Strikeforce returns on Saturday night with the conclusion of their Heavyweight Grand-Prix and we’ve got out predictions for the night’s big fights for you below.
Josh Barnett vs. Daniel Cormier
When the tournament first began we had no idea this would end up being the final pairing – in fact as far as I recall Cormier wasn’t even a confirmed alternate at first – but nonethless it does leave us with a pretty intriguing match-up, if not quite the glamorous one fans had hoped for.
Barnett holds an enormous experience advantage here and he’s the more well rounded fighter of the two. He doesn’t have Cormier’s blistering power on the feet though and despite holding a significant height and reach advantage it wouldn’t be in his best interests to stand and trade with him for five rounds.
If the fight hits the mat then Barnett will be in good shape as he’s a submission specialist and should be able to exploit holes in Cormier’s own jiu-jitsu game. Getting him down is going to be far easier said than done however and could be the key to this fight.
Cormier is a world class wrestler with Olympic credentials and his short, stocky base only serves to make him even more difficult to put on his back. I don’t expect him to use it much in an offensive sense – it would be dangerous for him to go up against Barnett on the ground even if he was the man on top – but he’ll be using it defensively to keep this fight standing and force him into a prolonged stand-up battle.
Like I said earlier, this fight all hinges on Barnett being able to get Cormier down as I think he can submit him. I think it’ll be tough, but Barnett is a good wrestler himself, and a cerebral one at that. With five rounds to make it happen I think he eventually will get that takedown, and can stifle the most dangerous offense from Cormier within the clinch while he’s attempting to do so, while also taking full advantage of his reach to keep his distance when involved in the striking exchanges.
Josh Barnett to win by submission in Rd3.
Gilbert Melendez vs. Josh Thomson
These two have fought twice before and both have been spirited, exciting affairs so hopefully there’ll be more of that on the way tomorrow evening.
In the past these two have looked fairly evenly matched skill-wise, but I’d say that since their last encounter in 2009 Thomson has stagnated to an extent while Melendez has clearly evolved.
On the feet these days Melendez looks more technical and crisp with his strikes and I think that’s going to give him the edge over Thomson in this regard. In all honesty there’s no clear area in which Thomson now excels compared to the champion, with Melendez holding a clear wrestling advantage and it’s also the better jiu-jitsu stylist, though Thomson is crafty and so he can’t be complacement with him on the mat.
Cardio wise Melendez always comes in excellent shape while Thomson didn’t look good last time out and has been struggling with a succession of injuries in recent years so a long, drawn-out battle would appear to also favor the champ.
Thomson will still give him a run for his money, but I think this one will be more cut-and-dried than their last encounter with Melendez emerging as a decisive winner.
Gilbert Melendez to win by decision.
Rafael ‘Feijao’ Cavalcante vs. Mike Kyle
Feijao and Kyle both have their sights set on stepping into title contention at 205lbs and a win here would certainly put them in a good position to fight for the strap.
These two have in fact fought once before in the Strikeforce cage with Kyle pulling off a mild upset win by second round KO, spoiling Feijao’s debut. Needless to say Kyle does have big power and has even been able to show that at heavyweight, but despite his previous sucess I actually still think Feijao is the better all-round striker and has some excellent muay thai.
Neither of these two fighters is going to be in a hurry to take the fight to the mat, but if they do each has solid ground and pound. Feijao has good takedown defense though so if it does go to the floor it’s probably going to be him on top, and he also possesses the better of jiu-jitsu of the two and could have success if he chose to utilize that as Kyle is susceptible to submissions.
A close fight, but I think Feijao is the better of the two overall and will gain his revenge with a stoppage victory, possibly by submission but more likely connecting on the feet before finishing with ground and pound.
Rafael ‘Feijao’ to win by TKO in Rd2.
Nah-Shon Burrell vs. Chris Spang
Two welterweight fighter’s who’ve so far been consigned to the undercards and ‘Challenger’s’ series finally make the breakthrough to the big show in a bout that will open the main card on Showtime.
Spang’s actually coming off a loss in his last bout and he’ll have his work cut out for him here as well since Burrell is the better striker of the two with a diverse and dangerous offensive arsenal that makes use of all eight limbs.
Neither man’s ground game is anything to write home about so I wouldn’t expect to see them going to ground to readily.
This looks like a fight to help Burrell transition to the next level in his career and I think he’ll take it, showing striking superiority on his way to a finish inside the distance.
Nah-Shon Burrell to win by TKO in Rd3
Prelims: (Predicted winners in bold)
JZ Cavalcante vs. Isaac Vallie-Flagg
Guto Inocente vs. Virgil Zwicker
Derrick Mehmen vs. Gian Villante
Quinn Mulhern vs. Yuri Villefort
Bobby Green vs. James Terry