Top MMA News Breaks Down Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier
Strikeforce returns home as they make their way back to the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California. After beginning in February of 2011, the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix is finally coming to an end as the finalists Josh Barnett and Daniel Cormier are scheduled as the main event. The co-main event will be for the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship as title holder Gilbert ‘El Nino’ Melendez will defend his belt against Josh ‘The Punk’ Thomson in a rubber match. The four main card bouts will be aired on the Superchannel in Canada and Showtime in the U.S. The preliminary fights will air on Showtime Extreme in the U.S.
Now for the breakdown:
Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Final
Josh Barnett (31-5) –139 vs. Daniel Cormier (9-0) +100
Strikeforce has finally been able to set up potentially the last Heavyweight tilt in the organizations history. It has been a long road to the finals of the Grand Prix but Josh Barnett and Daniel Cormier finally have the opportunity to showcase their abilities once again. This fight is a true veteran versus prospect battle. Barnett has been around the block. He is a long time veteran of Pride and the UFC but needs to impress in this fight if he wants another chance to fight in the UFC. Daniel Cormier is still considerably new to the sport but has showed flashes of greatness in a short span as he has extremely versatile striking along with elite Olympic level wrestling. Barnett impressively dominated both Brett Rogers and Sergei Kharitonov to get to this point while Cormier only had to defeat Antonio Silva as he was an injury replacement for former Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion, Alistair Overeem. Cormier has really showed off his stand up ability against Silva and his prior opponent, Jeff Monson. He is very similar to his friend and AKA training partner, Cain Velasquez where both guys are lightening fast and use a wide variety of both hands and legs in their arsenal. Cormier is by far the better striker as Barnett has never really been known for his stand up ability. What Barnett is talented at is getting into his opponent’s face and making the fight as dirty as possible. It is almost a sure thing that if Barnett is unable to get this fight to the ground, he will fight off the cage until he can get Cormier on his back. Cormier has the wrestling advantage, but the overall grappling advantage has to go to Barnett. Expect Cormier to use his quickness to circle around Barnett and avoid being taken down by the better submission grappler. Cormier should be able to finish the veteran in impressive fashion and earning his spot in the UFC and surprising many as the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Champion.
Prediction: Cormier via TKO Round 2
Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez (20-2) –455 vs. Josh Thomson (19-4) +340
After splitting their first two fights, Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson are prepared to meet again, mostly because of the lack of contenders in the Strikeforce Lightweight division. Both of their previous bouts were Strikeforce title fights and this will mark the third time they fight each other for the belt. Though Thomson used to be a great Lightweight, injuries have slowed him down and he is coming off of a less than stellar victory over KJ Noons. Gilbert Melendez has been dominating middle-tier competition for a few years now and has been looking to fight some of the world’s best fighters but has been unable to do so because of his Strikeforce contract. Thomson is a very well rounded fighter with good striking and he is a solid grappler with a black belt in BJJ but Melendez is better everywhere. Melendez is potentially one of the top three Lightweights in the world. He has such a wide variety of skills and he is able to dominate the fight anywhere it goes. He should be able to use his striking ability to pick apart the former Champion and dominate the fight however he pleases. Melendez has the talent to be the best in the world and an injury prone Thomson likely will not have enough to answer back. This should be a long and frustrating fight for Thomson who might be tough to finish but not to defeat for Melendez.
Prediction: Melendez via Unanimous Decision
Rafael Feijao (11-3) vs. Mike Kyle (19-8-1)
Another Strikeforce rematch, Mike Kyle was able to shock Rafael Feijao with a big knockout victory back in 2009. Since then, Feijao won the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Championship and lost it shortly after while Mike Kyle has won several fights in the division while losing two in the Heavyweight division. Kyle has tremendous knockout power and looks for big shots in all his fights. He is a very patient fighter and looks to pick his spots to put away his opponents. Feijao is the better stand up fighter with equally impressive power though he is a more willing fighter and prefers to engage. With two knockout losses, his chin may come into question, but both losses were to very heavy handed fighters. As mentioned, Kyle was one and the other was legend Dan Henderson, who knocked him out for the Light Heavyweight title. This fight will likely spend a lot of time on the feet. Feijao might be a bit more hesitant to engage considering he has experienced the power of Kyle. On the other end, Kyle knows that Feijao may not be able to take any big shots so he will need to push forward and frustrate a potentially hesitant opponent as he searches for openings. Feijao was expected to win back in 2009 and with the level of competition he has impressed against; he will likely be expected to win once again. Kyle does not have the versatility on the feet that Feijao has and with the improvement in his overall game, he should be well prepared for Kyle. The best opportunity for Kyle to win this fight is to land that one shot once again but it is time for Feijao to return back to championship form.
Prediction: Feijao via Unanimous Decision
Nah-Shon Burrell (8-1) vs. Chris Spang (4-1)
Strikeforce Welterweight prosecpt, Nah-Shon Burrell, has been given a good opportunity to showcase his talent against little known Chris Spang. Burrell is a very active striker and likes to throw combinations until he finds an opening. He has good wrestling as well, although he struggles against pressure which was proven in his last victory over James Terry, where he struggled to get off of the cage against the wrestler. Spang, brother of Bellator Middleweight tournament finalist Andreas Spang, might be able to match Burrell’s striking with his boxing. This fight will likely spend its entirety on the feet as Spang, similar to his brother, prefers the striking game. Spang will need to be the aggressor and get in tight or else he will end up being forced to fight at Burrell’s pace. Burrell usually has the size advantage in his fights, considering he is a 6’1 Welterweight, but Spang is an inch taller. What will determine who will come out victorious for these long 170 pounders is which fighter will be able to control the pace? If Spang can frustrate Burrell and force him into making mistakes, he could pull off the upset as Burrell still has holes in his game. Burrell, however, should be able to take the fight where he wants it if the fight is not going his way. He is the more talented and well-rounded fighter. Burrell is inching closer to title contention early in his career. Expect him to look impressive in getting the finish as the organization gives him a top Welterweight for his next fight.
Prediction: Burrell via TKO Round 2