It has been 15 months since the Strikeforce World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament kicked off, bringing back memories of the old Pride tournaments of nearly a decade ago. Now, the entire heavyweight division of Strikeforce is about to become a thing of the past as well.
Josh Barnett and Daniel Cormier are the last men standing, not only in the tournament but also in the division. Since the promotion was acquired by Zuffa in March of last year, the rest of the fighters in the division were shifted to the UFC and the announcement was made that the division was being dissolved following the Grand Prix.
However, the promotion's broadcast partner, Showtime, stipulated that the winner must have one more fight under the Strikeforce banner. So why not have it be against the UFC champion?
The landscape of the heavyweight weight class has changed dramatically over the past six months. Brock Lesnar has returned to the WWE, Alistair Overeem is suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, and despite the UFC holding an all-heavyweight main card at UFC 146, the next title challenger could be anyone.
Prior to Overeem's suspension, things were more clear. Frank Mir and Cain Velasquez were set to battle for No. 1 contender status, but now Mir will face Junior dos Santos for the belt, and Velasquez will take on Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva. Silva was defeated by Cormier in the semifinals of the Grand Prix, so even if the Brazilian were to get around Velasquez, selling him for a title fight would be difficult.
The same could be said for Velasquez. The former champion has not competed since being knocked out in just 64 seconds by dos Santos last fall. Should one win get him back to the top? Especially if that win was against Silva?
Beyond Velasquez and Silva, there are a handful of fighters in the division that could prove to be worthy opponents for the dos Santos-Mir winner, but none of them have any more name recognition to casual fans than the two Grand Prix finalists. And with the two fights just a week apart on the calendar, the timing is perfect for a collision between the two winners.
Regardless of who wins between Barnett and Cormier, selling a tournament champion against the current UFC champ should be an easy task. After all, Barnett is a former UFC champion—albeit briefly—and Cormier is a former Olympic wrestler with an undefeated record in MMA. Either fighter has the credentials and top 10 status of a title challenger.
Perhaps the question isn't so much whether the winner is deserving of a title shot, but whether Zuffa would be willing to put the UFC champion in such a vulnerable position.
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