More than 15 months after it began, the arguably disastrous Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix will finally come to an end on Saturday, when Josh Barnett and Daniel Cormier square off in the tournament's final bout.
Initially, Cormier was not even a participant in the eight-man tournament that began in February 2011, but an Alistair Overeem injury that led to his departure from Strikeforce allowed Cormier to step in and knock out Antonio Silva in the semifinals.
Barnett, meanwhile, ran through Brett Rogers and Sergei Kharitonov, submitting both fighters to set up a meeting with Cormier in what could turn out to be Strikeforce's final heavyweight fight. Aside from the finalists, Strikeforce's heavyweight division has been shipped to the UFC to add depth.
Despite the relative lack of anticipation for this fight compared to the excitement at the tournament's start, this is still an important fight for both competitors and the landscape of the heavyweight division. The winner of this fight should soon become one of the UFC's top heavyweight contenders, so let's take a look at which fighter has a better chance of winning on Saturday.
Coming off of an impressive knockout of Antonio Silva, an argument can certainly be made that Daniel Cormier is already a more dangerous striker than Josh Barnett. However, Cormier doesn't have nearly as much experience as Barnett, whose fighting days go all the way back to January 1997.
The former UFC champion, a title Barnett had stripped away due to a failed drug test, possesses an excellent chin and decent striking for a fighter who is considered more dangerous on the ground. Barnett has only scored four knockouts during his long career, though, and most of those came via ground-and-pound.
Ultimately, the outcome of this fight will depend more on the wrestling of both fighters than it will on their striking.
While we have not seen much of Cormier's wrestling inside the cage, it's nearly impossible to deny the Olympian wrestler an edge in the takedown department unless he shows some kind of inability to transition his wrestling into MMA, which he certainly hasn't displayed thus far in his udnefeated career.
Barnett has excellent takedowns, but Cormier will be the best wrestler he has ever faced inside the cage. If Barnett can find a way to drag Cormier to the canvas, he'll have a good chance of locking up a submission, but overcoming the world-class wrestler's takedown defense will be much easier said than done.
In all likelihood, Cormier will use his wrestling in reverse to keep this fight standing, which will allow him to avoid becoming Barnett's 20th career submission victim. If the fighters are evenly matched on their feet, a late takedown will allow Cormier to steal rounds without giving Barnett enough time to work his guard.
On his wrestling background alone, Daniel Cormier is probably one of the best grapplers in the heavyweight division. However, in a matchup with Josh Barnett, Cormier would be smart to avoid the ground as much as possible.
Barnett is comfortable on his back and capable of reversing the former Olympian, which would put Cormier in a very unfamiliar position. Cormier has shown power in his hands, but he hasn't yet proven that he has the ground-and-pound to put away a fighter like Barnett without getting caught in a submission.
With 19 career submissions, Barnett is one of the most effective heavyweights in the world when it comes to fighting on the ground. Among many others, Barnett has forced the likes of Dan Severn, Mark Hunt, Sergei Kharitonov and Aleksander Emelianenko to tap.
Though Cormier has never been submitted, he has also never come anywhere near having his submission defense tested as much as he will if he hits the mat with Barnett. If this matchup stays on the ground for long, there is a good chance Barnett will hand Cormier his first loss with a submission.
Josh Barnett's MMA career is more than a decade older than Daniel Cormier's, yet the former Pride competitor is only one year older than Cormier in age. While Cormier is still learning the ropes in this sport, Barnett is one of the heavyweight division's most seasoned veterans.
Cormier does have a solid camp behind him in American Kickboxing Academy, but he still has a lot to learn and will have his hands full in all areas against Barnett.
It takes a special type of athlete to reach the Olympics. As an amateur wrestler, Cormier competed on the highest level and earned a bronze medal in freestyle wrestling at the 2007 World Championships.
Having been one of the best heavyweight fighters in the history of MMA, Barnett is a finely tuned athlete in his own right, but he may not have the speed or power to match Cormier in this matchup.
This fight is a huge opportunity for Daniel Cormier to gain recognition as one of the world's top heavyweights. However, that is a lot of pressure to handle for a fighter with only nine professional fights under his belt.
While Cormier may already be as skilled as Barnett on his feet, the Olympian has not had his chin tested thus far in his career. One solid connection by Barnett could force Cormier to revert to his wrestling and take this fight to the ground.
Even a world-class wrestler like Cormier has trouble executing a technically sound takedown while dazed, so the attempt could give Barnett a chance to gain the top position and force Cormier to fight off of his back, a place where few wrestlers are comfortable.
On the ground, Barnett will continue to soften Cormier up with punches before locking up a choke and earning a ticket back into the UFC, which appeared impossible after Barnett was stripped of the organization's title in 2002.
Barnett defeats Cormier by submission (arm-triangle choke) in the second round.