Archive for Frank Mir

STRIKEFORCE: OVEREEM VS. WERDUM Predictions

Posted in Predictions, Strikeforce with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2011 by jaytan716

What a difference a few months makes, huh?

Four months ago, the second-biggest MMA promotion in America, Strikeforce, was still struggling to make their mark on America’s radar. After several attempts to import successful Japanese promoting tactics (the occasional freak show match, talent trades with DREAM, etc.), they set 2011 off with a bang – the Strikeforce World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament.

The eight participants (Fedor Emelianenko, Josh Barnett, Fabricio Werdum, Strikeforce heavyweight champ Alistair Overeem, Brett Rogers, Antonio Silva, Andrei Arlovski, and Sergei Kharitonov) and subsequent opening round were celebrated by fans and MMA media alike. The WHGP looked to be the closest thing to a legit heavyweight tournament since the PRIDE Fighting Championships 2006 Openweight Grand Prix, which featured Barnett, Overeem, Werdum (in their first match, ironically enough), Fedor Emelianenko, Hidehiko Yoshida, Mirko Cro Cop, and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, among others.

Jump ahead to this month and, to say the least, things have changed. Unfortunately, issues of finding a state where Josh Barnett could get licensed (due to being denied a California license in 2009 after testing positive for steroids) delayed the second bracket of opening round matches, not to mention ‘The Sale,’ which could easily have ended up as the death knell to this tournament going forward.

The current Strikeforce World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament brackets

Thankfully, this tournament is still ‘business as usual,’ as UFC President Dana White promised when Zuffa bought Strikeforce in March. That phrase became something of an ironic punchline when Strikeforce staff was let go shortly after the purchase, as well as announcing Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz for UFC 135. Notwithstanding whatever contractual obligations Zuffa is forced to fulfill to Showtime, its wholly possible that Strikeforce’s heavyweights could have been absorbed into the UFC and the tournament scrapped altogether.

Unfortunately, the tournament does have a lame-duck feel to it in light of recent developments, but if nothing else, hopefully we’ll get to see some exciting heavyweight action.

Here’s a breakdown on this weekend’s card, including the second bracket of opening round matches of the Strikeforce World Heavyweight Grand Prix:

170 lbs. – Nah-Shon Burrell x Joe Ray:  Burrell and Ray’s records are identical (5-1), though Burrell clearly is the striker, with all of his wins coming by TKO / KO. Ray reportedly trains with American Top Team, and splits his wins 3-2 striking finishes to submissions. Ray’s competition has been stiffer, including a third-round KO over 27-13 Chad Reiner.

Prediction: Ray via submission (round one)

170 lbs. – Todd Moore x Mike Bronzoulis: Expect fireworks in this match, as both fighters come in very evenly matched in record. Moore fought in WEC and DREAM, though he didn’t fare well. His last match was a second-round TKO win in November 2010. Moore will be giving up size here, as someone who appears to alter between lightweights and heavyweights, whereas Bronzoulis stands 6’0”. Both men have eight TKO / KO victories to their record, so conventional wisdom would dictate this plays out as a striking match.

Prediction:  Bronzoulis via TKO (round three)

155 lbs. – Brian Melancon x Isaac Vallie-Flag: Bit of an experience difference here, with Melancon sporting a 5-1 record while Vallie-Flag stands at 11-3-1, with fights going as far back as 2003. Even more impressive is that Vallie-Flag, now training at Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque, has fought 2-3 times since 2006. If experience is on Vallie-Flag’s side, youth could be on Melancon’s, however, as his recent wins were over fighters with up sided records similar to Vallie-Flag’s.

Prediction: Vallie-Flag via submission (round two or three) or decision

155 lbs. – Conor ‘The Hurricane’ Heun x Magno Almeida:  The storyline here is Heun, a grappling talent with high expectations who’s suffered injuries and inactivity in the past two years, against Almeida, a young prospect on a five-match submission win streak, four of which in the first round, dating back to 2008. Heun hit the restart button on his training earlier this year at Jackson’s MMA, and reportedly has been training hard with that team’s usual suspects. His two losses, against KJ Noons in 2010 and Jorge Gurgel in 2009, were incredibly close decisions which I thought he win. This is a gut-check match for the former collegiate wrestler and 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu brown belt. As for Almeida, this marks his ‘big show’ debut, though he has finishes against decent competition in Brazil and California. I’d expect Almeida to stick to his bread-and-butter and try to take this match to the ground. Heun should keep this match standing, as he has against stiffer competition. This match will be broadcast live on HDNet.

