Welcome to the Preview of the Strikeforce 2011 Grand Prix, I am David Snipes, and with me is my Portugese Man-o-War, João Pedro and one guy who loves him some tournaments, Collin Caprini- who thinks Bellator started all this.
João: Glad to be here! I am, as I believe any true MMA fan his, excited about this tournament and its match-ups.
Collin: It is very good to be here and discussing such a monumental happening in MMA. Those who did not follow Pride I don’t think can really appreciate how a tournament like this can shape the landscape of a division for the better. I think the biggest disappointment for most of these fighters in the past is that we don’t know where to rank them now (not in Pride, but now) because they haven’t faced a significant opposition consistently enough. If this tourney goes through though, we won’t be able to say that.
David: First off, Let me state that we do this more of a conversation between us and this is intended to be more informal that our normal writing, we apporach this as if we were sitting at a bar, and just talking sports. So enjoy the tangents, and the info.
João: This way we keep it, no doubt, dynamic. So much to cover, where do we begin?
David: This is actually going to be the first major tournament I’ll be able to see, since I came in after Pride, and don’t really count TUF, and my cable system hates Bellator. I want to get the good of this tournament out of the way, then we can complain about it, that work for you? Good.
The winner of the Grand Prix is going to be #1 heavyweight in the world.
Er, Providing that its one of the Big 3, (Fedor, Overeem and Werdum) If Arlovski wins this, then he’s not going to be top dog by a long shot.
Here is the problem though, if Josh is able to win – no matter who he meets in the Final, He’s not going to be #1.
João: Agreed. Sorry Cain Velasquez but this tournament is indeed going to shake the MMA Heavyweight division rankings. The winner will have to go through three fighters – and some of them are the best in the world – to get the tournament.
Now, that is especially true for the fighters on the left side of the bracket, which is much stronger than the right side. If Werdum, Fedor or Overeem win this tournament, then I see no reason not to rank them number 1 afterwards.
Collin: I believe that the winner of this tournament, if they win impressively, as Heavyweights tend to, will be the number 1 HW in the world. If Kharitonov comes out and lays AA out on a stretcher, then sprawls and brawls and KO’s Barnett, then beats any of the four fighters on the other side, he will have done something more impressive than what Cain has done in beating a worn out Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and a 5-2 champion. That is just the way it is.
Plus, by the end of this year the winner will have three fights against top 15 talent at worst, and Cain will have one fight against the winner of Junior Dos Santos and Brock Lesnar. There is no comparing Cain to the winner of this, either in the short term or the long term memory.
David: Lets back the truck up here, Werdum lost to Junior in NINTY SECONDS- and if Werdum wins this and Junior kills Cain- he’s gonna have a SHORT time at number 1. Plus Big Nog has beaten how many guys in this bracket? I’m not putting a guy who is a fight removed from getting beat by Jeff Monson over Junior or Cain.
Another great thing about this Prix- is it shows JUST HOW DEEP SF is at 255, Lets face it, Hate all you want, but Dana has the VAST MAJORITY of the top 10 talent at Every weight class but one. This one.
If Coker does the MW tourney next- and we will get to that a little bit later, you will see how THIN they are everywhere else. But here?
You got 2 of the top 5, 5 of the top 10, and Brett Rogers could be top 15. The Non-UFC could only dream of doing so well above lightweight, world combined. Adding in Arlovski gives a pretty good name to the tourney as well.
João: I see no other way around it. The Strikeforce Heavyweight division is currently stronger than its UFC counterpart. Even more so if we factor in current injury woes in the UFC. Fedor is the all-time number 1 Heavyweight, Alistair Overeem could very well the best Heavyweight currently in the sport, Werdum brings the best BJJ in this weight class (now that Nogueira has faded), Bigfoot is a solid fighter, Kharitonov has all kinds of talent (let’s see if his head is in the right place), Arlovski is well-rounded and with great hands (his chin isn’t something he can improve but, as with Kharitonov, let us see if his mental aspect is better this time), Josh Barnett is probably the strongest guy on the right side of the bracket (he obviously suffers from past mistakes we all know of), and Brett Rogers can pack a powerful punch.
Great line-up, no doubt.
Even the reserve fights are interesting, with K-1 standout Ray Sefo, Alistair’s brother Valentijn Overeem, Shane del Rosario, etc.
Collin: I’m in total agreement on this one. If they are going to put on a Grand Prix and be able to make a real case for the winner being the best fighter in their wieght class in the world over the UFC, this is it. They have done a very good job of assembling the greatest of Pride, UFC outcasts who left for contractual reasons (in Fabricio Werdum and Andrei Arlovski), and a guy that they basically built themselves into a plausible top 15 Heavyweight.
