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Strikeforce: Overeem vs Werdum – The Preview

by on June 14, 2011

By Daniel Galvan

After four long months, the second part of the FIRST ROUND of Strikeforce’s “Heavyweight Grand Prix” will continue. According to Google, a grand prix is “an important sporting event in which participants compete for a major prize”. The key word in that definition is “event”, which means that a grand prix concludes in one event. We aren’t even out of the first round of this “grand prix” and it’s already been four months (and don’t even get me started on how “balanced” the heavyweight tournament brackets are)!

Nonetheless, this Saturday three important questions about the heavyweight division will be answered. Is Alistair Overeem one of the best heavyweights in the world? Was Fabricio Werdum’s submission win over Fedor Emelianenko a fluke? Is Josh Barnett a top heavyweight or has he just been fed weak opponents since his 2006 win over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira? I was also going to throw in the question, “Will Valentijn Overeem take the MMA world by storm after a win over Ray Sefo?”, but I decided against it.

The stream of fantastic heavyweight fights will continue as on June 18th, 2011 in the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas as two of the top five heavyweights in the world will meet in the cage to decide who will be Strikeforce’s top heavyweight in the top five. The question will be answered as the reigning K-1 World Grand Prix, DREAM, and Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem will face the man who shocked the world when he submitted Fedor Emelianenko, Fabricio Werdum. In the co-main event, Josh Barnett will look to extend his six fight win streak against the heavy-handed Brett Rogers. In the only non-heavyweight fight of the evening the former (only) EliteXC Champion, KJ Noons will drop back down to lightweight as he will face American Top Team member Jorge Masvidal in a bout that will determine a challenger for Gilbert Melendez’s lightweight championship. If you have Showtime, you should definitely check out the five-fight broadcast and if you have HDNet, you should watch some notable (crazy I know) Strikeforce prelims with Gesias Cavalcante facing rising star Justin Wilcox in a lightweight bout. So with that being said, let’s break down the fights.

Heavyweight Bout
Alistair Overeem (34-11, 14 KO/TKO 19 Sub) vs Fabricio Werdum (14-4-1, 4 KO/TKO, 8 Sub)

I would be astonished if this fight is left in the hands of the judges. But then again I was also absolutely sure that this past Saturday, the heavyweight bout between Junior Dos Santos and Shane Carwin wouldn’t leave the first round. Both of these guys have incredible finishing ability, as they have finished a combined 94% of all of their fights leaving only three of their forty-eight fights in the hands of the judges. Now that brings the question: which fighter will be on the receiving end of a knockout or a submission?

Overeem has reinvented himself, as he has gained an unbelievable amount of muscle mass. While Overeem claims that the reason for his phenomenal change in physique is by eating a lot of protein (such as horse meat), there will always be steroid allegations about his almost unbelievable change in body and power. I, for one, believe that he gained that muscle by consuming large amounts of food because of this video that was uploaded by K-1 which showcases his insane diet.

Alistair’s body type isn’t the only thing that has changed. While he started his MMA career with solid striking and above average BJJ, Overeem has become one of the premier strikers. Argument can be made that Overeem has the best striking in the heavyweight division, but we still haven’t seen him truly prove that his striking will transcend to MMA. While Overeem is well-versed in the ground game, I think that he will look to knock out Werdum. Alistair is one of the few fighters that have fantastic technical striking and incredible power in his punches.

Werdum has one of the best ground games in MMA and that is to be expected from a guy who submitted Fedor. Fabricio is fantastic off his back and is dangerous from the top position. Werdum has great speed off his back and he is able to transition from submission to submission in a short amount of time. Fabricio’s striking is also solid, but it isn’t at the level of Overeem’s. Fabricio will look to take the fight to the ground by taking down Overeem or pulling guard, but he should watch out for Overeem’s ground and pound and the guillotine choke Overeem has used to submit eight of his opponents.

I believe that Overeem will be able to knockout Werdum in the first round with a punch or knee, but Alistair needs to be careful about not falling in the same trap that “The Last Emperor” did. He needs to stay cautious (and if that means letting Werdum up, then that is better than being submitted). Alistair has a dangerous knee that he may use if Werdum decides to clench. Overeem should use his phenomenal striking to finish Werdum on the first before the first period ends.

