The Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix continues on Saturday, June 18 with a sensational main event between Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum.
This is a rematch from a 2006 Pride fight where Werdum submitted Overeem with a kimura, but “The Reem” has went on the record several times saying that the result will be a very different one this time around.
The winner here will solidify themselves as a top 10 heavyweight in MMA, answering the question: is Alistair Overeem truly “Alistair Overrated,” or did Werdum just get lucky when he submitted Fedor Emelianenko?
Also on the card, Josh Barnett will be taking on the hard hitting Brett Rogers. This will be Barnett’s first fight in the states since October of 2006.
“The Baby-Faced Assassin” has expressed a ton of confidence heading into this one, indicating that his name deserves to be in the company of elite heavyweight fighters.
Rogers, a large underdog in the tournament, would love to ruin Barnett’s comeback and unexpectedly advance to the semifinals.
A lightweight bout that has been largely overlooked by fans and analysts alike is K.J. Noons versus Jorge Masvidal.
This fight is being regarded as an unofficial number one contender bout for the Strikeforce lightweight title, currently held by Gracie Jiu Jitsu’s own Gilbert Melendez.
The remaining fights on the main card will showcase wrestling standout Daniel Cormier taking on submission specialist Jeff Monsoon, and veteran Valentijn Overeem taking on up and comer Chad Griggs.
This week, the B/R panel will consist of MMA featured columnists Dale De Souza (1-5), Sean Smith, and me, John Heinis (7-10).
MMA event analysts extraordinaire Dana Becker (6-10) and Jeffrey McKinney (5-5), will also be weighing in on the heavily anticipated Strikeforce event.
Let’s take a look at how the B/R staff feels this card will play out.
John Heinis: Valentijn, the older brother of “The Demolition Man,” is a season veteran of MMA. His record of 29-25 shows that he is not afraid to fight anyone, anytime and anywhere.
However, it also shows he is not the most polished heavyweight in the sport right now. That could mean he will have his hands full with Chad “The Grave Digger” Griggs.
While most folks do not think Griggs ceiling is all that high, but let’s give credit where credit is due with his 10-1 record, with nine wins coming by way of knockout.
Granted, his biggest win was against the walking cartoon character known as Bobby Lashley, and a controversial one at that as many will argue that Griggs landed numerous shots to the back of the head.
Yet, after glancing over the Overeem’s record, it becomes clear he has beaten anyone either.
Yes, he submitted Randy Couture with a guillotine in 2001, but that was Couture getting caught more than anything else.
Since Overeem doesn’t have anywhere near the KO power or submission skills of his brother, I expect Griggs to finish this one.
Griggs via second round TKO
Dana Becker: Chad Griggs made a name for himself in MMA by defeating Bobby Lashley back in 2010 with a series of punches, knocking the former WWE superstar off the radar.
Griggs (10-1) will have a much different test against Valentijn Overeem (29-25), who brings a wealth of experience to the cage. He is also the brother of Alistair, who is fighting in the main event of the evening and is the current Strikeforce heavyweight champion.
Griggs is a lighter heavyweight, who still poses plenty of knockout power. Nine of his 10 career victories have come by way of KO, including six in the first round.
Overeem, though, is a seasoned fighter that has won his previous three bouts, including two by knockout. While fighting in the shadows of his brother on the foreign circuit, Overeem put together 17 submission victories and 11 knockout triumphs.
Griggs via first round knockout
Jeffrey McKinney: Veteran Valentijn Overeem meets Chad Griggs in a heavyweight grand prix reserve match.
Overeem, the older brother of Strikeforce heavyweight champ Alistair, may not have an impressive record, but he holds a notable win over Randy Couture.
Overeem is looking for his fourth straight win. It will be a tough one to get as he takes on 10-1 Chad Griggs.
Griggs may be best known as the guy who beat former WWE wrestler Bobby Lashley.
Griggs is also a guy who likes to finish fights ending all of his by tko or submission.
While Griggs has an impressive record, Overeem will be a big test for him. Overeem can be dangerous on his feet as well as on the ground, and I believe his versatility will be the game changer in this fight.
