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The After Party – “Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum”

Dallas fans wanted Dirk Nowitzki this past Saturday night. Instead they got LeBron James. After a good start to the event, the show collapsed in the final fight of the night with a lackluster performance by the main event participants. Unlike LeBron though, the main event winner is a champion. All was not lost though because instead of staring at a supporting cast that included Mike Miller, Dallas fans got to focus their eyes on Kelli Hutcherson for the majority of the night.

Alistair Overeem defeated Fabricio Werdum by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)

Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum engaged in one of the strangest striker vs, grappler fights in MMA history and in the end, Overeem walked away with the decision.

Fight Recap: Where do I begin with this fight? Werdum did a very good job on the feet, pressing forward with his strikes and tagging Overeem with straight punches while Overeem just retreated and kept looking for one big power punch. Then every time Overeem grazed Werdum with a punch or a knee, Werdum would go down in hopes that Overeem would follow him to the ground. And then when Overeem didn’t follow him down, Werdum would politely beg. Overeem stuffed every takedown Werdum went for but instead of giving up, Werdum would pull guard. The few times that Overeem ended up in the guard of Werdum, the jiu-jitsu black belt couldn’t do anything with him. Overeem didn’t do any damage on top but because he was on top and Werdum wasn’t constantly threatening with submissions or sweeps, the conclusion was that Overeem was winning. When they would stand back up, Werdum would once again tag Overeem but then go for a takedown, pull guard, or fall down when he was breathed on. In the second round, Werdum looked very tired but based on how he looked in the third round, I’m inclined to believe that he was once again trying to bait Overeem to follow him to the ground. Whatever Werdum’s strategy was, it didn’t work as he lost the decision and allowed Overeem to advance to the Semifinals of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix.

Werdum Fight Assessment: Werdum’s performance was puzzling to say the least. He was doing very well on the feet but he was so afraid of Overeem’s power that despite his success in the stand up, he constantly kept trying to get the fight to the ground. Then when he got the fight to the ground, he did nothing. While Werdum may not have hurt Overeem on the feet, I’m not sure Werdum was ever hurt either. It’s tough to tell if a guy is hurt when he goes to his back every time he gets hit. It’s obvious that Werdum’s strategy was to go to his back in hopes that Overeem would recklessly follow him down but Overeem was smart enough not to fall into the same trap that Fedor Emelianenko did. Maybe Werdum was hurt when Overeem threw him to the ground, which would explain Werdum’s lack of doing anything on the ground.

Werdum Future: Werdum has the tools to be a very good heavyweight because his striking is much improved and his ground game is still very good but he needs to start trusting his striking. Lets not forget that Werdum stopped Gabriel Gonzaga with strikes (and this was before Gonzaga really fell off) and held his own against ‘Big Foot’ Silva so he doesn’t have to get the fight to the ground to win, he just needs to realize that.

Overeem Fight Assessment: It was tough for Overeem to look good in this fight because of how Werdum was fighting but any talk of Overeem being a top heavyweight ceased after this performance. He got out-struck by Werdum and didn’t really do anything. As mentioned, I’m not even sure Overeem ever hurt Werdum because Werdum bumped every time Overeem smiled. To Overeem’s credit, his takedown defense looked good and he made it almost impossible for Werdum to do anything with him on the ground by using his weight to stay tight to him.

Overeem Future: Overeem is still the same ol’ Overeem. He doesn’t have great cardio and he doesn’t react well to getting hit. His striking is very technical, he has power, and “K-1 Champion” sounds nice but when a guy is so worried about the grappling, it doesn’t mean much in MMA. His size looks imposing, and it’s great in the first two minutes, but after it works against him and he begins to fade. He’ll face Antonio Silva next and if he’s afraid of Silva’s takedowns and doesn’t allow himself to open up on the feet, he’s not going to fair well against a hard hitter like Silva. And of course if he does open up on his feet, he could find himself on his back against a big guy like Silva.

Predicted Next Fights: Werdum vs. Andrei Arlovski – Overeem vs. Silva

Josh Barnett defeated Brett Rogers by Submission (Arm Triangle) at 1:17 in Round Two

Josh Barnett made a successful return to the US, throwing around and eventually submitting the heavy handed Brett Rogers.

Fight Recap: This fight went about as expected. Barnett took down Rogers early in the first round and had his way with him, in terms of control, on the ground the entire first round. While he didn’t do too much damage despite having a dominant position for over four minutes in the round, he wore out Rogers with his size. In the second round, Barnett hit Rogers with a left hook that had Rogers clinching. For there Barnett easily threw him to the ground, once again mounted him, and locked on an arm triangle. Before Barnett could move to side control to sink in the choke even more, Rogers was already tapping out. It was a dominant performance by Barnett and moved him one step closer to winning the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix.