My Prediction – Alistair Overeem def. Fabricio Werdum via 1st Round KO

Heavyweight Bout
Josh Barnett (29-5, 7 KO/TKO, 17 Sub) vs Brett Rogers (11-2, 9 KO/TKO, 1 Sub)

            I am sure that Dana White and the Fertittas are hoping that Brett Rogers gets the win over Josh Barnett because of the licensing issues with Barnett (Editor’s note: Barnett failed a drug test in California in July 2009 and has had his appeal postponed multiple times, including Barnett himself not showing up to repeated trials). Now that ZUFFA has purchased Strikeforce, commission shopping is not acceptable for Strikeforce. Barnett is the favorite going into this fight for good reason. Barnett outclassed Geronimo Dos Santos by taking him down immediately as the fight started and punching him out. Josh maybe the better technical striker in this fight, but I doubt he would want to keep it standing with Rogers (who has some serious punching power). Brett is coming off a lackluster win over Ruben Villareal after he gassed in the third round, but he used his striking and wrestling to out-point his opponent.

If this fight goes past the first round, Rogers has a small percentage of success. Nonetheless I like to go out on a limb at least once every show and I am going to predict that Rogers will knock out Barnett. I know it sounds crazy, but Barnett hasn’t fought a guy with the power of Rogers and he may be a bit careless when shoots in for his takedown. Barnett will more than likely clench with Rogers against the cage and I envision Rogers landing some short punches from the clench with one of them dropping Barnett. If Josh takes it to the ground, it’s over Rogers, but I say that it will be “Goodnight Irene” for Josh. Don’t be surprised if Rogers is able to stuff a few of Barnett’s takedowns as Rogers does have some decent takedown defense.

My Prediction – Brett Rogers def. Josh Barnett via 1st Round KO

Lightweight Bout
KJ Noons (10-3, 8 KO/TKO) vs Jorge Masvidal (21-6, 10 KO/TKO, 1 Sub)

            This fight looks to be a contender for “fight of the night”, as both fighters usually have exciting fights. This should be an exciting striking match-up, as Masvidal is an aggressive striker and Noons is an excellent counter-striker. Masvidal will look to score a left jab that was very effective for him in his last fight against Billy Evangelista at Strikeforce: Feijao vs Henderson, but it will only be a matter of time before Masvidal realizes that he is outmatched on the feet against Noons. The winner of this fight will more than likely be decided on who is the better wrestler. Masvidal has some solid takedowns, but Noons has some good takedown defense. If Masvidal is able to get on top of KJ, then it will be bad times for Mr. Noons (who is not very good off his back and would prefer to trade and bang).

While Noons’ striking stock may have taken a hit after he got out-struck by Nick Diaz, it was shown later that Diaz was actually a great stand-up artist after he knocked out one of the best strikers in the welterweight division (Paul Daley). I will predict KJ in this fight because I think he will be able to defend the takedowns from Masvidal and counter a lot of Jorge’s punches with the big hook that he has. KJ also needs to watch out for the knees in the clench from Masvidal, as Jorge showed his vicious knees against Evangelista. If KJ gets taken down, he should be able to get back up because Masvidal isn’t very good at keeping a fighter down after scoring a take-down. That is why that Noons will defeat Masvidal via unanimous decision after he out-strikes the American Top Team product for the majority of the fight.

My Prediction – KJ Noons def. Jorge Masvidal via Unanimous Decision

Heavyweight Bout
Daniel Cormier (7-0, 6 KO/TKO) vs Jeff Monson (42-11, 2 KO/TKO, 26 Sub)

            This fight is a true example of the veteran journeyman taking on the young newcomer. The former NCAA Championship Tournament runner-up, Daniel Cormier will look to extend his undefeated streak to eight. But, he will have to beat the toughest opponent he has faced in his young career. Let’s face it: unless Cormier has advanced his striking tremendously since his last fight against Devin Cole (which could actually be possible based on him training at the American Kickboxing Academy) this fight will go to the ground.