Prediction:  Heun via unanimous decision

155 lbs. – Gesias ‘J.Z.’ Cavalcante x Justin ‘The Silverback’ Wilcox: Wilcox is an AKA (San Jose) fighter riding a six-fight win streak. Those wins are mostly decisions on Strikeforce Challengers shows or the untelevised portion of major Strikeforce events.  After an eight-match win streak from 2005-2007, Cavalcante is in fact 1-3-1 since 2008. That said, his losses were decisions to Shinya Aoki, Tatsuya Kawajiri, and Josh Thompson, respectively. Handing Wilcox his first defeat would put Cavalcante back on people’s radar, though Wilcox, as a former body builder and D-1 wrestler, has the strength and pedigree to hold his own grappling with JZ. I expect that to play a major factor in what happens in the cage here. This match will be broadcast live on HDNet.

Prediction: Wilcox via split decision

265 lbs. – Valentijn Overeem x Chad Griggs: This is one of two ‘alternates matches’ to the tournament. Make no doubt, Griggs is dangerous. He summarily dismissed Gian Villante, a rising heavyweight that Xtreme Couture had prepped and built. He also ran Bobby Lashley to the point of exhaustion by round two when they squared off last August in Houston. Overeem’s experience in comparison is on another level, with over 50 MMA fights alone. This elder Overeem (by four years) may have too much jiu-jitsu for Griggs, and though Griggs can take a punch, the guys he’s faced in the past aren’t of Overeem’s striking pedigree. If Griggs can execute a strategy of fighting from the clinch, where Overeem can’t throw long power shots, but also avoid Overeem taking the bout to the ground, that may be a viable strategy. Otherwise, I expect Overeem to be one of the two alternates to this (hopefully) continued tournament.

Prediction: Overeem via TKO or submission (round one)

265 lbs. – Daniel Cormier x Jeff ‘The Snowman’ Monson: This is the tournament’s other alternates match. Monson replaces Shane Del Rosario, who withdraw from the match after being hit by a drunk driver. Cormier is a former NCAA Division 1 runner-up and All-American, with a plethora of gold medals in international wrestling tournaments from 2001-2007. Monson is a noted Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and one of the top heavyweight grapplers in the world, having ranked and won numerous tournaments during those same years. To that end, Monson as a close grappling equal, is a more dangerous challenge for Cormier, who rides a 7-0 undefeated streak. Monson is a seasoned 42-11, and has already fought three times this year. In fact, he has a match in France scheduled three weeks before this event. If this goes to the ground, it could be a very interesting scrap, as Cormier might have the grappling to stay on par with Monson. Standing, Cormier could have the advantage.

Prediction: Monson via unanimous decision

155 lbs. – KJ Noons x Jorge Masvidal: The 10-3 (in MMA) K.J. Noons faces Masvidal’s veteran record of 21-6 in Masvidal, a Miami-based former street-fighter. Noons comes off a five-round war with Nick Diaz from last year, while Masvidal rides of a decision win over Billy Evangelista from March. Standing, Noons should be able to pick Masvidal apart, who hasn’t lost by strikes since 2008 (including going the distance with Paul Daley). Masvidal is associated with American Top Team in Florida, so I’d expect him to be polishing his jiu Jitsu for this fight.

Prediction: Noons via unanimous decision or TKO (round two or three)

 265 lbs. – Josh Barnett vs. Brett Rogers: One of the two opening round tournament matches in bracket #2. Rogers returns to Strikeforce after a quick parlay to beat Ruben Villareal (who’s known for a hard chin) via unanimous decision. After 10 consecutive TKO / KO victories, Rogers got a taste of his own TKO medicine from Fedor Emelianenko and Strikeforce champ Alistair Overeem. Like Andrei Arlovski, this tournament is an opportunity to see if Rogers got his mojo back. Conventional wisdom sees Barnett taking Rogers down and threatening submissions. That may require taking some speed knots from the heavy-handed Rogers, but Barnett should still have his chin. Villareal doesn’t have Barnett’s ground game, so if Rogers’ previous match is any indication of his KO power, hopefully ‘The Grim’ is working on his grappling.