Overeem by submission
Dale De Souza: Now you would think that with KJ Noons-Jorge Masvidal and JZ Calvan-Justin Wilcox on this card, one of those two would be a Fight of the Night contender. But, if you believe that's the case, then you've clearly forgotten about Chad Griggs.
The Gravedigger has made his mission known: he wants everyone to see for themselves that Griggs should be in the conversation regarding the next contender for Alistair Overeem.
Griggs' quest to be the best will have to run through fellow Grand Prix Alternate--and Alistair's brother--Valentijn Overeem.
Both Griggs's victory in a hotly contested bout with Gian Villante and Overeem's win over Ray Sefo happened on the Fedor vs. Silva card, in which Antonio Silva battered the legendary Fedor Emelianenko's right eye and Sergei Kharitonov made quick work of Andrei Arlovski,
It seemed that Arlovski had new life, having trained with Greg Jackson, but so much for that idea.
Overeem has shown some re-invigoration himself, but against Griggs, there will be a test of heart and grit, as Griggs will not easily submit like the others have.
Expect this one to go a long time, and don't expect this one to end very quick. Overeem is tough and is pretty well-rounded, but Griggs is improving by the second, and he will prove it in Dallas
Chad Griggs by Unanimous Decision
Sean Smith: Valentijn Overeem is riding three straight wins for the first time since July 2004. However, those victories all came against opponents designed to re-build Overeem's name. None have been on the same level as Chad Griggs.
With more than 50 fights under his belt, this 34-year-old version of Overeem isn't nearly the same fighter who earned wins over fighters like Randy Couture and Renato Sobral much earlier in his career.
With knockout wins in his last five fights, Griggs has the chin and the power to finish Overeem on his feet.
As long as he can keep this fight standing, Griggs should be able to withstand the initial storm, which is customary from both of the Overeem brothers, before overwhelming his opponent late in the first round.
Griggs by technical knockout in the first round
John Heinis: To be completely honest, I had no idea who Cormier was coming into this fight. You can’t really blame me as he hasn’t fought anyone noteworthy en route to going 7-0 in his MMA career.
However, it turns out that Cormier is a Pan American Games and Championships gold medalist, as well as a member of the 2004 and 2008 US Olympic team, and has shown some serious power in his MMA career.
He has three wins by knockout, and has even made TWO opponents tap to strikes. When’s the last time you saw a fighter have two submissions via strikes?
Monson, filling in for Shane del Rosario after he was seriously injured in a car accident, is 42-11 in his 13 plus year fight career.
26 submission wins is no joke either, and no one in MMA can slap on a north-south choke like “The Snowman” can.
Monson will put up a respectable fight, but the young prospect will be too much for him in the end.
Cormier via unanimous decision
Dana Becker: Personally, outside of the main event, this is a fight I am most interested in seeing, as Daniel Cormier looks to continue his climb to the top.
Cormier (7-0) was slated to meet fellow rising star Shane del Rosario, but Rosario was knocked out of action following a car crash.
Now, the former Oklahoma State University wrestling standout gets to step inside the cage with a veteran in the form of Jeff Monson (42-11).
Monson has competed all around the world and in just about every major organization. Since suffering a pair of losses in early 2010, he has reeled off eight straight wins in minor companies to put himself back in the picture at heavyweight.
For Cormier to be successful, he will need to use his incredible wrestling skills to keep Monson from catching him in any variety of submission holds, as Monson owns 26 career victories by submission.
Cormier via first round technical knockout
Jeffrey McKinney: Up and comer Daniel Cormier will meet MMA vet Jeff Monson in a fight that will see two different styles clash.
Cormier wrestled for Oklahoma State University and was a member of the 2004 and 2008 Olympic wrestling team. Cormier also trains with top fighters like Cain Velasquez and Josh Koscheck at American Kickboxing Academy.
Monson is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and a two time winner of the Abu Dhabi Combat Club. He has been in over 50 MMA fights.
Monson is dangerous on the ground having 26 wins by submission. He is also fighting for the fourth time this year, and riding an 8 fight winning streak.
