Archive for Josh Barnett

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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Recent 10th Planet News

Posted in 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2010 by jaytan716

To say that 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu has started the year off with a bang would be an understatement. Only six weeks into the year and not only has Eddie Bravo’s network of schools competed and placed in several major tournaments, but they also saw the promotion of Bravo’s second black belt in the 10th Planet solar system – Sean Bollinger (Riverside). Denny Prokopos (San Francisco) became 10th Planet’s inaugural black belt in September last year.

Denny Prokopos & Sean Bollinger become 10th Planet’s first black belts ever

“We’ve got a lot of resistance going on from the traditional community, which is kinda crazy. I never meant it to start that way. I was trying to improve jiu jitsu for jiu jitsu. . . Having Denny represent, that’s where we need to be right now,” reflected Bravo in a video interview after the promotion.

For Prokopos, receiving his black belt “was like graduating college, with a Ph.D., and to be the valedictorian of my class. And I’m also graduating from one of the finest jiu jitsu universities in the word.”

That 10th Planet degree was put to the test six weeks later, as Prokopos competed in the World Jiu-Jitsu No-Gi Championships in November, taking third place in his Black Belt Adult division against jiu jitsu masters such as Rodrigo Ranieri and Baret Yoshida.

“Right off the bat, I proved that I’m a world-class black belt. . . It’s one thing to know about the style. It’s another thing to be able to use it and apply it at the highest levels.”

Of his mentor, Prokopos said “it’s one thing to have a jiu Jitsu coach, it’s another thing to have a jiu jitsu coach, somebody that you love, somebody that you respect so much as a person.”

On the heels of Prokopos, Sean Bollinger was also recognized for his skills and expertise with his black belt in late January. The young head instructor of 10th Planet Riverside was apparently caught off guard with the promotion, saying “Eddie was all like ‘you need to win first place in a big tournament’ . . . I was thinking I’d have to go do a NAGA or Grapplers’ Quest. Go get a gold real quick and then I’d get my black belt. So when he came out and gave me [my belt], it was definitely a surprise. But I think I’ve put in the work. I do feel good about it.”

Both Prokopos and Bollinger face new responsibilities as the sole 10th Planet black belts, not just for that level of recognition, but also as they spearhead their own school branches. With Bollinger’s school taking the 10th Planet reach into the Southern California Inland Empire, Prokopos’ San Francisco dojo has stood for the past two years amidst other noted grappling schools like Cesar Gracie and Jake Shields’ respective Gracie Fighter academies, as well as MMA gyms such as Fairtex and American Kickboxing Academy (AKA).

Additionally, Bollinger is training for an MMA fight against second-generation star Ryan Couture, scheduled for March 26th at Tuff-N-Uff Amateur Fighting Championships in Las Vegas. Bollinger is currently 2-0 in amateur MMA competition.

“It’s a win-win situation for me. That’s how I look at it. I just feel blessed with the opportunity. . . Because I think I could build a good name in that whole organization. Especially after this fight, when people know what’s up.”

Additionally, a group of students from Headquarters and Burbank were also recently promoted, including new blue belts Will Allen, Mel Blanco, Alex Branom, Steve Cox, Matt Dempsey, Scott Elkin, Karen Ferguson, Michel Francoeur, Juli Fung, Tommy Gavin, Carlos Hernandez, Matt Horwich, Alan Jouban, Howard Lee, Richard Mattke, Kyle McGough, Anthony Nealy, Rachel Tan, and Wade Thomas.

Congratulations to all the recent 10th Planet promotions for the deserved recognition of their hard work and spirit.

10th Planet at Gracie Nationals

One of the bigger annual jiu jitsu tournaments, the Gracie US Nationals, took place as part of the Los Angeles Fitness Expo in Los Angeles in January. Among the placers were silver medalists Juli Fung (Burbank / Headquarters; Female Beginners 135 lbs.), Miguel Orozco (Burbank; Male Beginners 135 lbs.), and John Bottello (10th Planet Arizona head instructor; Male Advanced 145 lbs.).

“I feel fantastic. I learned so much, I can’t wait to do the next one,” said Fung after her win.

Amir Allam (Burbank / Headquarters) had a particularly busy day, not only claiming gold status in the Men’s Advanced 206 lbs. division, but also treating fans to an impromptu special exhibition match against MMA fighter Josh Barnett, who showed up only to discover that there were no other opponents in Barnett’s division. Faced with clocking out early for the day, Barnett asked Allam to roll in an exhibition match, to which the purple belt agreed. The scrap itself was competitive between opponents until Barnett caught Allam with a leglock.

Especially worthy of note was the Davila family’s accomplishments, as young Victor Jr. and his uncle Jose (both Burbank) claimed gold in their respective divisions.

Headquarters’ purple belts Ralf Warneking, Ian Quinto, and Dave Callaham also competed at this tournament, as did a large contingent from 10th Planet Phoenix, which included (beside Botello) Annie Jamarillo (Phoenix), Joe Montoya, and Ruben Garcia.

