Last night Strikeforce concluded its Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament which was comprised of a field 8 of the best Heavyweights in the world: Fedor Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem, Antonio Silva, Brett Rogers, Andrei Arlovski, Sergei Kharitonov, Fabricio Werdum, and Josh Barnett. Unfortunately for the aforementioned 8, the winner of the tournament was not part of the original roster. Daniel Cormier capped off his rise to prominence with an impressive 5 round victory over savy veteran Josh Barnett and all but guaranteed himself a spot in the UFC and a potential title shot by the end of 2012 or early 2013.
Also on the event Gilbert Melendez retained his title, Rafael Cavalcante made quick work of Mike Kyle and a whole of host of prospects took their first step towards MMA relevancy.
As far as the evenings predictions went it was a difficult night to endure, but not the worst. I have used this line before but it works here as well again; “Slump? I ain’t in no slump. I just ain’t hitting.”- Yankee Great Yogi Berra. Berra pretty much sums it up for the prediction record of late with an abnormal 3 straight events of subpar predicting. At SF: 40 I finished the evening with a brutal 4-5 recod, but in my defense I was on the wrong end of 3 split decisions, so just a little bit more from my fighters and I could have had a much better night. Unfortunately a loss is a loss, so lets hope I can turn this skid around ASAP, lets look at the fights.
– I didn’t get to watch Green/Terry, but Bobby Green is putting together a solid run with 3 wins in a row and could get himself a higher level opponent next up. Potentially Green vs Noons or Fodor, or a potential rematch with Cavalcante to give him the oppurtunity to recover his debut defeat. Either way Green could move into the title picture with another win or 2.
-Didn’t see Mulhern/ Villefort, but I read the play by play. I had high hopes for Villefort but he wasn’t able to get the job done here, he is young and will improve. Mulhern picks up a nice win and should get a chance to move up the ranks; Mulhern vs Roger Bowling and Villefort vs Tyler Stinson makes sense at this point.
-Gian Villante is slowly starting to live up to his potential. Mehmen isn’t exactly a top of the food chain opponent but he is the type of fighter that Villante should be beating. With a shallow LHW division Villante could position himself to gain some relevence within the division quickly; Mehmen vs Marcos de Lima and Villante vs OSP.
-Zwicker had the heart and Inocente had the skill. In this scenario, skill trumped heart but there were some tense moments in the second half when Zwicker started to mount his comeback. Virgil is a scrappy fighter can put on an entertaining fight. Inocente looked good early, but gassed late as we have seen so many debuting fighters do. If Inocente can get his cardio under control he could be another interesting 205lbs prospect; Inocente vs Trevor Smith, Zwicker vs Yoel Romero.
– JZ Cavalcante started off so well and then simply faded away in rounds 2 and 3. Vallie-Flagg impressed me, in the footage I reviewed of him pre-prediction I didn’t see anything like that. Just like Green, Vallie-Flagg will make things interesting going forward in the division, but JZ’s days a relevant fighter could be over. Cavalcante vs KJ Noons would be a nice fight and Vallie-Flagg vs Ryan Couture.
-Nah-Shon Burrell made the choice to stand and trade with Chris Spang, that was clearly a mistake. Spang actually attempted the only takedown of the fight which was interesting, see the bet pack below as I felt Spang had some significant value as an underdog. Burrell is a powerful guy and even though it would appear his striking is his main focus, he should try to work on his ground game. Spang was clearly the superior striker once he got rolling and if he can developing solid takedown defence he can make some waves in the division. Spang vs Bobby Voelker is a nice fight and Burrell vs Evangelista Santos would be good.
-I feel for Mike Kyle at this point, he was putting together a solid run at LHW and then gets matched up with a man he beat (who then got a title shot after lossing to Kyle) and he gets subbed in 33 seconds. Cavalcante will be fighting Gegard Mousasi for the title, but because of what Kyle has done for the organization and the fact that he is clearly the #3 ranked LHW they have Kyle should get a shot at the winner if he can pick up one more win. The division is so slim though it could be hard to find Mak an appropriate opponent, I know I already mentioned Zwicker in a potential match-up, but Zwicker vs Kyle might work. Cavalcante vs Mousasi for the title.
-Gilbert Melendez’s stock is dropping. I don’t want to take anything away from Thomson but I don’t see either fighter having much to offer against the top 5-6 UFC 155ers (Henderson, Edgar, Diaz, Maynard, Cerrone, Pettis, even Miller or Guida). If Melendez stays with Strikeforce the next fight that make sense is against Pat Healy. Considering Gilbert’s last two performances, combined with his lack of drive due him having nothing to gain and Healy’s grinding style, veteran savy, and clear focus on climbing that mountain I think Healy could really give Melendez a run for his money. The title picture is murky, SF needs to give Pat the shot, Thomson vs Jorge Masvidal would be an interesting bout as well and I hope during this time another contender emerges from the list of prospects; Fodor, Wilcox, Green, Vallie-Flagg, or even Ryan Couture.
-Daniel Cormier has officially arrived, but I did not pick Cormier to win this fight. In my opinion he still needed to prove himself one more time against top level competition before I was sold on him, but he clearly did that last night. Realistically, DC is better suited for the LHW division and he would be a threat to Jon Jones but if he is unable to make the cut because of issues with his kidneys he is still capable of making a run at HW. If/when DC enters the Octagon it should be for the title as the UFC would be best served by capitalizing on his momentum as the winner of the GP and build a title fight around him. In fact, with the title on the line this weekend I think they should bring DC out after the fight for a staredown and announcement that he gets the next shot. As far as Barnett goes, he is a gritty veteran with a lot still to offer. I think he too should be given the chance to compete in the UFC again. The Heavyweight division has never been more stack and Barnett would add some great interest. There is talk of the winner of the GP fighting one more time for Strikeforce, but I’m sure they can work around that. Barnett vs Kongo would be a solid first fight.
