Strikeforce have delivered a jam-packed fight card for the Overeem Vs Werdum event in Dallas, Texas this weekend, so let’s not waste any time and instead delve straight into our predictions.
Alistair Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum
Both Overeem and Werdum come into this fight on a high, with the Dutchman having successfully defended his Strikeforce HW title, plus won the K-1 heavyweight tournament and DREAM heavyweight title in 2010, while the Brazilian became the first man to defeat Fedor Emelianenko in 10 years.
All fights start standing up, and that’s a big advantage to Overeem who is clearly the better striker here. He’s always been good in this regard, but particularly since he began to compete in K-1 his technique has improved by leaps and pounds. While his punching power, devastating hooks and brutal knees from the clinch grab most of the headlines, what’s equally impressive is how he’s developed an excellent defense, rarely letting his hands stray from his chin – the perfect way to protect a potentially suspect chin that lead to a number of losses several years ago.
As for Werdum, his striking has improved too, and he’s hung with the likes of ‘Bigfoot’ Silva, but it’s not an area he excels at, and at times – such as in the opening minute of his fight with Fedor last year, and against Junior Dos Santos back in the UFC – he looks somewhat tentative and unsure of himself. That kind of hesitation could prove costly here as Overeem begins to hunt him down.
The ace up Werdum’s sleeve is his BJJ skills, and he’s proven once before that he can submit Overeem, tapping him by a kimura back in 2006. If he can get him down again then there’s a good chance his opponent could meet a similar fate.
The catch is that Overeem is now a completely different proposition, most notably that he’s now 40lbs+ of solid muscle heavier than during that fight, meaning that he’ll be much the bigger man on this occasion, whereas he was some 20lbs lighter than Werdum on their first meeting. The biggest problem with that for Werdum is then how he’s going to take Overeem down, given that takedowns are not his forte in the first place, and Overeem does have some wrestling skills. Werdum likes to get the fight to the mat via the clinch, but ‘The Reem’ is extremely dangerous offensively from that range.
Cardio is an area where Werdum could hold the advantage. Overeem has rarely made it out of the first round in MMA competition since gaining all that weight which raises questions over how he’ll do in the later rounds should the fight go that far, while Werdum has never had any major issues with his cardio. On the other hand the Brazilian has been out of action for a year due to shoulder surgery, so he may suffer from ring rust.
I like Overeem here. I think Werdum will struggle to deal with his size and won’t get the takedowns he needs to win this fight. If that proves to be the case then I can see only one winner as I believe Overeem can hurt him badly on the feet, and probably fairly quickly too.
Alistair Overeem to win by KO in Rd1.
Josh Barnett vs. Brett Rogers
Josh Barnett is the clear favorite in the second GP quarter-final of the evening, but Brett Rogers will be hoping that he can pull off an upset and get his Strikeforce career back on track.
While it’s not his real strength, Barnett is a competent striker, with solid boxing and a sprinkling of kicks in his arsenal, and a decent feel for range and movement. Meanwhile Rogers is all about brute strength and power, looking a little labored in his movement and less than perfect with his technique at timesn but he has dynamite in his hands if he connects and will enjoy a 5 and a half inch reach advantage here.
In other aspects of the fight game Barnett is undoubtedly superior, with good wrestling and high level Brazilian jiu-jitsu at his disposal. He’s also a finisher on the floor – just four of his 34 MMA fights have ended by decision, and by far his favorite way to finish a fight is by submission.
Meanwhile, Rogers showed against Fedor that he’s not completely out of his depth on the mat, but he’d be well advised to use his size and reach advantage to try to keep this fight standing where he has a much better chance of coming out on top.
A couple of other variables to consider are the fact that Barnett hasn’t exactly been fighting a wealth of top talent overseas in Japan for the past few years and has been inactive in MMA competition for the best part of a year. Meanwhile there’s a question mark over Rogers mental game here given that he looked over-awed in his fight with Overeem last year, and the pressure is only going to be increased here due to the fact he’s 0-2 in his recent Strikeforce outings.
Rogers KO power has to be respected, but overall I feel that Barnett is the better overall fighter, and he’s crafty enough to be able to steer clear of the biggest blows and instead look to take this fight out of Rogers comfort zone and onto the mat.
Josh Barnett to win by submission in Rd2.
Daniel Cormier vs. Jeff Monson
This is very much a case of an up and coming heavyweight talent in Cormier, against a true veteran of the division in Monson.