“It was great competing alongside people from Headquarters and Burbank. After the tournament, we celebrated my birthday. Eddie’s show the night before was great too. Just a fun time all around,” said Botello.

“I thought it was great that Arizona came all the way out to compete and trained with us all the week before,” noted Fung in the days after the event.

Scottie Epstein coaching Team Liddell for TUF 11

As reported previously on the Legends MMA blog, brown belt Scottie “Einstein” Epstein (Headquarters) will be featured as Chuck Liddell’s jiu jitsu coach for the 11th season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” which is anticipated to debut on Spike TV in April.

Regarding the show itself, Epstein is bound to confidentiality, but when asked if he was enjoying the experience, the enthusiasm was obvious: “it’s been a great experience. . . I was led to believe it was the worst thing ever. I’m like ‘what are you, kidding me?’ I get paid to train motherfuckers. I’m a roommate with Chuck Liddell. All our food is covered. Anywhere we want to go; just one phone call and we’re red carpeted. I wish my whole life could be like this.”

Epstein also spoke positively about the fighters themselves, noting “all the guys that I teach really want to learn. They pull me to the side and ask me how to do something. They’re very open-minded.”

Filming is scheduled to end in early March, at which point Epstein and Liddell will focus on preparing for a second rematch against Tito Ortiz, scheduled for UFC 115 in June.

10th Planet at Grappling X No-Gi Tournament

Finally, you could say that this year, February 14th was for lovers and fighters, as the Grappling X No-Gi tournament took place that day in Long Beach, CA. Of the several different 10th Planet schools representing at the tournament, Burbank in particular shined brightly, with gold medals for Kim Ferguson (Women’s Advanced 130 lbs.) and Richard Mattke (Men’s Beginner 180 lbs.), silver for Ronnie Castro (Men’s Novice Absolute Division) and Aren Asefi (Men’s Novice 145 lbs), and bronze for Miguel Orozco (Men’s Novice 135 lbs.), Rachel Tan (Women’s Beginner 115 lbs.), and Michael Pack.

This being his freshman tournament, Castro particularly impressed his teammates. Purple belt Dustin Shaw (Headquarters) noted “entering the absolute division is a big step for anybody, especially if it’s their first tournament. And he was doing really well against all these guys that are just as big as him and competing for years. So I think he’s going to be a really good competitor, very quickly.”

Headquarters member Erik “Compella” Cruz also noted Orozco’s steady and rapid development, noting “he put his opponent to sleep. That kid’s gonna be a force to be reckoned with. He’s already really smooth.”

Not to be overlooked, Burbank’s Michael Fausto battled through five bouts in a stacked division to a laud-worthy fourth place finish, finishing most of his opponents with triangle chokes.

Headquarters earned their fair share of battle bling as well, as Steve Cox (Intermediate 145 lbs) and Drew Springer took gold. Dawna Gonzales (Women’s Beginner 130 lbs.) and Conor “The Hurricane” Heun (Men’s Advanced 175 lbs.) placed silver in their respective divisions. Dustin Shaw claimed bronze in his Advanced Men’s 145 lbs. division.

Of his own debut in the Men’s Advanced 175 lb. bracket, Compella said “at first, I was nervous going in, but once I got through it, I was like ‘I can do this again.’ I really thought – one or two changes here or there, I can easily win. I don’t see it too far in the reach.”

Also competing were Headquarters members Scott Palmer, Sanni Wehbe, Jr., and Jason Eisner.

“I think everybody did really well. It was amazing to watch Conor roll his first competition back after knee surgery. . . Compella put on a rubber guard clinic. . . Loved watching the other advanced guys – Justin, and Jason Eisner. . . It was beautiful to watch, and it was exciting to watch all the beginner people just go for it. There was not one person on a 10th Planet team that I watched that I was not just absolutely thrilled and proud of, because everybody pulled off something that we worked on every day. And you can’t ask for more than that, and us being an incredibly supportive team, cheering each other on,” said Gonzales.

“There was a time I can remember where 10th Planet would have four or five people in a tournament, and that was a pretty good turnout. . . and [people were] constantly saying that we never competed, and all this stuff that we did never really works and whatever. Now we’ve got all these up and coming people coming in there and winning their divisions. First and second place all over the place,” reflected Shaw.

Other 10th Planet / Pro MMA Fighter Notes

Congratulations to traditional black belt / 10th Planet member George Sotiropolous for his dominant victory over Joe “Daddy” Stevenson in his homeland of Australia at UFC 110. Sotiropolous employed every bit of his 10th Planet repertoire, on top and from bottom, to threaten and thwart Stevenson, himself a black belt under Robert Drysdale. The native Aussie walked away with a 30-27 unanimous decision.

And speaking of 10th Planet students in the UFC, kudos, props, and best wishes go out to Burbank’s Alder Hampel and Dan Hardy (Headquarters), as they prepare for Hardy’s March 27th challenge for George St-Pierre’s UFC welterweight title.

Check back here for more 10th Planet news.