Rogers Fight Assessment: Well, Rogers showed up, so at least there’s that. I’m not sure he landed a single strike in the fight and he was absolutely lost on the ground. There’s just not much to say about his performance other than it wasn’t very good and that’s being generous.

Rogers Future: Rogers is who he is. He’s a guy who hits hard and that’s about it. He’s not even a great striker, he just hits hard. His takedown defense isn’t great and he has very little ground game. He can have good fights against other heavy hitters but he’s going to lose nine times out of ten against a top heavyweight.

Barnett Fight Assessment: Barnett did what he needed to do. He didn’t mess around with Rogers on the feet, he put him down quickly, and then he schooled him on the ground. Best of all, he took no damage and put Rogers away relatively quickly. It was the performance Barnett needed to have against a clearly overmatched fighter so give him credit for that.

Barnett Future: Barnett is still a mystery. Rogers was supposed to be his first test in a while but pretty much everyone knew that Rogers wouldn’t be much of a test, especially if the fight hit the ground. Barnett’s ground game is outstanding and he showed that in this fight, never relinquishing top position once he got it. Now he’ll face Sergei Kharitonov, who will be an actual test for him as Kharitonov brings a lot more to the table than Rogers.

Predicted Next Fights: Rogers vs. Valentijn Overeem – Barnett vs. Kharitonov

Jorge Masvidal defeated KJ Noons by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Jorge Masvidal solidified his spot as the top contender to the Strikeforce lightweight title with a dominant victory over KJ Noons.

Fight Recap: Both men started quickly in this fight. Masvidal established his jab while Noons was looking to attack the body. In trying to go downstairs on Masvidal though, Noons had to duck his head, which allowed Masvidal to land some jumping knees, one of which cut Noons on the forehead. At the end of the first round, Masvidal dropped Noons with a head kick and tried to finish him but Noons managed to survive to the bell. In the second round, Noons was once again trying to work the Masvidal but Masvidal did a nice job keeping Noons at bay with quick leg kicks that tripped up Noons. Masvidal also scored with a number of takedowns and was able to rough up Noons a bit with short elbows. At the end of the round, Masvidal landed another big knee to the head of Noons. By the end of the second, Noons’ face was a mess and he started to grow an extra forehead. Knowing he was down two rounds, Noons came out strong in the final frame but Masvidal constantly moved away and didn’t allow Noons to land anything too clean. Masvidal secured another takedown and stuck Noons against the cage the rest of the round to pick up a clean sweep on the card. It was a dominant performance by Masvidal and one that sent a message to champ Gilbert Melendez.

Noons Fight Assessment: Noons fought his heart out but he just wasn’t as good as Masvidal on this night. He did some good things on the feet, like going to the body, and he caught Masvidal with some good punches but they didn’t have quite enough starch behind them. I was really impressed with Noons’ takedown and grappling defense. He stuffed the initial shot of Masvidal a couple of times and when he was taken down, he was almost immediately back up. He just wasn’t quite as sharp as Masvidal on the feet and was controlled too much in close, which led to him dropping the decision.

Noons Future: Noons might have pro boxing experience but his style doesn’t really translate to MMA because he ducks his head too much, and with knees and kicks, it leaves him vulnerable. Noons is going to be in a lot of fights because he’s a tough guy with very good striking and an improving ground game but he may need to revamp his striking style if he wants to be a contender again.

Masvidal Fight Assessment: I thought Masvidal looked outstanding in this fight. He got a bit tired in the third round but for the first two rounds, he laid a beating on Noons with his striking. He did a great job throwing knees and timing them to when Noons would duck his head. Masvidal’s technical boxing continues to impress as well. He has a very good jab and does a good job of moving his head and feet in order to avoid strikes. Plus he mixed in some takedowns during the fight, which made him a lot less predictable than Noons was.

Masvidal Future: Masvidal is really the only contender for the Strikeforce lightweight title and I’d be shocked if he doesn’t challenge Melendez in his next bout. He’s going to be a tough test for Melendez but he’s going to need to improve his conditioning if he really wants to make it a fight against Melendez. He can’t get tired like he did against Noons because Melendez has an endless gas tank and pushes a very strong pace.

Predicted Next Fights: Noons vs. JZ Cavalcante – Masvidal vs. Melendez

Daniel Cormier defeated Jeff Monson by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Daniel Cormier picked up the biggest win of his career, coasting to an easy decision over veteran Jeff Monson.

