Tonight, Strikeforce presents one of its more anticipated cards of the year when reigning Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem makes his long-awaited U.S. return to face Fabricio Werdum as the Strikeforce Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament rolls on. Here are four burning questions surrounding tonight's event, which emanates from American Airlines Center in Dallas.
Can Fabricio Werdum continue his big run in Strikeforce's heavyweight division?
Many people wrote Werdum off after his UFC 90 fight with the unknown Junior dos Santos as he looked extremely out of shape and got knocked out in 81 seconds. Since, Werdum has submitted Mike Kyle, took a decision from Antonio Silva and shocked the world when he submitted Fedor Emelianenko 51 weeks ago in just 69 seconds. Now, Werdum will look to shock the world again when he battles Overeem in tonight's main event. This is a real tough return fight for Werdum, who, despite submitting Overeem in PRIDE in 2006, comes into this one a heavy underdog.
Werdum is coming into this bout 7.5 pounds heavier than he did for his bout last year with Emelianenko. I hope the reason for this is that he's intentionally bulked up to battle the heavier Overeem and not that he's potentially out of shape. For Werdum to win this fight, he needs to get it to the ground or hope that Overeem gets a bit too anxious like Emelianenko did. He certainly has the skills to beat Overeem if he can get it to his realm, but this is not a great matchup for him on the surface.
Can Josh Barnett still be a factor in American MMA?
Most everybody expects Barnett to beat Brett Rogers handily tonight, so if he doesn't, well, there's your answer. The big test for Barnett is going to come in his next fight where he'd face Sergei Kharitonov. There's never been any doubt or questioning of Barnett's skills. He's a wonderfully skilled fighter. There's a reason so many people wanted to see him fight Emelianenko. The fact is, though, he's only fought in America twice in the last nine years, and both those fights were contested in a ring in Affliction. The cage is a completely different animal, as is the competition Barnett should be facing should he go far in this tournament. Barnett hasn't a top-10 opponent in nearly five years, so there's just a ton of questions going forward with Barnett. His performance in this tournament will be the deciding factor here.
Of the four Grand Prix reservists fighting on this show, which one would have the best chance of winning a fight should they be put in the main draw?
This group includes Valentijn Overeem, Chad Griggs, Jeff Monson and Daniel Cormier. Out of these four, Cormier probably has the best chance because he has at least one elite skill — his wrestling. None of the others have that elite skill that could win them a fight. Cormier does. That's the long and the short of it. If I had to rank them, it would be Cormier, Griggs, Monson, Overeem.
No doubt. Either of these fighters would be a worthy challenger for Melendez should they win tonight. Personally, even though I like Masvidal as a fighter, I'm absolutely salivating over a chance to see a fight between Melendez and Noons. I've enjoyed watching Noons fight for a long time now and I think that'd be a tremendous match. Now, a factor here, though, could be the performance of Justin Wilcox in his fight with Gesias Cavalcante. Wilcox has won six straight and a big, impressive win could move him ahead of the winner of this one should they not be as impressive. Regardless, Melendez is going to have a worthy challenger next no matter who it is.