Despite Monson being a tough vet, I believe Cormier continues his rise and uses his wrestling to grind out a win.
Cormier by decision
Dale De Souza: Cormier is undefeated as a professional and he has also gotten the reputation of being a finisher in the majority of his brief career, but he's facing arguably the biggest test on Saturday in "The Snowman" Jeff Monson.
One thing we've seen in Monson is that he's really been the humanized version of a snowman in that every win, he's gotten bigger and bigger until it ultimately has become hard to ignore him.
The 42-11 anarchist-minded Heavyweight has posted an eight fight win streak to combat the undefeated 7-0 pro record of Cormier.
Now the famed Snowman Choke--the north-south choke that also gets called often as "The Monson Choke"--is always a possibility as Monson does have some strength in his upper body as well as his arms and can sink the hold in tightly enough to make Cormier tap or pass out.
However, Cormier is by no means a weak man himself, especially in the stand-up department, and it must be noted that he's gone to a decision once, winning almost all of his fights--including two of the three career fights that he has won by submission-- by punching holes into his opponents' faces.
If he lands a hard shot on Monson, that might be the opening Cormier needs to put the finishing touches on Monson and snap his eight-fight win streak.
Monson is an experienced veteran who knows his way around the grappling aspect of the sport, but Cormier has shown phenomenal wrestling and superior striking in the past, and he might prove to be the superior overall fighter on Saturday.
Daniel Cormier by R1 Submission (Arm Triangle)
Sean Smith: Daniel Cormier and Jeff Monson are both extremely accomplished grapplers. Had they met in each of their primes, this would have been an extremely intriguing fight.
However, 40-year-old Monson now has more than 50 fights on his record and hasn't fought competition as talented as Cormier for quite some time.
After a lengthy and illustrious freestyle wrestling career, Cormier got a late start to his MMA career. Cormier has got off to a running start in the sport, though, finishing six of his first seven opponents.
Expect Cormier to put Monson on his back early and often.
Monson is the much more experienced fighter, so it wouldn't be shocking to see him catch Cormier in something, but the more likely scenario includes Cormier grinding out a narrow decision victory.
Cormier by unanimous decision
John Heinis: While I think both these guys are talented and enjoy watching them, this is a fight that shows how weak the Strikeforce lightweight division is.
Both guy’s resumes are largely unimpressive, but both guys can cling to at least one big victory.
Masvidal was the first man to defeat Billy Evangelista, while everyone knows about Noons victory over Nick Diaz for the EliteXC lightweight title.
While Diaz picked apart Noons in the Strikeforce hosted rematch, I like Noons more than Masvidal at this point since he is more of a work in progress.
While Noons is actually older than Masvidal (28 vs. 26), Masvidal already has 27 professional fights, while Noons only has 13.
Both these guys basically abhor going to the ground, so expect an entertaining slugfest.
I like Noons in this one, training in Muay Thai and Kenpo karate in addition to his boxing, while Masvidal is a pretty one dimensional striker.
Noons by unanimous decision
Dana Becker: K.J. Noons and his devastating hands step back into the cage, looking to rebound from a loss to Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz last October.
Noons (10-3) had been on quite the roll leading up to his bout with Diaz, claiming victory in six straight fights. In fact, one of those wins was against Diaz, who was forced to stop fighting due to a cut in their first matchup.
Noons, who has struggled to make the weight limit for welterweight, is eyeing a new prize in the form of Diaz teammate Gilbert Melendez and the lightweight title, as this bout with Jorge Masvidal is a No. 1 contender fight for the crown.
Masvidal (21-6) has been streaky to say the least, going 2-2 in his last four fights and 4-3 since early 2009.
But, with 10 victories coming by way of knockout, fans are sure to see some heavy punches thrown by both Noons and Masvidal.
Noons via second round knockout
Jeffrey McKinney: Expect fireworks to come in a fight that could see the winner become the next Strikeforce lightweight number one contender.
Noons lost his last bout against former welterweight champion Nick Diaz. Masvidal is coming off of a surprising win against lightweight prospect Billy Evangelista.
Masvidal is looking to climb up the rankings and make a huge leap towards a title shot..
