised and dissed heavyweight on the planet right now. He’s the K-1 kickboxing World Champion, the Strikeforce champion, and the DREAM champ. It seems like everyone either over-loves the guy or overly hates them, especially in victory. I mean come on, after he beat Todd Duffee we immediately heard the infamous “HE FACED A CAN” argument. Do people not forget that they were once claiming Duffee was the next big thing in the heavyweight division.
Werdum is riding high off his victory over Fedor last year but unfortunately for him that victory was indeed last year. Since then he’s gone without a fight and a lot has changed since then. His opponent in Alistair has remained quite active, winning in both MMA and K-1. Werdum has been injured on and off rehabbing his elbow in the meantime. And let’s not kid ourselves here. Much like Rogers quick win over Arlovski, Fabricio’s submission victory over Fedor was lucky as well. But even with that, he has some big wins including one over Alistair himself, a kimura victory way back in Pride.
Final Decision: This fight is so hard to call only because of where the fight goes. If Werdum takes it to the ground he SHOULD win, but that’s not to say he does. Every fight starts standing and not only does that favor the “Demolition Man,” but Werdum has never been more than a decent striker himself. If he can’t get Overeem down and wear him out, it should be a short night for Fabricio. I do not see Alistair even initiating a takedown which would ultimately put him in danger of losing the fight. He’ll keep this one where he flourishes best, and he’ll finish Fabricio Werdum by way of knockout in the second round. Look for a big knee from The ‘Reem if Werdum decides to shoot.
The B9′s Predictions
Overeem vs. Werdum: I’m taking Overeem here. While has had success striking in the past against fellow Fedor killer Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and former UFC heavyweight contender Gabriel Gonzaga, Overeem is a completely different kind of monster on the feet. Going up again the current K1 Grand Prix champion, Werdum is going to have to find a way to take this fight to the ground if he wants to have a chance of winning. Unfortunately, Werdum doesn’t have the best offensive wrestling, and Overeem is just as dangerous and explosive in the clinch as he is striking.
Overeem, TKO, Round 1.
Barnett vs. Rogers: First of all, I love Rogers. Yeah, he may talk a lot, but he has one of the best stories in all of MMA. The guy literally went from changing tires to headlining a card against the greatest heavyweight of all-time in his hometown. While I’d love to see Rogers walk away with a victory here, I just don’t see him doing it. He looks terrible off of his back, and I’m assuming that’s exactly where Barnett’s going to look to put him as quick as possible.
Barnett, Unanimous Decision
KJ Noons vs. Jorge Masvidal: This could quite possibly be fight of the night. It’s no secret that Noons is going to try to knock Masvidal out, but Masvidal’s going to be trying to do the exact same thing. For those of you that don’t know Masvidal, he’s no joke. Last year he moved up a weight class to challenge the former welterweight number one contender Paul Daley, and dropped a close decision after taking the fight to Daley for 15 minutes. While that’s impressive, Noons holds a victory over the current Strikeforce Welterweight champion and the UFC’s current number one contender, Nick Diaz. Though he did lose a tough fought decision in their rematch, I’m going to stick with the safe pick and take Noons since he cut his hair and won’t be pushing it out of his face for half of the fight.
Noons, TKO, Round 3
Cormier vs. Monson: I’m very excited for this fight. I’m a fan of both fighters, and I’m interested in seeing how Cormier handles this step up in competition. Monson is a former ADCC champion, while Cormier is the former U.S. wrestling Olympic team captain. Yeah, two guys that are literally at the top of their respective styles. The key factor here is that Monson is 40 years old, on the downside of his career, and hasn’t had a truly impressive win against a top opponent in years. Cormier isn’t exactly young himself, but from what we’ve seen so far, it doesn’t affect him once that cagedoor closes. I forsee a ground battle with Cormier controlling Monson from the top for 3 rounds.
Cormier, Unanimous Decision
Overeem vs. Griggs: Yawn. Two irrelevant fighters only fighting on the main card because they’re alternates to the Grand Prix. I really wish Cavalcante vs. Wilcox was in this spot instead, seeing as how that fight actually has relevance to the lightweight division, but whatever. (I’m picking Cavalcante to win, by the way). As for this fight, flip a coin. If Griggs can survive the initial onslaught from Overeem, it should be his fight to lose. He looked terrible when Lashley put him on his back though, so I think Valentijn will pull off a win.
Overeem, Submission, Round 1
Overeem vs. Werdum – Alistair will be able to keep this one standing, and he’ll finish Werdum with punches early in the first round.
Barnett vs. Rogers – Barnett will take Rogers down and submit him easily. The fight will end late in the first or early in the second. Rogers has a puncher’s chance, but Barnett is too focused to let Rogers win.
Noons vs. Masvidal – Noons will simply outstrike Masvidal, and stuff any takedowns that he may shoot for. Noons by second round TKO.
Cormier vs. Monson – Monson is too experienced for Cormier to handle. Cormier will take Monson down, but it is only a matter of time before he gets caught. Monson by second round submission.
V. Overeem vs. Griggs – Griggs will stop Oldereem by (T)KO before the second round is over
The Scorecard according to the B9:
Overeem – 8
Werdum – 2
Barnett – 10
Noons – 10
Masvidal – 0
Cormier – 2
Monson – 8
Griggs – 4
Overeem – 6