Fight Recap: The story of this fight was Cormier’s speed. The entire bout took place on the feet and Cormier lit up Monson with his hands. Monson tried to establish the jab early but every time he threw his jab, Cormier slipped and fire back with two or three punches of his own. Not only was Cormier countering well but he was diversifying his strikes by going to the body and then to the head and also mixing in some kicks to the legs and body. Cormier rocked Monson a number of times during the fight but Monson, being the tough costumer that he is, wouldn’t go down or be finished. Monson tagged Cormier a couple of times, usually with a left hook, but Cormier seemed unfazed. When Monson would go for a takedown, Cormier would easily shrug him away and resumed dominating things on the feet. Even though Cormier couldn’t put Monson away, he turned in a very impressive performance and easily won on the judges scorecards.

Monson Fight Assessment: Monson was just too slow to keep up with Cormier. He couldn’t get the fight to the ground, which means he was forced to stand with Cormier, and he couldn’t catch Cormier with his hands despite years more striking training. I would have liked to see Monson throw more leg kicks, just because they could have been used to bait Cormier into a takedown and they may have slowed Cormier down but he was pretty content with sticking to a jab and a left hook.

Monson Future: Monson said before the fight that he plans on dropping to 205. At 40 years old, it’s not only going to be a tough cut for him but I’m not sure how much it’s actually going to help him. He had trouble dealing with Cormier’s speed and at 205, he’s going to be up against even faster fighters who are just as good as Cormier.

Cormier Fight Assessment: Cormier did everything but finish Monson in this fight. His striking continues to improve and it was on full display in this fight. It really reminded me of Cain Velasquez’ performance against Antontio Rodrigo Nogueira. When Nogueria would throw a jab, Velasquez would come back with a three-punch combination. That’s exactly what Cormier did, just without the highlight KO. He played to his strengths and stuck to his game plan, which is also a credit to Cormier.

Cormier Future: As he continues to get experience, both in training and fighting, Cormier is going to be a legit threat in the heavyweight division. His wrestling credentials speak for themselves and he seems to improve at a very quick pace. He’s a real dark horse in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix as well because if someone gets injured, Cormier will probably be the first man called to action.

Predicted Next Fights: Monson vs. Abongo Humphrey – Cormier vs. Chad Griggs

Chad Griggs defeated Valentijn Overeem by TKO (Strikes) at 2:08 in Round One

No one expected this fight to go long and it didn’t as Chad Griggs made short work of Valentijn Overeem.

Fight Recap: There wasn’t much to this fight. Griggs almost immediately clinched and then hit a beautiful lateral drop to put Overeem on his back. On the ground, Overeem tried for an Americana off his back but Griggs ended up punching his way out of it. One he was free, Griggs continues to hammer away on Overeem, who eventually turtled up and tapped out due to strikes. It was another strong victory for Griggs and one that keeps him in the heavyweight mix.

Overeem Fight Assessment: This was your typical Overeem performance. He tried to finish things early with a submission, got hit more than he liked, and wanted a way out of the fight. Like Brett Rogers, at least he showed up.

Overeem Future: There is a reason why Overeem rarely makes it out of the first round. He either puts guys away quickly or gets put away quickly. He doesn’t like getting hit, he doesn’t have much cardio, and neither of those things are going to change.

Griggs Fight Assessment: Griggs knew his best chance to win this fight was on top and that’s where he took the fight. The lateral drop he hit was a new wrinkle in his game and he continued to prove that he is a tough costumer by punching his way out of a bad position. From there he just overwhelmed Overeem and made him quit.

Griggs Future: I still don’t know how good Griggs is or how good he can be but the guy keeps winning, so that counts for something. If nothing else, he hits hard and has a ton of heart, which can take guys to a decent level in the sport. He’ll likely find out what Griggs is really made of in his next bout, which should be against Daniel Cormier.

Predicted Next Fights: Overeem vs. Brett Rogers – Griggs vs. Cormier

Quick Preliminary Thoughts

*Shame that Justin Wilcox vs. Gesias Cavalcante ended in a no decision. I hope Wilcox is alright but I have a feeling that he’ll be out of action for awhile.

*How tough is Connor Heun? Maybe it wasn’t the smartest decision in the world not to tap out from Magno Almeida’s armbar but if you’re gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough.

*Hopefully we actually see Nah-Shon Burrell and Isaac Vallie-Flagg again. Strikeforce has a habit of just letting their prelim fighters, win or lose, fade away though.

PHOTO CREDIT – STRIKEFORCE