Here’s a nice little “empty arena” match, but also an example of how EVERY pro wrestler, MMA  fighter, and quite frankly, the entire democratic party, should package what they’re selling:

Prediction: Barnett via unanimous decision

265 lbs. – Alistair Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum:  This tournament opening-round match has all the makings: a reigning champion enters the tournament, revenge against his opponent over a loss in a previous tournament (PRIDE Total Elimination Absolute in 2006), that opponent dethroning the People’s Champ (Fedor), anxious to prove it wasn’t a fluke win. Overeem is on a roll right now, finishing his last six opponents (nine if you don’t include the no-contest with Mirko Cro Cop. In MMA, he hasn’t recently faced competition the likes of Werdum, though any question about his hand  and legs should view the K-1 World Grand Prix from December, where Overeem finished Gokhan Saki and Pete Aerts in one night (after winning a unanimous decision quarter final match). As “The Man Who Beat Fedor,” Werdum rides high on that accolade, though his career be hot and cold as well. He won his last three, but was TKO’ed prior to that by Junior dos Santos. Before that, he finished Brandon Vera and Gabriel Gonzaga. And prior to that, he dropped a decision to Andrei Arlovski. In their 2006 PRIDE match, Werdum submitted (a smaller, albeit only slightly) Overeem in round two. Will history repeat itself?

Prediction: Overeem via KO (round one)

The Finish

There’s two interesting parts to this weekend’s show. One of course is the question of who advances in the tournament and how do the subsequent matches pair up. The other, which is part of the bigger picture, is what the matches say about these eight fighters’ place and relevance in the UFC.

In recent weeks, we’ve seen four of the UFC’s top heavyweights (Frank Mir, Roy Nelson, Junior Dos Santos, Shane Carwin) compete in matches important enough to have title shot ramifications. And although one match was given Fight of the Night honors while the other one was booed by fans, both were one-sided decisions that left the UFC title picture flatter than expected.  Conversely, only one of the four matches of the first bracket in the WGPH, Fedor Emelianenko vs. Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva, went past the first round. In that match, Fedor’s stamina and resolve to surviving punishment was quite similar to Carwin’s.

All of these heavyweights are competitive enough to compete in the UFC, and given the speed at which Strikeforce fighters are being absorbed into the octagon, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the winner of this tournament challenging the winner of Cain Velasquez x Junior Dos Santos in early 2012. That injection of new competition will certainly be a shot in the arm for that weight class. In the meantime, expect more fireworks from Saturday’s behemoths, serving as a reminder of why people were excited for this tournament to begin with.

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Affliction Officially Announces Fedor vs. Barnett, Mousasi vs. Sobral with Press Conferences in New York, Los Angeles

Posted in Affliction, Features with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2009 by jaytan716

Clothier-turned-fight promoter Affliction held back-to-back press conferences in New York and Los Angeles this week, officially launching the promotional campaign behind “Affliction: Trilogy,” headlined by Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko vs. Josh “The Babyfaced Assassin” Barnett.  The PPV event is scheduled for August 1st at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA.

In the co-main event slot, reigning Strikeforce Light Heavyweight champion Renato “Babalu” Sobral will face former DREAM Middleweight champion “Gegard “Young Vagabond” Mousasi, who recently submitted Mark Hunt in the opening round of the DREAM Super Hulk tournament.

“People said we wouldn’t be here after the first event.  Well, we were.  We had a second event, and it was a bigger card than the first. . . Once again, we’re back, and with a card that’s . . . actually better than the first and second event,” proclaimed Affliction VP and matchmaker Tom Atencio.

