June 17, 2011 – It’s only one day until arguably the most highly-anticipated Strikeforce card ever gets underway from the American Airlines Center in Dallas with Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum. The event is headlined by the remaining SF Heavyweight Grand Prix Quarterfinals featuring Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum, Josh Barnett, and Brett Rogers along with the appearance of top prospects KJ Noons, Jorge Masdival, and many others.
MMA fans nationwide will be in for a long night of action as each and every fight on this card will be televised with the main card airing on Showtime and the preliminary card also airing on HDNet. (Thanks Uncle Dana!)
Without further delay, let’s take a look and preview each and every fight on this card.
Showtime Main card – Preview and Predictions
Heavyweight Grand Prix Quarterfinal: Alistair Overeem (34-11-1NC) vs. Fabricio Werdum (14-4-1)
Fight Preview – This fight will most definitely be a case of the indestructible force (Übereem) meeting the man who beat the once immovable object, Fedor. It’s fair to say that plenty of people consider this the true finale of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix with the winner advancing as the likely candidate to win the whole thing. It’s also fair to say that a lot of people underestimate Josh Barnett and overstimated Fedor Emelianenko but that’s neither here nor there.
Entering this fight, Alistair Overeem has been unstoppable, looking every bit as superhuman as he appears in winning his last nine fights minus a no contest to Mirko CroCop in 2008. Once a sleek light heavyweight, the hard-hitting Dutchman has grown to be one of the most dangerous specimens in MMA and can hurt his opponents in any number of ways with his K-1 rated kickboxing skills coupled with one of the most dangerous clinch/knee combinations in the sport.
As seen in the Fedor fight, his opponent Fabricio Werdum is both crafty and cerebral. The multiple-time BJJ world champion weathered an early onslaught by the former #1 rated fighter in the world and became the first man to tap the Russian with a picture-perfect triangle choke. Winning his last three fights since leaving the UFC post-loss to a younger Junior dos Santos, beating Overeem would go a long way towards cementing Werdum as one of the top three heavyweights in the world.
Analysis / Prediction – These two actually fought once before in 2006 for PRIDE FC with the then-inexperienced Overeem falling prey to a kimura from Werdum’s full guard. The thing about that fight besides inexperience is that Overeem was about sixty-pounds lighter and was actually the smaller man in that fight. Fast forward to tomorrow and Alistair will be entering the fight as the much stronger fighter by a large margin. He’s also not liable to fall prey to the takedown as easily as he once did.
Surely Octavio “Ratinho” Couto and crew will have Werdum come in with a sound gameplan for Overeem and he does have his own lengthy experience in Muay Thai but he may not have the strength to get this fight to the ground, where he has his only chance of winning. Short of a huge mistake from Overeem, I see Werdum getting blasted from all angles while trying to take down the Dutchman and coming up short.
Alistair Overeem wins by knockout.
Heavyweight Grand Prix Quarterfinal: Brett Rogers (11-2) vs. Josh Barnett (29-5)
Fight Preview – Multiple positive drug tests notwithstanding, “The Baby-Faced Assassin” Josh Barnett has long been one of the very best heavyweights in the world of MMA. In fact, he’s beaten the likes of a Randy Couture, Dan Severn, and Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira while there were all in their primes.
Currently with a record of 29-5, Josh Barnett remains as one of the most dangerous heavyweights in the world and will look to prove that to the world in his first fight on U.S. soil since January of 2009.
As for his opponent, Brett “The Grim” Rogers, it’s been awhile since we last saw him in a significant fight. It was November of 2009 when he became the last man to lose to Fedor Emelianenko in a spirited performance where he almost became the first man to beat the legend. Since then, he’s fought once, beating durable veteran Ruben Villareal via decision to get back to his winning ways.
Analysis / Prediction – Brett Rogers is a big boy and has proven to have some heavy hands and the heart to throw them but Josh Barnett is about as crafty a veteran as they come. He’s fought the likes of Gilbert Yvel, Mark Hunt, Semmy Schilt, and many others without getting knocked out and I don’t see the former Sam’s Club tire-changer being the man to put away the Baby-Faced Assassin. I see Barnett taking down his large opponent and smothering him on the mat until he tires him enough to submit him, likely by a leg-lock just like at his pre-fight media workout.
Josh Barnett via submission.
