On Saturday night, The american Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas will be host to Strikeforce's 'Overeem vs. Werdum' event. The card is very possibly the most solid in the history of the Strikeforce organization. I have to say, it almost makes me sad that Strikeforce is slowly but steadily being absorbed by the UFC, and will be no more by this time next year. Almost.
In the first fight of the main card, Alistair Overeem's older brother Valentijn will be taking on Chad Griggs, who is coming off a TKO win over Gianpiero Villante. Valentijn is also coming off of a victory; a quick neck crank submission of kickboxing specialist Ray Sefo. Griggs is 10-1 in his career. Eight of his wins have come by way of TKO. He prefers to stand and bang, and only 3 of his 11 fights have made it out of the first round. Overeem is vastly more experienced than Griggs, having fought 54 total MMA fights over his 15 year career. During that timespan, he has amassed a very mediocre 29-25 record. He's been known to not train as hard as he should, and has even taken public criticism for slacking off by his brother Alistair. When he's good, he reminds you of a more compact and less well-rounded version of his brother. When he's off, he usually gets submitted. The good news for Overeem is that he is unlikely to get submitted by Griggs. In fact, there's a much higher likelihood that the opposite occurs. I feel that this fight will be determined early on. This may be a match that is won by 'who clips who first'. Inasmuch as Griggs does not generally go late into fights, Overeem has never fought a fight that made into the 3rd round, and only THREE of his 54 fights have made it out of the first round. There will be fireworks, and they should come early.
Wrestler Daniel Cormier will take on Jeff Monson, in what many consider to be the first real test of Cormier's young career (he's 32, but he's only been fighting MMA since late 2009). Cormier was an outstanding collegiate wrestler, and many expect for that to be all he is able to do. Surprisingly enough, 5 of Cormier's 7 wins have come due to punches (either by TKO, KO, or tapping to strikes). Cormier has a tremendous upside. However, it's my personal opinion that he is doing himself a disservice by not cutting to 205 and fighting at light heavyweight. Jeff Monson is a 40 year old veteran of the game. He's fought all over the world and for many different organizations. He is well-versed in multiple disciplines. He has won his last 8 fights. This is a guy who has beaten the likes of Sergei Kharitonov, Roy Nelson, and Ricco Rodriguez. The problem is that the last time he fought anyone of significance was in September of 2009 when he lost to Pedro Rizzo. It's really difficult to predict a result in this fight, but I have a hard time believing Monson will be able to keep up with Cormier's speed and athleticism.
KJ Noons will face Jorge Masvidal in what could very well be a Strikeforce lightweight #1 contender match. This is an exciting fight on paper. Both guys have boxing backgrounds, though of the two, Noons is the much more accomplished boxer. Masvidal has the edge on the ground, but it is unlikely that the fight will go there. Masvidal lost a decision to Paul Daley in a welterweight match last year. Noons lost a decision to former Strikeforce welterweight champ Nick Diaz last year as well. Neither fighter is a comfortable welterweight. Both are looking to cement their top contender status in the lightweight division. For me, it's a toss-up. I like both fighters a lot. The only prediction I will make is that this will be an entertaining fight.
In the first heavyweight match-up of the night, Josh Barnett will take on Brett Rogers. Barnett is a UFC, Pride and Dream veteran. He has obvious knockout power, but he's also has one of the best ground games of all heavyweights in the world. After KO'ing or TKO'ing all of his first 10 opponents, Brett Rogers was one of the most hyped prospects in all of MMA. The hype train was de-railed when he suffered two straight losses to Fedor Emelianeko and Alistair Overeem. Not many people know that Rogers has actually fought since then. In October of last year, he took on Ruben Villareal at the W-1: New Ground event, and was able to come away with a decision victory. The truth is that Rogers' TKO win over Arlovski means a lot less these days than it did when it happened. Rogers has definitive one-punch knockout power. He also is very capable of being knocked out. Barnett has not been KO'ed since 2001. He is world's better on the ground than Rogers. It's mixed martial arts. Anything can happen. That being said, Rogers is probably out of his league here. He will need to catch Barnett and get a little bit lucky. Barnett is the favorite in this one for certain.
In the headline match, Alistair 'The Reem' Overeem will go up against Fabricio Werdum with the hope of avenging his 2006 loss via kimura submission. This is as classic a match-up of striker vs. submission specialist, possibly as there has ever been. Both fighters have changed and improved tremendously since their first fight. However, most would agree that Overeem has probably made larger strides to improve, and has seen more of an 'evolution' in not just his game, but his physical make-up. Overeem should have a decided strength and size advantage. Alistair Overeem is very likely the best striker in all of MMA heavyweights across the globe. If he connects, your night is over. Werdum is fantastic on the ground. Just ask Fedor. If Overeem gets excited and jumps into his guard, he will probably get finished. But why would he? Overeem has become a much smarter fighter since 2006. His striking (though it was good in 2006) has massively improved. It will be difficult for Werdum to take Overeem down, which is the only place he can possibly win the fight. I've been wrong before. MMA is infamous for making the 'experts' look like clowns. I just don't see Werdum winning this fight. I'm glad he's so confident, and that he's already game-planning for Cain Velasquez. Anything can happen, and I'll be watching Saturday when it does (you should be too!).