But I do not believe this will be the match to make that leap.
Noons will be looking to prove that he deserves another stab at a title shot in Strikeforce and I believe he makes a statement in this bout.
I expect to see him win by tko or decision earning him a shot at Nick Diaz’ teammate, Gilbert Melendez.
Noons by TKO or decision
Dale De Souza: Remember that one fight of KJ Noons that actually sucked?
No, you don't--because KJ Noons sucks at putting on fights that suck.
Noons is a name that may not be as well known as a BJ Penn or a Georges-St-Pierre, but he is known well in MMA circles for his two fights with Nick Diaz, one of which ended in a controversial TKO stoppage at the end of the first round.
Many fans felt that the cage side doctors stopped the first fight prematurely due to a cut on Nick Diaz's forehead. While Noons was dominated in the rematch, losing by unanimous decision, this was arguably one of the best fights of 2010.
Now he gets a well-rounded foe in Jorge Masvidal, who is coming off of a dominating performance over Billy Evangelista.
Both guys love to slug it out, but Noons knows he has to pick his shots with Masvidal and Masvidal knows that he'll have to do the same with Noons in a bout that could be as close as any in MMA.
This one will look like a split decision, but despite the toughness of Masvidal, a close fight will see as a gritty performance from Noons as it will from Masvidal, who will make his case for a crack at Gilbert Melendez in a shocking upset.
Jorge Masvidal by Unanimous Decision (29-28 x3)
Sean Smith: After losing to Nick Diaz in a title fight at welterweight, K.J. Noons has returned to the lightweight division.
Here, he will meet Jorge Masvidal in a fight to determine the next top contender to fight Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez.
Noons has also fought as a professional boxer, so he is going to want to keep this fight standing as much as possible.
Jorge Masvidal is coming off of a win over Billy Evangelista in his last fight. Prior to that, Masvidal lost in a controversial decision against Paul Daley.
In that fight, Masvidal used the same game plan he is likely to employ against Noons: shooting take downs frequently.
If this fight stays standing, Noons is likely to pick Masvidal apart. However, Masvidal has shown to be a very intelligent fighter and should be able to find a way to win this fight by putting Noons on his back, where he is least comfortable.
Masvidal by unanimous decision
John Heinis: You have to love how Barnett waited until the last possible second to get his fighter’s license.
People are all but writing off Brett “Big Bad” Rogers in this one…and honestly I can’t argue with that.
Sure, he is a really big, powerful striker, and he could catch Barnett with a clean shot. But does anyone really think Barnett will have any trouble taking down Rogers?
I’m going to keep this one short and sweet: once this fight hits the ground, Barnett will easily submit Rogers and advance to the semifinals.
Barnett via second round submission
Dana Becker: It's been a while since the American fighting fan has seen Josh Barnett in action, as the former UFC heavyweight champion was put under wraps due to a positive test sample coming back leading up to his bout with Fedor Emelianenko in 2009.
Outside of all the court hearings and such, Barnett (29-5) has been able to remain successful, winning a pair of fights in Australia and Japan. Now, though, he returns to the big time as a contestant in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Tournament.
Brett Rogers (11-2) has no plans to welcome Barnett back with open arms, as he looks to put himself among the elite the division has to offer.
After winning his first 10 professional fights, including a TKO over Andrei Arlovski, Rogers was thrown into action against Fedor. The Russian superstar knocked Rogers out in the first round, and he followed that loss up with a defeat against Alistair Overeem.
This is a hard fight to predict because Rogers has shown an inability to perform on the big stage, and Barnett hasn't competed in a main event against a top-level heavyweight in a very long time.
Still, I think Barnett's aggressive fighting style will put Rogers in an uncomfortable position for much of the night.
Barnett via third round TKO
Jeffrey McKinney: Bret Rodgers is 11-2 with 10 knockouts. The Chicago native has only lost to MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko and Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem.
Barnett is the more experienced of the two fighters with a record of 29-5. He holds wins over MMA greats Dan Severn, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and Randy Couture.
Three of his losses have come to Mirko Cro Cop.