-Overall it was a decent night of fights; looking at the prelims you can see the transition already starting with more and more focus on younger prospects which is the way to go for Strikeforce. It is unfortunate that the most promissing competitor (Cormier) emerging from this event will most likely be gone to the UFC in short order. Another fun fact: the Lightweight champ needs a bit of an attitude adjustment. He was lucky to emerge with his title but acted like it was a sure thing when the call was finally made. Gilbert’s seems to have a sense of entitlement, which was reinforced b
Chris Spang 3.25 vs Nah-Shon Burrell 1.32
Spang has potential here at $3.25 if he can keep it standing as his striking is his greatest asset, but his underdog status is the product of what could/will happen if Burrell uses his wrestling. Spang showed some promisse off his back in his last fight but the bottom line is he still lost, Burrell isn’t an elite level wrestling but he should still be able to do enough to grind this one out. I see some potential in Spang as a dog and a small bet on him probably wouldn’t be a bad idea but go with Burrell as part of your main investments.
Mike Kyle 2.70 vs Rafael ‘Feijao’ Cavalcante 1.43
Kyle was the underdog for their first meeting and pulled off the upset. Both fighters have improved significantly since their last meeting, but I think that Cavalcante has done more to improve his game. At $2.70 Kyle isn’t a bad bet but if the odds makers saw any worthwhile potential in him these odds would be closer considering he already holds a win over his opponent. Stick with Feijao all the way here.
Josh Thomson 5.00 vs Gilbert Melendez 1.16
Part III, series tied 1-1 and yet we have an underdog at $5.00. It is hard to not invest something on the challenger considering he pays so well and is probably the second best fighter in the division. I like Melendez, but if you intend to put a single bet on him shop around and find the best odds; I have seen him as high as $1.21 at Bodog.ca and I am sure there are multiple other options out there. A small single bet on Thomson is probably the way to go when he pays as well as he does. Melendez as part of a parlay maybe with Feijao or Barnett is the best idea for a investment on the champ.
Dan Cormier 1.91 vs Josh Barnett 1.83
From both a non-betting standpoint and a betting one, there is really nothing better than a main event with close betting odds. Usually this means were in for a good fight (no always) and that if your fighter wins you can make a some nice cash without having taken too much of a risk. This is a huge test for Cormier here, previously he beat Antonio Silva, but it was such a quick fight that we didn’t get a chance to see him in an adverse position. In fact, we have yet to see Cormier forced to rally back or endure a significant onslaught against an opponent. I don’t want to say he is untested, but I would have like to have seen him closer to $2.15-$2.20 in this fight. I really like just Barnett at $1.83, he pays well as a single bet or as the focal point of a parlay. He isn’t #1 on my confidence list, but at $1.83 is significant considering the role he is on. I like Cormier as a fighter, almost went with him but I think Barnett grinds this fight out. I would say use Barnett for your main investments, have a parlay without him as well, and consider a small single bet on Cormier to back it all up.
1. Gilbert Melendez
2. Rafael Cavalcante
3. James Terry
4. Josh Barnett
5. JZ Cavalcante
Josh Barnett to win by Submission- We haven’t seen Cormier on his back yet and if Josh wins this fight he will have to change it. Wrestlers are traditionally bad off their back and Barnett is a beast when he get in top position. Considering Barnett usually transitions into side or full mount during his takedown he should have an opportunity for the head and arm choke (arm triangle) making this prop a solid investment.
Gilbert Melendez to win by KO/TKO/DQ- I know I picked him by decision, but with the recent knee injury Thomson a stoppage inside the distance becomes much more likely. Gilbert isn’t know for his submissions so a TKO or KO becomes the best option for this fight to end in favour of the champ before the final bell. If Thomson is legitimately hurt he will most likely go for broke early and if he is unable to get the job done fade somewhere around the end of round 2. At this point I can see Gilbert turning it on and pounding him out when Thomson just doesn’t have anything left to give.
Nah-Shon Burrell to win by Decision or Total Rounds Over- Spang’s greatest asset is his striking so look for Burrell to take him down and try to negate it. Although Burrell is strong and has decent takedowns his top game isn’t overly advanced and Spang should be able to defend submission opportunities off his back. As far as a potential TKO I don’t expect Nah-Shon to risk doing too much so that he doesn’t lose the position. These scenarios suggest a significant possibility that Burrell gets on top and tries to maintain position for the full 15 minutes.
Rafael Cavalcante/Mike Kyle Total Rounds Under- This isn’t my favorite prop, but I still see potential here. Both guys are heavy hitters and Cavalcante has never gone the distance. If Rafael wins this fight I see it happening early, especially if Kyle comes out to push the pace and gets in his face quickly. At the same time, this type of bet will accommodate the possibility of Kyle scoring the knockout. In their first meeting the KO came at the end of round 2 and even though I would expect this over/under to be a round 1.5 rounds this bet is still worth a long look.
Rafael Cavalcante to win by KO/TKO/DQ- If you don’t like the bet listed above then back Cavalcante by knockout. He has never gone the distance, hits incredibly hard and should be motivated to get the defeat back from their first meeting. Kyle has had issues with leaving his chin exposed and he will drop his hands on occasion leaving him vulnerable to a knockout. Consider this prop parlayed with Barnett to win straight up.