David: Something else I want to bring up, This could- and I mean COULD give us a PPV main event. You put any mix of the Big 3, and the question is why the third man is out. Now, Providing Barnett wins his half, especially if he dominates- and we end up with Overeem winning his half- Then that’s a PPV main event- with Fedor/Werdum II as the co-main. We get Affliction’s main event- with Overeem/Werdum III for the Title, I’ll take that. Even Werdum vs Barnett would be on PPV, but the headliner would be Fedor’s career vs Overeem’s title in a cage match!
I’ll still buy that. Plus it would get Diaz outta that Honda at a 178 pound catchweight vs Mayhem.
João: SF initially looked into the possibility of having a single tournament (outside of the US, of course) but eventually decided to go with this format.
This format has the advantages of being more fair and also of giving SF the chance to have multiple cards with good fights.
As for the final, Barnett vs. Overeem/Werdum/Fedor would be a great main event for a PPV. And they can put other guys in that same card, as you mentioned, to give it more substance. The possibilities are plenty. What we do know is that each and every fight on the left bracket is going to be huge along the way. I really hope there are no injuries!
David: They are going to hate life if Arlovski makes the finals vs Bigfoot
Collin: They are almost certainly going to do the finals on Pay Per View in my opinion. Don’t forget that there is still a funny clause in Fedor’s current contract that says that one of his fights is going to be on PPV. Even if he isn’t in the finals, he could be a very big co-main event to the finals on a big Pay Per View if they can get his a good opponent, perhaps facing the semi-final loser from the right side in a “true second” match. And I can easily see them moving 300,000 PPV if the marketing is right and the big fights fall into place well.
David: The Re-worked contract reportedly dropped the PPV clause, but Coker needs to make that move unless he goes to CBS
Ok, João- anything good I missed?
João: Well, you didn’t mention ring girls! Oh, sorry, about the tournament, you mean?
There are several sub-plots here. I mean, is this Fedor’s last stand?
How will he rebound from his loss?
Can Werdum submit Overeem once again? Because the Overeem he fought wasn’t exactly the 2011 version.
Can anyone stop Overeem, now that he has proven to be an elite striker by winning the K-1 World GP?
Can Barnett, on the weaker side of the bracket, gain back some lost respectability? Because we are talking about someone with a tremendous curriculum in the sport.
Arlovski and Kharitonov, who’s the nuttier?
Upsets, where will they happen, if at all?
Collin: Agreed Joao, there are more plots here than then a cemetery.
Especially intersting to me is how many of these potential matchups could be rematches, and that most people don’t seem to know that these fights happened.
Overeem is 1-1 with Kharitonov, and both fights were very exciting striking contests. He is 0-1 with Werdum, having lost via Kimura to the great BJJ specialist. We all saw the complete destruction he laid on Brett Rogers. Werdum and Kharitonov have met before as well, with Sergei taking a tight split decision. And Arlovski could potentially avenge his loses to Fedor and Rogers. Just too many interesting fights here to even contemplate.
Sergei is the dark horse here man, he has wins over two of the top three ranked fighters here and the word on the street was that back in the day he could hang quite well with Fedor in the Russian Top Team Gym.
David: Odd how many of those first fights have not really been seen on USATV, but SF would do well to show us a good bit of that in the
Ok, now on with the bad. My Biggest problem is Overeem’s belt is not on the line- we have all 3 round fights, and Coker can give all the excuses he wants- and they all sound like he’s working for M-1 Global.
Overeem FINALLY defends the belt, and now he’s gonna be the champ for another year with no worries. Bet on 2013 before we get another challenger for that belt.
João: I know what you mean but this is a very tricky concept.
Strikeforce is basically doing what Pride did in its tournaments; there’s a champion, the champion may participate in the tournament but no belt is on the line.
If Overeem doesn’t win the tournament, then the legitimacy of his Heavyweight crown will undoubtedly be questioned.
This is an issue, of course.
But, on the other hand, I do prefer seeing champions fighting in good non title fights than in weak title defenses. I mean, Overeem last defended against Brett Rogers, who was coming off a loss. I don’t like to see that at all.
If Overeem wins the tournament then he’s the undisputed champion and the undisputed number 1 Heavyweight in the sport. If someone else wins it, then we’ll get to have a champion versus tournament champion fight. It’s strange, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a bad thing.
