It’s taken a few months for Strikeforce’s Heavyweight Grand Prix to get back up and running. Finally Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum will meet with a place in the semi-finals on the line.
Payback hurts Alistair Overeem may be the Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion but Fabricio Werdum is most certainly the hunted man in this match-up. Werdum beat Overeem with a kimura in 2006 but the Dutchman is a completely different athlete today. Impressive wins over Brett Rogers and Todd Duffee have shown Overeem to be in a different class within the division. This isn’t the same fighter that lost three straight just a few years ago. Overeem has become a dominant force, one that is multi-talented as his K-1 victory last year proved.
I expect Werdum to try and keep a good distance for much of the fight, limiting Overeem’s opportunities to unload on him. The big question then will be what happens when Ovie eventually makes the breakthrough. We know how effective Werdum can be as a submission artist but Overeem should be too clever to fall into a trap. I like Overeem to use his power to either win inside the distance or record a comprehensive points victory.
Big chance for Barnett The other side of the bracket sees Brett Rogers meet Josh Barnett in the last of the quarter-finals. Barnett is a one-time UFC Heavyweight Champion but he was stripped of the title back in 2002. Now, nearly a decade on, Barnett has a chance to take a big leap forward on American soil. With Zuffa, the owners of UFC, having purchased Strikeforce earlier this year Barnett has a chance to remind mainstream fans of how dangerous he can be.
His chances will depend largely on which Brett Rogers shows up. Rogers gave Fedor a remarkably tough fight in 2009 but followed that up with a terrible showing against Overeem last year. A comeback victory over Ruben Villareal did little assuage the doubts of MMA betting fans.
To me, experience is going to matter in this fight. Barnett may have more years on the clock but he’s seen it all and will know how to rattle Rogers early. I like the veteran to force his way into the semi-finals by getting inside Rogers’ head and creating opportunities to strike. This won’t carry the explosion of Overeem vs Werdum but it should still prove entertaining. Bet on Josh Barnett to progress to the semi-finals with a win over Brett Rogers.