The highly anticipated Strikeforce Heavy Weight World Grand Prix finally kicked off last weekend, and I have to say the fights were incredibly entertaining. The Chad Griggs vs. Gian Villiante fight was a fast paced epic clash, filled with relentless back and forth action. A crowd pleaser no doubt! Shane Del Rosario finally got to show a national audience why he is 11-0 and considered a highly touted prospect by the MMA community with his submission win over fellow prospect Lavar Johnson. Russian slugger Sergei Karithonov let everyone know he was back with his vicious knock out of Andre Arlovski. The main event certainly delivered as Antonio Silva handled the legend Fedor Emelianenko with his brutal display of ground and pound in a dramatic, yet agonizing thriller. The event overall is considered a huge success for Strikeforce. According to mmapayout.com, the live gate broke the $1 million dollar mark with a reported of 11,287 attendees and was viewed by a 1.1 million viewers on Showtime. Even after all that, I still dare ask did Strikeforce drop the ball on this one? As far as an event, a definite no because that’s as good as it gets especially for Strikeforce, but they clearly lost a golden opportunity to promote their hot young prospects with this much talked about event. Yeah I know there is buzz about Chad Griggs, and Shane Del Rosario, but not the kind of buzz that would have come about if the wins were over big name opponents.
First and foremost, I think a huge error was made by not making this a 16 man tournament. It should have included all the reserves that appeared on the reserve bouts, with the inclusion of another highly touted Strikeforce prospect, Daniel Cormier. Also, the addition of another well known fighter such as Gabriel Gonzaga, Jeff Monson, or Gilbert Yvel would not have hurt. I would easily choose Gabriel Gonzaga, but Monson would be a close second just to give Karithonov a chance to redeem his 2009 loss.
The reason I would favor the 16 man tournament is everyone loves the role of the underdog (just look at the way people react throughout the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament), and in the world of MMA any of the favorites could lose on any given night. Also, wins over well known opponents raise a prospect’s stock considerably just take a quick peek at how the UFC cleverly used Frank Mir and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira to vault their young prospects (Cain Velasquez, Shane Carwin, and Brock Lesnar) into some of the bigger names in the Heavyweight division. Just look at the buzz surrounding Karithonov after the Arlovski KO. That could have easily been Shane Del Rosario! Just imagine what kind of attention a Daniel Cormier would get if he were to beat #3 ranked Fabricio Werdum. You catch my drift?
This is the problem with Strikeforce! They put everyone in the mix (including their best prospects) to fight against each other (Lavar Johnson vs. Del Rosario & Chad Griggs vs. Gian Villiante) instead of using the UFC model in which Carwin, Velazquez, and Dos Santos never came close to fighting each other while storming up the ranks. If you look at the current rankings, that model clearly works!
Another thing, some of these matchups in the first round would be very interesting!
Johnson vs. Rogers (this would easily produce fireworks)
Cormier vs. Werdum (Cormier’s wrestling would give many people fits)
Del Rosario vs. Arlovski (a big name for Del Rosario if he can get by him)
Barnett vs. V. Overeem (would be a tuff test for Barnett, and overall a great fight)
Karithonov vs. Gonzaga (someone would easily get knocked out here)
Griggs vs. Silva (would Griggs come out swinging like he did against Bigfoot?)
Fedor vs. Villiante (would be a good standup battle)
A. Overeem vs. Sefo (would be interesting to see if Overeem would keep it standing versus another elite K-1 kickboxer, since he’s an elite kickboxer himself).
But, oh well too late now! Still very much looking forward to the April show!
These were my matchups before Feb. 12 of course!
1). Alistair Overeem vs. 2). Fabricio Werdum vs.
16). Ray Sefo 15). Daniel Cormier
9). Gonzaga/Monson/Yvel vs. 10). Shane Del Rosario vs.
8). Sergei Karithonov 7). Andre Arlovski
5). Brett Rogers vs. 3). Fedor Emelianenko vs.
12). Lavar Johnson 14). Gian Viallante
13). Chad Griggs vs. 11). Valentijn Overeem vs.
4). Antonio Silva 6). Josh Barnett