Heavyweight Bout: Daniel Cormier (7-0) vs. Jeff Monson (42-11)
Fight Preview – Daniel Cormier will enter this bout as the much-heralded top heavyweight prospect on the Strikeforce roster with a 7-0 MMA record and an Olympic freestyle wrestling pedigree. Already 32-years old, Cormier will be taking on his most dangerous opponent yet in Jeff Monson.
Getting his MMA start way back in 1997, “The Snowman” Jeff Monson is compact wrecking ball of anarchist fury that’s literally taken on a who’s who of heavyweights during his time in the sport. Seriously, I’d list his opponents but the list is too long. Let’s just say Cormier won’t be the most intimidating grappler he’s ever faced in MMA, having taken on Marcio “Pe De Pano” Cruz, Roy Nelson, Mark Kerr, Ricco Rodriguez, Josh Barnett, and more throughout the years. And like a fine wine, Monson says he’s only getting better at 40-years-old, winning his last 8 fights in a row.
Analysis / Prediction – A lot of people have Daniel Cormier listed as the favorite because of highly-respected wrestling skills. Bad more against the equally-experienced grappler in Jeff Monson, who’s won many medals in the ADCC. Coupled with that, Cormier didn’t exactly impress with his striking against Devin Cole, Soa Palelei, or any of his other opponents to this point. He won’t be able to finish the durable tank that is “The Snowman” and he won’t be able to overwhelm him on the ground. I see Cormier perhaps having the ability to start strong but he’ll tire out eventually and that’s when Monson will go for the kill.
Jeff Monson by decision or late-round submission.
Lightweight Bout: KJ Noons (10-3) vs. Jorge Masvidal (21-6)
Fight Preview – Get your popcorn ready folks, this one may be the fight of the night! Recently getting moved up the main card after Gina Carano was forced to drop out of the card due to medical reasons, this bout will pit two of the most exciting strikers as you’ll see in the lightweight division. And they’re fighting for a likely 155 title shot against Gilbert Melendez.
With his only loss since 2007 coming in a welterweight rematch to current UFC welterweight title contender Nick Diaz via decision, KJ Noons has long been on the cusp of being a force at the top echelon of MMA. Returning to lightweight, he’ll want to use his seasoned boxing skills and aggression to get the better of Masdival and pick up the W.
While not having the amount of boxing fights as his opponent, Jorge Masdival has proven his mettle standup up in many places, including Japan and even someone’s front yard. He beat Billy Evangelista in his last outing and is known as a tough well-rounded fighter than can fight technically or brawl when needed.
If Noons is allowed to get into a striking groove, he is especially hard to get out of that rhythm, much like his teammate, UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, who uses a lot of the same combos and moves Noons does.
Analysis / Prediction – Jorge Masdival may be as the more well-rounded of the two on paper but he’ll have to get the fight to the ground and keep it there to utilize that perceived advantage. To me, that seems highly unlikely. On the feet, he has great footwork and he’ll have to use it against a forward-facing, attacking striker like KJ. If Noons is allowed to get into his groove, he’ll likely pick Masdival off slowly but surely for the better part of three rounds. If Jorge gets caught standing still, KJ will light him up in the pocket.
K.J. Noons by unanimous decision.
Heavyweight Tournament Alternate Bout: Valentijn Overeem (29-25) vs. Chad Griggs (10-1)
Fight Preview – Whatever type of horsemeat they are eating over there in the Netherlands is surely working for the Overeem brothers. Valentijn is about twice the size of what he was back when he was fighting for PRIDE FC in the early 2000’s. He’ll be entering this fight as a long-time veteran of the sport, holding notable wins over Randy Couture, Renato “Bababu” Sobral, and Ray Sefo throughout his career.
As for Chad Griggs, he’s known primarily as the man who proved Bobby Lashley as overrated by taking him out in Houston but he’s actually won his last five in a row and has proven himself to be quite the scrappy fighter.
Analysis / Prediction – Griggs just likes to fight and will go into this one looking to throw down. The older Overeem will most certainly be looking to do the same but he’s too punchy at this point in his career after 50+ fights to hold up to the beating.
Chad Griggs via technical knockout in an entertaining affair.
HDNet Undercard – Preview and Predictions
Lightweight Bout: Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante (15-4-1-1NC) vs. Justin Wilcox (11-3)
Fight Preview – A former NCAA Division I wrestler, Justin Wilcox is entering this one as a prosect to watch in Strikeforce. At 11-3, he’s been on quite a streak as of late, defeating Rodrigo Damm, Vitor “Shaolin” Ribiero, and TUF contender Shamar Bailey in his last three.