David: But again, you have a champion coming off a loss, it makes him look weak.
To follow-up on that- Let me ask you this, Say Overeem beats Werdum, Fedor and Barnett and wins this thing, who is the next challenger? Hasn’t he cleaned out the division? Unless Cormier comes in (and heaven help SF if he has to come in as a replacement and gets lay and prayed by Barnett) Then what does Coker do? Lashley vs Walker in a #1 contenders match?
João: That wouldn’t exactly be a very good “after the tournament” scenario for Strikeforce, but I guess the next logical step would be to have a rematch between Barnett and Overeem, this time with the title on the line.
And take it from there.
David: But what if its a Arlovski vs Timmy III level dull fight?
Collin: It seems pretty simple to me. The tournament is a seperate title itself, and if the winner isn’t Overeem then the winner gets a crack at his belt. Coker wanted to do all 5 round affairs, but the commissions shut him down, or at least so he said according to Josh Gross. Maybe Showtime wanted to eliminate the possibility of a Strikeforce: Nashville repeat with multiple five round fights, but whatever the case may be, it didn’t get done. It would be completely ridiculous to have all the fights except Overeem’s be three rounds, wouldn’t it?
David: What are the odds you give that we get 7 matches the way they are drawn out? I’d go no higher than 10%
1. Overeem might want to wait for a K-1 fight, especially if he’s facing Brett Rogers or BigFoot or someone not really worth his time
while K-1 is wanting a main event.
2. Fedor, First you have to consider M-1 wanting him to do something, but he also can break his hands putting on his gloves it seems here recently, his last few fights he has been getting the stuffings beaten out of him- before knocking someone out – in mid-air if needed.
3. Injury. Its MMA, it happens.
4. What if someone gets popped for Roids? 25% have all but been found guilty in the court of public opinion, and if the finale is Barnett vs Overeem and they do it in Japan- then its gonna be a nightmare for Coker.
João: I’ll give it a 50% chance, but that’s just because I am optimistic.
But yes, injuries may happen even though the fights are spaced between themselves.
I just hope things don’t get derailed, especially in the latter stages.
Collin: You can never tell, but I am cautiously optimistic that the
tournament will play out as it should.
David: My Biggest fixable complaint is the draw, this is like having UNC/Duke in round one of the ACC tournament!
I rank them this way
João: I really don’t understand why they drew the bracket like that, I really don’t.
SF officials have stated that they wanted the best fights to happen?!
Doesn’t really make much sense.
I basically rank them the same way you do, with surely the top 3 fighters being in the left side of the bracket.
I really don’t get it, not even sure how comment on this. You get great fights in the beginning, but you risk having not so interesting clashes in the end of the tournament. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?!
David: But see where the bottom 3 are? We can debate the top 3 all day- but 99% of people are gonna put Rogers/Arlovski/Kharitonov 6-8 in some order right?
João: Strikeforce match-makers are obviously aware of this. Why they voluntarily chose to draw it this way we’ll probably never really know.
It’s not like they did a random draw, now is it?
David: Well, Overeem had to get Werdum, that was his condition, You also have to get Fedor vs the winner ASAP for M1- thats my guess, you don’t want Fedor to beat Sergei and Brett on that contract just to get to the Finals- plus that side of the bracket is going to be the main event. I would have had Overeem’s brother take his spot, and Chad Griggs take Werdum’s spot so you could set Barnett vs Fedor up as a number 1 contender fight. but that’s me.
Alright people, Lets hit the brackets: Who you got?
Fedor Emelianenko vs. Antonio “Big Foot” Silva
João: Fedor wins but I don’t think it will be easy. TKO in the 2nd after some heated exchanges in the first.
David: Fedor by ARMBAR- he gets back to the stuff that made him a legend, Fedor gets busted up, bloody and then clinches, takedown and gets a submission.
Alistair Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum
João: Werdum can’t take Overeem down and is eventually caught. TKO in the 1st.
David: Overreem by scorecards, I think Werdum does enough to survive the pounding.
Andrei Arlovski vs. Sergei Kharitonov
João: oh, the mentally weak step in to fight each other. Kharitonov by decision.
David: Sergei finds his chin in the second.
And the big matchup we all want to see:
Brett Rogers vs. Josh Barnett
João: Rogers has no answer for Barnett’s grappling. Josh Barnett by decision.
David: I’m excited to see this one, actually. Barnett needs to impress, cleanly, Rogers needs to be relevant to Coker. I’ll take Rogers in an upset.
Well, thats it people, Let us know your thoughts below!