Strikeforce invaded Dallas this past weekend as the quarterfinal bouts of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix wrapped with both Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett moving on to the semifinal rounds. Anytime you have a card that features, arguably, the biggest internationally recognized heavyweight in Alistair Overeem, well, you have to make it a point to attend.
Now, on to some random observations from the night of Strikeforce action.
10. Despite a complete and utter lack of mainstream promotion for this card, thanks largely to the city of Dallas’ collective hangover from the Mavs winning the NBA Finals, there were a good number of people in the American Airlines Center. In fact over 7,000 people showed up to the card, many before the opening bell. Granted, when UFC 103 came through here they nearly doubled that attendance figure in the same venue which goes to show you that in brand recognition the UFC is Coke and Strikeforce is RC Cola.
9. I will say this about the gathered crowd on hand; they came early and knew their MMA. Yeah, there were the typical Affliction wearing d-bags yelling out lines from the Karate Kid but for the most part, the fans were on top of their game. I thought that Xavier Tobias of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram had an excellent point when he noted that fans who attended Saturday’s event had to be really into MMA as there was little promotion to attract the casual sports fan.
8. I was thoroughly impressed with Nah-Shon Burrell in his win against American Top Team’s Joe Ray. Sure Ray had the support of one of the nation’s best MMA teams, and a number of sponsors already adorning his trunks, Burrell was a man alone. There was no pomp with Burrell whose shorts were devoid of any labels or sponsors. In every sense of the stereotype, Burrell was unabashed Philadelphian. From his plain white shorts to lack of entourage in the cage Burrell was there to do one thing and that was fight. Sure, Ray was extremely talented but Burrell never stopped coming forward looking for the stoppage and in poetic justice, walked away with the victory.
7. Conor Heun once again provided a strong argument as to why I could never be a fighter. Despite what looked to be a broken arm suffered in his fight with Magno Almeida, Heun was able to battle back to win a unanimous decision. It was a gutsy performance and Almeida had him in some serious trouble with his submissions but credit has to go to Heun for never giving in.
6. I can’t lie, it was a major letdown that the JZ Cavalcante – Justin Wilcox fight ended prematurely in a “no-contest.” This was a fight I was extremely interested in witnessing. Wilcox is a beast but he had never tested the waters with a fighter with the experience of Cavalcante. Unfortunately, an eye poke that caused Wilcox’s eye to bleed (gross) prevented us from seeing a bout that on paper seemed destined to be a barn burner.
5. Chad Griggs = Awesomeness. There, I said it. I mean how can you not root for this guy? Initially brought into Strikeforce to serve as a sacrificial lamb for wrestler turned pariah Bobby Lashley, Griggs defied the odds to stop Lashley in the second round. Since then Griggs has gone undefeated in the Strikeforce promotion including Saturday night’s dismantling of Valentijn Overeem, the older brother of champion Alistair. Hell, this fight wasn’t even competitive as Griggs beat the living hell out of Overeem promoting him to tap out due to strikes. Griggs is a fighter fans can get behind. Soft-spoken but all action in the cage that’s Griggs. To put it simply, Griggs finishes fights and God bless him for it.
4. I, like most people, were truly surprised to see Daniel Cormier elect to stand and trade with Jeff Monson. Granted, Monson is an excellent submission grappler so taking the fight to the ground might not have been a sound idea for Cormier. Still, the most surprising aspect was how comfortable Cormier looked on his feet. Yeah, I know, Monson seemed like a shell of his former self and the ATT fighter may want to consider hanging up the gloves, but Cormier looked good using his boxing and a few kicks peppered in for good measure. I admit that I had my doubts on the prospect of Cormier as a viable heavyweight challenger but I’m eating crow today following his performance Saturday night.
3. Let’s start out by stating this undeniable fact, Jorge Masvidal is one tough SOB. While many felt that Noons’ boxing would carry him to a victory, and a potential shot at the lightweight title, Masvidal simply had other plans. Outside of his bout with Nick Diaz, it’s hard to remember the last time we saw Noons look so helpless on his feet. Masvidal used every arsenal in his book to leave Noons’ face a crimson coated mess at the end of the fight. I’m really expecting big things out of Masvidal.
2. I don’t know what to say about the career of Brett Rogers. On one hand, his size and strength make him a marketable fighter. He has some margin of ground skill but he actively goes for the knockout which is what the fans want to see. Still, on the other hand, Rogers falls short every time he fights a medium to top tier heavyweight. In his Saturday night fight with Josh Barnett he looked completely ill prepared to deal with Barnett’s wrestling. It’s a fact that led to his submission loss when Rogers simply smothered him and sunk in an arm triangle. I don’t know where Rogers goes from here but he needs to go back to the lab and work on some things.
1. I don’t have to sit here and tell you how uninspiring the night’s main event between Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum was. I don’t really fault either man for not wanting to play into the other’s strengths but Werdum’s flopping was downright ridiculous. Overeem deserved the decision but he didn’t look good in doing so. As for Werdum, his display will not endure him to any fight fan outside of his immediate family. His stock has plummeted.
Two Bonus Observations!
2. Herschel Walker is a lot smaller in person. Also, he is incredibly articulate and engaging which makes him a great interview. You couldn’t ask for a better ambassador for the sport of MMA.
1. Miesha Tate is insanely beautiful in person. Seriously.
Photo © Andrew Hemingway