Alistair Overeem (right) and Josh Barnett (not pictured) punched their tickets to the final four.
Call it the return of the Brazilian Butt-Scoot.
Whatever it was, Fabricio Werdum’s attempt to lure Alistair Overeem into a ground fight was ineffective to say the least, as Overeem cruised to a unanimous decision.
On the other side of Strikeforce’s heavyweight tournament bracket, Josh Barnett dominated and submitted Brett Rogers in two rounds. Both men advanced to the final four: Overeem will meet Antonio Silva and Barnett is set to battle Sergei Kharitonov.
Here’s a closer look at the fallout of Strikeforce “Overeem vs. Werdum.”
Josh Barnett: Taking Rogers down early in the first, the veteran rode much of the opening period in the mount position, tiring Rogers out. In the second, after getting mount again, Barnett secured a nice arm-triangle choke for the tap.
Over the last eight years, Barnett has been one of the best heavyweights in the world with the least exposure to a stateside audience. His combination of grappling, experience and resilience make him a tough assignment for anyone when he’s at his best, and he looked it tonight. Next up is Kharitonov in the GP semifinals, and with the Russian’s sharp striking, you can bet Barnett will be banking on another sound game plan to defuse the knockout artist’s weapons.
Jorge Masvidal: The talented lightweight came up big against K.J. Noons, perhaps putting himself on the short list for Strikeforce 155-pound champion Gilbert Melendez in the process. Masvidal opened strong in the first round, delivering precise, hard strikes to seize the initiative. Smartly mixing in the occasional takedown with standup, Masvidal faded late somewhat, but by then had done so much damage that Noons could do little more than swing and hope for a miracle.
Masdival has always had a lot of talent, and tonight was a reminder of why those expectations materialized. He’s still faded stamina-wise in his last two outings, though, which is something he’ll have to correct as he faces better competition; particularly wrestlers who can take him down and grind away.
Daniel Cormier: Former Olympian Cormier showed some considerable development tonight, in an all-standup decision win over veteran Jeff Monson. Utilizing sound kickboxing technique, Cormier landed combinations and showed some good defense and counterpunching -- key developmental benchmarks for the wrestler.
Now 8-0, the heavyweight had a good showing against an experienced but aged opponent in Monson. The key take-away from this bout is that the American Kickboxing Academy fighter never once flirted with going to the ground, and had enough confidence in his standup to take the decision there.
Griggs isn’t a huge heavyweight, and may not be as physically gifted as the better big boys. But he’s 100 percent cajones and aggression, and whomever he’s facing will know they’re in against a guy coming to win.
It’s time to respect the muttonchops -- Griggs is making some noise on the big stage and will be fun to watch in future bouts.
Alistair Overeem: The Strikeforce champ employed a smart gameplan in getting a decision over former conqueror Werdum tonight, eschewing the Brazilian’s early attempts to take it to the ground.
But in the second and third, Overeem seemed to fade. He took a lot of shots down the middle from Werdum, and didn’t look like the superhuman killer he’s been in recent bouts, probably because he’s finally fighting world-class competition in MMA.
Tactically this was a smart showing in getting the W, but it’s doubtful anyone else in the tournament is losing sleep after seeing Overeem’s performance. Seated cage side, Antonio Silva certainly isn’t. He’ll face Overeem in the semis, and is likely to give him a much more aggressive fight.
K.J. Noons: Noons is one tough SOB. After taking a thumping against Masdival in the opening round, Noons battled back, but lost a unanimous decision. Noons wanted to put himself in a position for a title shot after this bout, which certainly isn’t going to happen now. But in defeat, he earned the kind of respect that will definitely get him fights against tough lightweights.
Fabricio Werdum: You can’t blame Werdum for doing his best to avoid an extended standup fight with Overeem, even if it made for an ugly fight. However, Werdum still gets a “stock down” rating because his last outing, the submission heard round the world over Fedor Emelianenko, was most likely a career-defining win.
Tonight was a reminder of what Werdum is: a tough, talented submission artist with limited, but willing standup. He can also give virtually any grappling-based fighter in the world a tough go, beating many of them or dropping a close decision.
Brett Rogers: His tournament spot against Barnett was probably the best chance he was going to get to right the ship, and as a big slugger, he’s got a puncher’s chance against any heavyweight he can hit. The problem was, the savvy Barnett was having none of it, and Rogers was summarily dominated and taken out in a one-sided bout.
Valentijn Overeem: With a win over Ray Sefo in his last outing, Overeem had a chance to get a relevant win tonight against Griggs. But any veteran Valentijn watcher knew what was about to happen once Griggs took him down, got into half guard and started unloading strikes.
Jeff Monson: The former UFC title challenger was brought in as a substitute for the injured Shane del Rosario against Cormier and performed reasonably well under the circumstances. However, at 40 years old, future invitations to the big show may be difficult to come by.
Jason Probst can be reached at [email protected] or twitter.com/jasonprobst.