Sunday, June 19, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
- Daniel Cormier uses Olympic pedigree to rise up Strikeforce ranks
- Fighters in Strikeforce heavyweight tournament hope for shot at UFC belt
- Strikeforce’s K.J. Noons returns this weekend with Nick Diaz still on his mind
- Fedor Emelianenko falls in Strikeforce Grand Prix, talks retirement
- Strikeforce heavyweight tourney begins with Fedor Emelianenko’s return
- Strikeforce coverage
- All MMA/boxing coverage
The two remaining favorites in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix advanced to the semifinals of the tournament Saturday in Dallas.
Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett defeated Fabricio Werdum and Brett Rogers, respectively, to reserve their spots in the final four.
“I’ve got a tournament to fight, bit-by-bit, inch-by-inch, one-by-one,” Barnett said in a spirited speech to the American Airlines Center crowd after his win. “I’m going to take them down one by one. One skull to the collection to the next to the next until I’m standing on top of a pile of bodies with a pile of gold in my hand.”
Barnett came away with a more dominant victory than Overeem. Barnett suffocated Rogers after taking him down in the first round and submitted him in the second with an arm triangle choke at 1:17.
Overeem didn’t live up to his status as one of the most dangerous strikers in mixed martial arts. In fact, Werdum landed nearly 20 more strikes and actually beat Overeem according to MMA stats provider FightMetric.
But the judges didn’t agree. They scored it 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 in favor of Overeem.
“Fabricio is one of the best grapplers in the world,” Overeem said after the win. “I consider him the best grappler in MMA, so we didn’t want to play with him on the ground.”
Werdum’s strategy of daring Overeem to come to the ground ultimately lost him the decision. Werdum, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, pulled guard continually and motioned for Overeem to join him on the mat.
But Overeem usually declined and allowed Werdum to his feet. When Overeem did find himself down, he didn’t apply any offense and just defended himself from Werdum’s library of submissions.
It was a safe approach but not one that made Overeem appear on the same level as the elite UFC heavyweights like Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos.
Overeem faces Antonio Silva in the second round of the tournament, while Barnett meets Sergei Kharitonov in a battle between two former UFC champions. The date is to be announced but should come sometime in the fall.
“I’m going to be ready,” Overeem said.
Also at the event, Jorge Masvidal almost assured himself the next shot at the Strikeforce lightweight belt after defeating K.J. Noons via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
“He made more openings,” Masvidal said in his post-fight interview. “He’s a good striker, but I’m a bad style for him. I’m a good counter striker.”
Masvidal should meet current 155-pound champion Gilbert Melendez before the end of the year.
At the beginning of the night, the winner of the bout between Gesias Cavalcante and Justin Wilcox also seemed likely to be in the title conversation. But their fight ended without resolution.
Cavalcante inadvertently poked Wilcox in the eye during the second round and left him without vision. The doctor called off the fight, leaving Cavalcante and Wilcox with a no contest.
“You’re not going to see me get on my knees or anything, but if (Strikeforce CEO) Scott Coker wants to give me the shot, I’ll be more than happy,” Masvidal said of facing Melendez.
The other two heavyweight bouts on the televised card also ended with the favorite prevailing.
Daniel Cormier kept his undefeated record intact by beating Jeff Monson via unanimous decision. All three judges scored the contest 30-27.
Chad Griggs forced Valentijn Overeem, Alistair’s older brother, to tap out due to strikes at 2:08 of the first round. Griggs has won six straight, including all three of his contests in Strikeforce.