Strikeforce conducted the last quarterfinals of its ambitious heavyweight grand prix on June 18, 2011. Though the event was called Strikeforce “Overeem vs. Werdum”—not “2,” strangely, even though the headliners had met years before in Pride Fighting Championships—there were in fact three tournament fights that night: Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum met in one quarterfinal, while Josh Barnett faced Brett Rogers in the other. Finally, Daniel Cormier took on Jeff Monson in an alternate match… just in case.
The three fights offered different flavors of predictable. After having his striking limitations laid bare by Overeem and Fedor Emelianenko in the previous year and a half, Rogers proved easy prey on the ground for one of the best heavyweight submission grapplers in MMA history. After manhandling Rogers for the entire first round, Barnett tapped “Da Grim” out with an arm-triangle choke early in the second, punching his ticket to a semifinal matchup with Sergei Kharitonov.
Overeem and Werdum combined to stink up the joint with one of the worst fights between Top 15 heavyweights in several years. For three full rounds, two of the most venomous finishers in the heavyweight division circled and kickboxed halfheartedly, punctuated only by Werdum’s repeated bouts of flopping to his back and inviting Overeem into his guard. Both men had proven themselves capable of laying the occasional egg—in fact, the fight was vaguely reminiscent of Werdum’s awful UFC debut against Andrei Arlovski—but their quarterfinal was bad enough that it is mildly surprising that the UFC chose to book a rubber match seven years later. In the end, Overeem prevailed via unanimous decision, advancing to the semifinals, where he would face Antonio Silva.
That never happened, of course. Perhaps sensing the way Strikeforce was headed, Overeem signed with the UFC a few months later. His spot in the tournament was taken by Cormier, who had outstruck Monson for three rounds on that same night in June. Cormier, the alternate, would end up winning the whole thing, knocking “Bigfoot” out in the semis before dominating Barnett for five rounds in the final. By the time “DC” made his own way to the Octagon, he was the biggest thing coming over from Strikeforce.