Neither man is at his best in the striking realm. Monson’s never been known as a big puncher, but even at the age of 40 he is still very durable. On the other hand it’s early days for Cormier, but he’s demonstrated signs of having heavy hands and won’t be afraid to throw leather, though don’t be expecting to see picture perfect striking ability here.
Where the fight gets interesting is in the grappling. Monson is a reasonable wrestler, but Cormier is a great one – a 2008 Olympic wrestling captain no less. He’s also going to be in the region of 20lbs heavier than his opponent and he’s as strong as an ox so I definitely hand him the advantage in that regard.
Monson can balance that out somewhat however with his overall grappling ability. A two-time ADCC submission grappling champ, Monson has a swiss-army knife collection of go-to submission moves that could catch Cormier off-guard if he’s not careful.
This is certainly an interesting match-up, and is certainly a step-up in competiton for Cormier which will give us a better idea of where he stands in the division. I like him to eek out a close decision win here as I believe he can get the better of the exchanges on the feet, and use his superior wrestling and base to nullify Monson’s sweeps and submissions. I also think he’s the hungrier, more serious fighter at this stage in his career while Monson has become something of a mercenary for hire and is in the twilight of his career, and in a close fight like this that could make all the difference.
Daniel Cormier to win by decision.
Chad Griggs vs. Valentijn Overeem
Two of the lower-rung heavyweights on the Strikeforce roster battle it out with one perhaps becoming the front-runner to claim a reserve spot in the HW GP should one be required.
Griggs emerged from relative obscurity with a win over Bobby Lashley, and then put on an entertaining, if slightly reckless display during his win against Ginapiero Villante. Griggs has a no-nonsense approach to fighting and is more than happy to trade bombs toe-to-toe and let the chips fall where they may. It’s a strategy that’s served him well to date, with nine of his ten victories coming by some form of knockout.
Valentijn Overeem has had a somewhat patchy career that’s never lived up to that of his brothers, falling into the ‘journeyman’ category. Like Griggs he’s an aggressive fighter who comes out fast and furious which is great when it pays off, but he often takes his fair share of defeats as a result, both on the ground and on the feet.
Griggs will have to be wary of Overeem’s submission threat, but he’s crafty enough not to fold at the first sign of trouble on the mat as Ray Sefo did last time out. Meanwhile cardio could be an issue for Overeem as he often struggles to maintain his initial burst of energy in fights, and he may well struggle if this does turn out to be a fast-paced fight that goes beyond the first round.
Truth be told neither of these fighters is really a threat to the major players in the division, but it could be a fun scrap while it lasts. I think Griggs is the pick here. He’s carrying less battle scars than Overeem and seems to have more energy, enthusiasm and determination to make a success of the opportunity he’s been handed by Strikeforce. I expect him to outlast Overeem here in a bruising encounter to pick up a TKO win.
Chad Griggs to win by TKO in Rd2
K.J. Noons vs. Jorge Masvidal
This looks like a great lightweight fight to me between two men who are keen to put themselves in line to be the next man to face current champion Gilbert Melendez.
Both fighters are in their element on the feet, and they have the skills to be successful in that regard. In fact they are both somewhat similar – with each man relying heavily on their boxing abilities, demonstrating sound punching technique coupled with good movement, an ability to counter-strike effectively and a solid chin.
Noons is likely to be a bit more aggressive and perhaps delivers a little more power, but Masvidal works well on the defensive and can often leave his opponents swatting at thin air as a result.
In such a close fight it could be down to the other aspects of MMA to help seperate them, and of the two Masvidal has perhaps progressed a little more in rounding out his game, and if he’s smart he’ll look to grapple with Noons at times and score a takedown or two to help sway the judges opinions in his favor.
This is the hardest fight on the card to predict for me. I think people are sleeping on just how talented of a boxer Masvidal is, and his movement and counter-punching will ensure that Noons doesn’t get things all his own way. In the end though I have a feeling that this one is going to the judges, and I believe that Noons pushing the pace while Masvidal sits back on the defensive more often than not will be the deciding factor that hands Noons the win.
KJ Noons to win by decision.
Prelims: (Predicted winners highlighted in bold)
Gesias Cavalcante vs. Justin Wilcox
Conor Heun vs. Magno Almeida
Nah-Shon Burrell vs. Joe Ray
Todd Moore vs. Mike Bronzoulis
Brian Melancon vs. Isaac Vallie-Flag