Cormier has a huge wrestling advantage over “The Snowman”, but Monson will probably have the jiu-jitsu advantage. Monson could very well sweep Cormier and put a beating on the AKA product from the top position or lock on a kimura. Daniel also really need to be careful when shooting for a takedown because Monson will lock on the guillotine choke and get the submission within a blink of an eye. I am banking on the fact that Cormier will get the biggest win of his career by fighting a smart fight and controlling Monson on top for three straight rounds without getting caught in any of the submission that Monson will attempt. While I would love to have seen the previous fight scheduled between Cormier and Del Rosario, this fight is a suitable replacement.

My Prediction – Daniel Cormier def. Jeff Monson via Unanimous Decision

Heavyweight Bout
Chad Griggs (10-1, 9 KO/TKO, 1 Sub) vs Valentijn Overeem (29-25, 11 KO/TKO, 17 Sub)

            This fight is really hard for to me to get a grasp on, because I don’t know what level Valentijn Overeem is at and how serious he is taking this fight. Overeem, on paper, is the better fight and he is basically better in every what. Griggs does have some power, but he isn’t really good at any one area. Griggs will probably throw a barrage of wild punches with a low accuracy and will probably be on the receiving end of his knees. I do see Griggs surviving the first round, which could be a problem for Overeem, because if there is one area that Chad is superior than Overeem at it is conditioning. Griggs showed in his fight with Bobby Lashley that he is able to take a beating for a round and half and come back to win the fight with a finish. Although I am not very confident in this prediction, I think that Griggs will weather the storm in the first and be able to take the fight to Overeem in the second and finish Overeem with a TKO win in the third. Nonetheless this a fight that will probably validate two fighters that are on the cusp of becoming relevant in the heavyweight division.

My Prediction – Chad Griggs def. Valentijn Overeem via 3rd Round TKO

Lightweight Bout
Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante (15-4-1, 5 KO/TKO, 7 Sub) vs Justin Wilcox (11-3, 2 KO/TKO, 1 Sub)

            I am pretty positive that this is the best fight that has ever been on a Strikeforce card. Cavalcante is one of those fighters that has so much potential, but due to either bad game-planning or bad scoring, he has been on the short end the stick as far as success in MMA goes. He’ll look to change that, but I think he is going to in trouble against a strong wrestler and striker in Wilcox. Cavalcante will look to take it to the ground, but Wilcox should be able to stuff “JZ”’s take-down attempts and stop his trips. Justin will more than likely sprawl and brawl his way to a unanimous decision, but Cavalcante also has some good striking that will make this fight a fun one to watch. Wilcox will probably have the striking advantage and use that to out-point “JZ” in what will really tell us if Wilcox has what it takes to compete with the top lightweights.

My Prediction – Justin Wilcox def. Gesias Cavalcante.

Lightweight Bout
Conor Heun (8-4, 1 KO/TKO, 5 Sub) vs Magno Almeida (9-1-1, 8 Sub)

Almeida is a lightweight prospect with solid striking and fantastic jiu-jitsu, and I think that he will have the advantage in both facets when he takes on Conor Heun. Heun is a solid wrestler with good jiu-jitsu, but his striking isn’t as versatile as Almeida’s. Almeida may regret it though as he does leave himself open to counter-punching, but I doubt that Conor will be able to do that to the Brazilian prospect. I do see this fight going to the ground and Heun will shortly realize that the last place he wanted to be is on the ground with Magno Almeida. Almeida has great transitions and should be able to use his grappling to submit Conor Heun.

My Prediction – Magno Almeida def. Conor Heun via 2nd Round Submission

Full Card
Alistair Overeem vs Fabricio Werdum
Brett Rogers vs Josh Barnett
KJ Noons vs Jorge Masvidal
Daniel Cormier vs Jeff Monson
Chad Griggs vs Valentijn Overeem
Justin Wilcox vs Gesias Cavalcante
Conor Heun vs Magno Almeida
Nah-Shon Burrell vs Joe Ray
Todd Moore vs Mike Bronzoulis
Brian Melancon vs Isaac Vallie-Flagg

-Daniel Galvan

You can follow me at Twitter @DanielGal

You can send me an e-mail at dgalvanmma@yahoo.com

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