Barnett’s career had been filled with controversy as he has tested positive for anabolic steroids three times. One of these times came after winning the UFC Heavyweight title.
Rodgers is a dangerous fighter on his feet, but he is no Cro Cop. Barnett also has more tools up his sleeve which is why I believe he will win and move on to face Sergei Kharitonov in the next round.
Barnett by submission in the first round
Dale De Souza: Barnett has not fought in the US for a long time, but that does not mean that his last fight in Affliction has remained his last fight.
Both he and Rogers have fought at least once a year since 2008, and both are coming off wins in order to contest each other in Dallas.
The slugger vs. the Catch-Wrestler...who will prevail?
It may be the more-experienced Barnett, who is seen as one of the sport's top Catch-Wrestling masterminds whenever the subject of his "past" is not brought up.
Granted, Rogers did beat Ruben Villareal by Unanimous Decision at W-1 New Ground, but one win over a 19-21 fighter with face paint is not the victory that will convince fans that Rogers can beat Barnett.
Although his "leaner and meaner" physique could prove that he is still a force at the Heavyweight level of MMA.
In the end, however, Rogers is nothing more than a slugger, and to beat Barnett, it'll take more than just being one hell of a slugger--it will take a keen sense of Barnett's wrestling and a masterful mentality motivated by the mission to neutralize the Catch-Wrestling of the Babyfaced Assassin.
If Rogers doesn't keep the fight on the feet and if he cannot prove that he is more than a slugger, he will serve as the perfect opponent that Barnett could have to welcome himself back into the MMA world.
Barnett by R1 Submission (Heel Hook)
Sean Smith: Although they are top-tier heavyweights, Alistair Overeem and Fedor Emelianenko exposed Brett Rogers as a fighter who just hasn't reached that level yet.
Rogers' biggest win in his career came against Andrei Arlovski during a time when Arlovski appeared to have completely lost the ability to take a punch.
Meanwhile, Josh Barnett has fought and defeated some of the best fighters in the world over the course of his career.
At 33-years-old, Barnett is now a wily veteran looking to prove to the UFC that he is worth one more shot. In order to get that opportunity, he will have to perform well in this Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix.
Barnett may have to weather a storm on his feet, but he should find a way to get this fight where he wants it, on the ground. Once there, Barnett will show why half of his 34 career wins have come by way of submission.
Barnett by submission (kimura) in the second round
John Heinis: On paper, this looks like a relatively easy win for “The Demolition Man.” Overeem has 14 knockout and 19 submissions in his career, so there’s no way a guy like Werdum could hang with him, right?
Well, once one digs a little deeper and realize that “Vai Cavalo” has already beaten Overeem by submission, things get a lot more interesting.
Werdum is a top 10, if not a top five, submission specialist in the business. Whether he caught him or not, he will very likely be the only man to submit Fedor Emelianenko.
Also, consider that Overeem has not gone past the second round in five years. If Werdum can avoid getting knocked out in the first three minutes or so, I really like his chances to come out on top again.
Overeem has the power and striking advantage, but Werdum has the better jiu jitsu and cardio.
The difference maker will be Werdum’s effectiveness off his back, being incredibly comfortable working submissions from his guard.
Given the noted weight and power disadvantage, I don’t think Werdum can pull off a submission again unless Overeem completely gasses out.
Still, I like Werdum to be the guy who proves he’s the legitimate heavyweight in this one.
Werdum via unanimous decision
Dana Becker: Say what you want about the way Strikeforce set up this Grand Prix Tournament, but they did provide quite an exciting opening round match between Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum.
Overeem (34-11) is the current Strikeforce heavyweight champion, and he even holds the Dream heavyweight title as well. He hasn't lost since 2007, has competed in several of these tournament-style matches and has been in the cage with some of the biggest names in the sport.
The 'Demoltion Man' is in his prime right now, having made the successful transition from a light heavyweight to heavyweight. Of his 34 career wins, 14 have come by knockout and 19 have been won with a submission.
Werdum (14-4) though, could be the hottest fighter in the tourney right now, entering off a submission victory over Fedor Emelianenko in the summer of 2010. That win was the first against Fedor in 28 fights and propelled Werdum up the rankings.