Promotional partner Roy Englebrecht added “I think the reason why we’re here today . . . is the fact that we’re seeing, in my estimation, the greatest mixed martial arts heavyweight fighter of all times, trying to do something for the third time: beat three former UFC heavyweight world champions.  First show, Tim Sylvia.  Second show, Andrei Arlovski.  And now, standing in his way, is another former UFC champion, and he was the youngest – Josh Barnett.  The trilogy . . . doesn’t happen very often, can happen on August 1st.”

The Los Angeles press conference was short and sweet, with brief, generic comments from Sobral, Mousasi, and Emelianenko about their respective matches.  Each fighter was respectful, almost to a fault, of their opponents, and indeed, Atencio, Englebrecht, and M-1 executives Joost Raymond and Vadim Finkelstein almost seemed to play microphone hot potato, as if nobody wanted the spokesman responsibilities.  Barnett, who prides himself on having studied the interview skills of pro wrestling personalities, was notably absent, apparently due to transportation problems.

Ever the man of few words, Emelianenko, through his translator (and M-1 USA VP of Legal Affairs) Steven Bash, simply said “I’d like to thank everyone for inviting me out again and giving me the opportunity to fight on a world-class level.  I expect the fight with Josh to be very exciting and I promise you a wonderful show.”

One of the more burning topics of conversation was that of Affliction’s future as a fight promotion.  Although there was discussion that the “Trilogy” moniker indicated a planned finality to promoting MMA after August 1st, Atencio steadfast denied any intentions to quit.

“Our future isn’t undetermined. I’ve always said that we’ll take one fight at a time. . .  We came out and made a big bang in the industry. . . [M-1 Global] has been doing this for a long time, and I couldn’t ask for better partners than them. . . I’ve learned a few things and I’ve made some mistakes, myself and my partners.  We take that and we move forward and we correct those mistakes.  And that’s what we’re looking to do,” said Atencio adamantly.

M-1 Global President Vadim Finkelstein, also through translation, echoed the sentiment, saying “I’m very proud and honored to have partners such as Affliction.  Together, what we’ve done is we’ve come together to build a worldwide MMA company, and utilize both of our resources and put together many products and projects all over the world, culminating in what will be and is the biggest fight in mixed martial arts.  This will be the best fight this year and many, many years.”

Another recurring subject of debate was the ongoing standoff with the UFC and promoter Dana White.  Keeping true to form with Affliction’s prior two events, an invitation was extended, via M-1 Global COO Joost Raymond, to White and his two reigning heavyweight champions, Brock Lesnar and interim champ Frank Mir, to attend “Trilogy.”

“They are all very cordially invited to come and watch . . . And ultimately we can follow up, in the same lines as what the UFC has done for Mr. Mirko Cro Cop, in a one-fight deal . . . We’d like to make that happen.  So, again, we can bring out the true champions and the best fights available for all.”

Mousasi is a former DREAM Middleweight champion who recently declared his intent to move up to light heavyweight, claiming he no longer is able to make the traditional 185 lb. limit.  In May, he submitted Mark Hunt in DREAM’s Super Hulk tournament, giving up 63 lbs to the Kiwi kickboxer.

Mousasi was originally expected to face Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort, a former light heavyweight (205 lbs.) who now fights at middleweight.  However, in an interview with Tatame.com, Belfort denied any intention to fight at anything above 185 lbs., suggesting that Mousasi’s lack of name value and challenge makes going up in weight not worth his effort.

“I don’t know if he turned it down.  I heard, because I had received the contract, I had signed the contract, that I would fight him.  I thought he had the contract.  He received also the contract, so I thought he knew about it.  But obviously he says he didn’t, so I cannot say. . . Because he’s a middleweight, so I cannot say ‘come up and fight light heavyweight.’  I thought he knew about it,” explained Mousasi.

“I think Babalu is a very big challenge.  I still have a very tough fight,” he added.

Other matches listed in the press materials were Tim “The Maine-iac” Sylvia vs. Paul “The Headhunter” Buentello, “Big” Ben Rothwell vs. the unbeaten Chase Gormley, Chris “The Polish Hammer” Horodecki vs. Dan “The Upgrade” Lauzon, and Jay ‘The Thoroughbred” Hieron vs. Paul “Semtex” Daley.  The undercard, which includes the Horodecki-Lauzon and Hieron-Daley fights, will air live on HDNet.