His opponent, former American Top Team member JZ Cavalcante is a longtime veteran of the sport who was once thought of to be a top prospect himself prior to falling to hard times as of late, winning only one of his last five fights. This bout will be pivotal for the direction of his career.
Analysis / Prediction – The crux of the argument for Cavalcante to win is whether he can keep Justin Wilcox from taking him down. If he can do that, he might be able to outpoint him with his striking. Meanwhile, Wilcox will look to be the busier fighter and keep JZ off-balance by changing levels, take him down, and smash him there.
Justin Wilcox via decision.
Lightweight Bout: Conor Heun (12-4) vs. Magno Almeida (9-1-1)
Fight Preview – Conor Huen has been telling anybody who’ll listen that he’s a changed fighter after making the move from Los Angeles to Albuquerque, New Mexico to train with Greg Jackson, Leonard Garcia, and crew. The former 10th planet protege will need to be changed if he’s to come back from his two-fight losing streak against KJ Noons and Jorge Gurgel and win in this one.
As the latest of a long-line of Brazilian prospects, BJJ black belt Magno Almeida steps into this one with a good record and one solid win over WEC-vet Mike Campbell in his last fight.
Analysis / Prediction – Conor Huen said he’d rather Almeida “mail his arm to him COD” than tap to an armbar so I guess this one’s not to end by Magno winning by submission, and that’s how he’s won all his fights. I’ll take a flyer on an improved Heun in this one.
Conor Heun by decision.
Welterweight Bout: Todd Moore (13-4) vs. Mike Bronzoulis (12-2)
Fight Preview – It’s crazy that some of the fights I’m looking forward to most are the ones at the bottom of the card but that’s a testament to how far the local scene has come along in Houston, TX. This fight will pit an aggressive brawling fighter in Mike “The Greek” Bronzoulis against a scrappy veteran in Todd “The Mainiac” Moore. Couple that with the fact that these two simply don’t like each other and what we have is the makings for a potential fight of the night performance.
Winning his last four fights, Bronzoulis is the type of fighter that keeps coming forward no matter what his opponents throw at him. He mixes it up very well in the cage, combining effective high kicks and the like with solid ground-and-pound to overwhelm his foes. An emotional fighter, he throws with vicious intent with every shot and looks to break his opponents’ will in every fight.
As for Moore, he’s a BJJ black belt with a wrestling base who’s game is based around taking his opponents down and controlling them on the ground while administering his own version of ground and pound. A WEC and DREAM veteran, Todd’s fought in front of large crowds such as the one that’ll be at the American Airlines Center before so he will likely be cool and collected heading into the cage.
Analysis / Prediction – Moore is entering this one as the heavy betting underdog. I don’t exactly think he’s at +285 like the bookies have it at but Bronzoulis is definitely the prohibitive favorite in this one by virtue of his recent activity and performance. Todd was knocked out by Mike’s teammate Brian Melancon so look for him to do the same thing.
Mike Bronzoulis by decision.
Lightweight Bout: Brian Melancon vs. Isaac Vallie-Flag (11-3-1)
Fight Preview – Strikeforce chose a good pairing to set the tone for the evening in this matchup as both Brian Melancon and Isaac Vallie-Flagg are the type of fighters that throw caution to the wind and like to bang it out. Look for this one to be nothing else but a slugfest as neither of these guys are boring fighters in the least bit.
Analysis / Prediction – Look for punches to fly all over the place in this one with one fighter falling before the final bell. I’ve seen Melancon fight in person numerous times and he hits like a mule so I’m riding with him in this one.
Brian Melancon via TKO.
Welterweight Bout: Nah-Shon Burrell (5-1) vs. Joe Ray (5-1)
Fight Preview – To tell you the truth, I know next to nothing about these guys other than they each have matching 5-1 records and both have names that have me confused them with characters on Swamp People.
Analysis / Prediction – If they were on a airboat down in the Bayou, I’d predict Joe Ray to snag himself thirty-four gators for the season with Nah-Shon holding the shotgun but I don’t think this one’s going that way.
Joe Ray by TKO.
Thank you for reading our Strikeforce Preview. Now here’s your just reward!
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