After suffering a knockout defeat against current UFC No. 1 contender Junior dos Santos, Werdum re-grouped and has been untouchable, claiming wins over Mike Kyle and Antonio Silva, along with the Fedor victory.
This is the kind of fight that could end at any moment, as both men have the ability to either knock you out and lock you in an unbreakable submission.
With so much riding on this fight, expect both to come out a little slow, not wanting to make any costly mistakes in the early going. But, once the nerves get out of the way, this has the makings of Fight of the Year written all over it.
Overeem via second round submission (guillotine choke)
Jeffrey McKinney: Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem meets Fabricio Werdum in one of the most anticipated bouts in the tournament.
Overeem has not lost a fight since 2007, and has looked unstoppable with each fight ending in the first or second round.
Werdum is on a three fight win streak including his upset victory over Fedor Emelianenko last June.
Both men met at Pride Total Elimination Absolute back in 2006 where Werdum got the better of Overeem.
I believe Werdum is very capable in beating Overeem again as he has good hands and great submissions. But Overeem has looked like a completely different fighter since moving to heavyweight full time.
I believe Saturday will be his night, and he will move on to the next round.
Overeem by TKO
Dale De Souza: The Reem and Werdum fought at PRIDE Shockwave 2006, and by now I think we all know who won that one.
Overeem is a three-promotion Heavyweight Champion--he's the Heavyweight World Champ of DREAM, K-1, and Strikeforce, yet he's in the Grand Prix.
His foe is coming off of the Upset of The Century against Fedor Emelianenko but keep in mind that the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsoka (BJJ practitioner) has not been in active competition since defeating Emelienenko.
Ring rust could be a factor in this bout, which could put Werdum at a disadvantage.
Nevertheless, both men have stated that they are ready for this bout on Saturday, and both men anticipate seeing a more evolved version of their familiar foe when the two collide again.
Undoubtedly, Overeem is a different fighter from the man he was in PRIDE, as is Werdum, and in this bout, Overeem's power and his Muay Thai will force Werdum to hit the ground after a few short minutes of action.
Mind you, Werdum has notably good Muay Thai also and he will not make it easy. Still, unless he's picked up some overpowering wrestling from Mark Munoz, or trained with the likes of Peter Aerts in preparation for this fight, Werdum will have to hope Overeem does what Fedor did in their bout.
However, lightning striking twice for Werdum is something that just will not happen in Dallas--and against the champion, no less.
Overeem by R2 TKO (Knees and Strikes)
Sean Smith: I have never seen a fighter get as much unwarranted hype as Alistair Overeem. Don't get me wrong, he is super talented, but when was the last time he beat a legitimate contender in the heavyweight division?
On top of that, Overeem is a monstrous favorite over a fighter, Fabricio Werdum, who he was finished by in their last meeting.
Werdum will have to survive the first few minutes of this fight, where Overeem will charge at Werdum with everything he has in his striking arsenal.
However, Werdum showed that he can take a punch in his last fight against Fedor Emelianenko and he will find a way to bait Overeem into going to the ground in the later rounds.
Once on the ground, Werdum will wear Overeem down by forcing him to defend submission after submission.
In the end, it will be Werdum who will go on to meet Antonio Silva in the semifinals of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix.
Werdum by split decision
John Heinis: Fight of the Night - Werdum vs. Overeem
Submission of the Night - Josh Barnett
Knockout of the Night - Chad Griggs
Dana Becker: Fight of the Night- Rogers vs. Barnett
Submission of the Night - Alistair Overeem
Knockout of the Night - K.J. Noons
Jeffrey McKinney: Fight of the Night - K.J. Noons vs. Jorge Masvidal
Submission of the Night - Josh Barnett
Knockout of the Night - Alistair Overeem
Dale De Souza: Fight of the Night: Valentjin Overeem vs. Chad Griggs
Submission of the Night: Jeff Monsoon
Knockout of the Night: Alistair Overeem
Sean Smith: Fight of the Night: Alistair Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum
Submission of the Night: Josh Barnett
Knockout of the Night: Chad Griggs