When the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament was announced, many fans and experts thought that one fighter stood out like a sore thumb—and not in a good way. That fighter was Minnesota native Brett Rogers.
Despite an 11-2 mixed martial arts record, Rogers came into the event as the biggest underdog among the eight original contestants.
Not only was he the least experienced fighter in the field, but he was facing one of the most experienced and skilled men in the tournament in the first round, in Josh Barnett.
Rogers started off his career on an impressive nine-fight win streak, ending every fight by knockout. Then a surprising victory over Andrei Arlovski in June 2009 earned him a shot at the world’s number one heavyweight, Fedor Emelianenko, later that year.
Like any fighter in the world would have been at that time, Rogers came into the bout as a major underdog. But his performance shocked even the most skeptical of anti-Fedor fans.
Rogers avoided the early submissions, but took it to Emelianenko on the feet before landing some big shots on the ground.
Though he ended up getting knocked out in the fight, many would argue that Rogers was actually getting the better of Emelianenko in the fight up until that point.
The next fight was easily the most damaging of Rogers’ career, as he took a violent beating from Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion and favorite to win the Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament, Alistair Overeem.
In a fight where Rogers landed just one punch according to CompuStrike, he was overwhelmed by a flurry of punches just 3:40 into the first round.
While Rogers bounced back, winning the first decision of his career against Ruben Villareal, many are still viewing him as a huge underdog in this first-round contest against perennial top heavyweight, Josh Barnett.
As a fourteen year professional, Barnett absolutely has the experience to defeat a relatively inexperienced fighter whose skills are still developing, like Brett Rogers. But there’s a lot more that goes into winning a mixed martial arts contest than just knowledge of the sport.
One of Rogers’ advantages in this fight will be his natural size. At 6’4” with a 81.5 in reach, “Da Grim” is one of the larger heavyweights in the division.
While there are certainly smaller fighters in the division than Josh Barnett, he stands a considerably smaller-than-Rogers at 6’3” with a 76” reach. He will also likely be conceding around 20-25 pounds at fight time.
Reach advantages have been known to be some of the biggest difference makers in fights over time and a five-inch difference is nothing to sneeze at. Barnett will need to get inside on Rogers or risk the possibility of eating punches from a distance all night long.
In addition, the ground game may actually be an overrated difference in this fight. Barnett is absolutely more experienced in fights that go to the ground, but Brett Rogers showed us a surprising amount of composure and ability to break loose when he fought Fedor Emelianenko.
It should come as no surprise to viewers, but it will anyway, if the fight goes to the canvas and Rogers is able to neutralize Barnett’s normally very effective ground game. He did it against Fedor, so why not Barnett?
But as most would guess, Rogers’ punching power is likely to be the most important factor should he be able to defy the odds and move on to Round 2 in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix.
Brett Rogers has some of the heaviest hands of any fighter in all of mixed martial arts. This is where “Da Grim” has to be considered most dangerous to any opponent.
Barnett has been solid on his feet throughout his career, but he has also shown that he can be knocked out and picked apart with punches in the past.
If “The Babyfaced Assassin” isn’t careful, he could find himself eating some serious leather before he wakes up staring at the lights.
Mike Reilly and the coaches at Ambition MMA will have their man ready. There’s a reason that Brett Rogers made this tournament, and it’s not just because he has an awesome mohawk.
Rogers has defied the critics before and will be ready to do it again on June 18 at Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum.