Josh Barnett is one of the most controversial fighters in all of MMA. A veteran of 31 professional fights, Barnett is a former UFC Heavyweight champion. He talks a big game and for the most part he's always backed it up. The problem with Barnett is that he's tested positive for steroids no less than 3 times throughout his fighting career. He is the man that is credited for single-handedly bringing down an entire promotion. Now he's signed with Strikeforce and adds some much needed depth to their Heavyweight division. He actually believes that with his signing, Strikeforce has overtaken the UFC in terms of talent. From an interview with MMA Weekly:
"The Strikeforce heavyweight division is really phenomenal right now. I guess one way to look at it would be look at me, Fedor, Alistair, Bigfoot, Arlovski, and Werdum, and look at our records and stack them up. If you count all the wins that we have under our belts that far surpasses the top five guys in the UFC's amount of fights even. Granted, just because you don't have a lot of fights that doesn't mean you're not a great fighter, but I definitely think we've got a big edge with that kind of veteran, international talent."
That's a pretty bold claim. There are quite a few people, myself included, that believe the UFC's Heavyweight division is better now than it's ever been before. Every matchup holds some amount of intrigue and they've all been delivering excitement. Can the same be said for Strikeforce? That's a little unclear. The names are there, sure, but how far does that get you? Let's compare the 6 guys mentioned by Barnett from Strikeforce to the 6 top guys in the UFC, as per the USA/SB Nation rankings:
1. Fedor Emelianenko
2. Fabricio Werdum
3. Alistair Overeem
4. Josh Barnett
5. Antonio Silva
6. Andrei Arlovski
1. Brock Lesnar
2. Cain Velasquez
3. Shane Carwin
4. Junior Dos Santos
5. Frank Mir
6. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
Let's take a closer look at this after the jump.
Both lists are extremely impressive. A lot of former and current world champions. Straight up, just using an eyeball test, the UFC Heavyweight division comes out on top. Of course, that could be heavily influenced by how much better the marketing and promotion is with the UFC. One of the main problems with Strikeforce has been their complete and total failure to build their fighters names any further than they were built before coming on. Half of the fighters on the UFC's list were nobodies just a few years ago.
If you were to play fantasy matchmaker and have each guy fight their counterpart on the other list that would make for some interesting fights and would help to determine who has the better fighters. For my money, I think Lesnar beats Fedor, Velasquez beats Werdum, Overeem beats Carwin, JDS beats Barnett, Mir beats Silva and Arlovski beats Nogueira. That's 4 to 2 in favor of the UFC.
I understand that Barnett is using the premise that the Strikeforce division is better because they have been around longer. Fedor has 32 career victories. Lesnar, Velasquez and Carwin have a combined 27 fights. I can see why Barnett would use that as the centerpiece to his argument. The problem is that it's a crutch for those coming from a position of weakness. He's saying it but you can tell he doesn't really believe it. The way he phrases his answer tells us everything we need to know.
The biggest advantage the UFC has over the Strikeforce Heavyweight division is depth. Their are plenty of potential stars that populate the ranks. Fighters like Pat Barry and Brendan Schaub could very much be challenging for a title if they continue to develop. They've got mid-card level guys like Cheick Kongo and Gabriel Gonzaga that put on exciting fights and provide stern tests for the up and comers. They've even got the old guard type of fighters in Mirko Cro Cop and Randy Couture. Mix in a little Roy Nelson and Ben Rothwell and the UFC has got it all.
Outside of the names in the list above, Strikeforce is stretched really thin. They've got a couple of freak side shows in Bobby Lashley and Herschel Walker. After that the roster consists of, according to Strikeforce's website: Daniel Cormier, Shane Del Rosario, Lavar Johnson, Mike Kyle, Brett Rogers and Ray Sefo. That's it. A couple of potential stars but it's truly slim pickings. So much so that they are still currently in talks to bring in former WWE superstar Dave Bautista. How many of those fighters do you think the UFC would even want to employ?
I think we've proven here that the UFC is far superior to Strikeforce in terms of their Heavyweight division. Better at the top, with more interesting matchups and a better pool of young talent. Barnett can come in and say whatever he wants but it's all right there in front of us.