Brent Brookhouse: Supposedly, the winner of tomorrow night's Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix will have to fight one more time in Strikeforce despite there no longer being a heavyweight division in the promotion. What is the best way to handle the next fight for the winner of the GP?
KJ Gould: Man, this is a bizarre situation. It just seems weird to keep them in Strikeforce, and bring in a heavyweight for one fight before the whole division truly crosses over to the UFC. If it's a close fight with some judging controversy, a rematch is the no brainer. Fedor Emelianenko supposedly still has one fight left with Showtime, but I can see Zuffa being dead against it, plus Fedor has hinted at Pedro Rizzo being his last fight meaning he'd likely hold out for a big pay day to 'come back'.
A complete wildcard would be the winner of James Thompson vs Todd Duffee. It'd be pointless, but then that's what this Grand Prix has ultimately been anyway.
Fraser Coffeen: One word - Fedor. He's really a great choice in that he still has a degree of name recognition, plus they can play up the angle that he's 3-0 since leaving Strikeforce (assuming he beats Rizzo). But in reality, he's not really a threat to either man, so they'll have an extra win heading into the UFC.
The one drawback is his possible price tag. M-1 plays hardball with Fedor, and his cost was a contributing factor in Strikeforce running into financial problems last year. If M-1 perceives that SF needs Fedor, they'll crank that price up and won't budge. In that case, I really don't know what to do. The options become either 1) a Cormier vs. Barnett rematch, 2) tell Showtime to stuff it and don't do one last fight, or 3) find someone like Jeff Monson or Tim Sylvia to step in. None of those sound very good to me, but if 2 isn't a viable option, I guess I'd pick Sylvia over an unnecessary rematch.
KJ Gould: Considering how Strikeforce has been dragging this out, maybe Alistair Overeem fights in Strikeforce again, as a punishment for messing up the fight with Junior dos Santos. He wouldn't be in that much of a bargaining position to do so, considering the dog house he's currently in.
Fraser Coffeen: I considered Reem, and it's a possibility maybe. But I think the best bet is to use this last fight as a way to further boost the GP winner before making his way into the UFC. So give him a softball.
KJ Gould: The paranoid conspiracy theorist in me believes if Cormier wins, he'll be given a softball, but if Barnett wins Zuffa is sending in a 'gunslinger' to try and take him out (like an Overeem).
Tim Burke: I don't think it'll be Fedor. He costs too much, and maybe it's the fanboy in me talking, but I think he presents a credible threat to both men. They need someone with name value, isn't that much of a threat, and isn't going to break the bank. And I know the guy:
Mirko Cro Cop.
Yes, Barnett's faced him three times already. Yes he was released by Zuffa and is a 27-fight losing streak. But if Barnett wins, it gives him another crack at getting a win over Mirko and it's a rematch of the 2006 Pride Openweight GP Final. If Cormier wins, it's another name on his resume before the move. It works.
Ben Thapa: The best way for Strikeforce to handle this after the GP is to shove somebody passable in there for the winner to get a quick payday, while screaming his head off about the people he'd destroy in the UFC - which for either guy would be at least three-quarters of the current UFC roster.
Here's my off the wall idea: Thiago Santos. Yes, the Nutcracker. Or the Really Big Squirrel. I can't decide which is the better nickname. Anyways, Santos actually looked fearsome in his lone Bellator appearance and was then tossed aside like deadwood after missing the heavyweight limit in his schedule bout with Eric Prindle.
To me, Santos presents enough of a challenge that Barnett or Cormier would have to train seriously, but not one that risks taking the shine off the GP winner, whomever it may be.
As an added bonus, poaching Santos from Bellator would send a warning shot across the bow of the upstart promotion. You can't tell me that Coker, White and the other Forza employees wouldn't love to do that.
Dallas Winston: I'm perpetually baffled as to why there isn't an open door between the UFC and Strikeforce, and this is a perfect example for a situation where it makes the most sense.
Since the UFC has plucked all the interesting talent from Strikeforce's roster and heavyweight is the thinnest division overall, the only option is the aforementioned "softball" of an opponent for the Grand Prix winner. Fedor is a great idea -- and I agree that his speed, striking and submissions would still make him a game opponent for either -- but I just don't see it happening.
Overeem and Werdum are legit suggestions because of their history with Strikeforce but, if they're willing to move a UFC heavy over, why not capitalize on the breadth of their talent to make an appealing match up? Big Country, Big Nog and/or Dave Herman would all be interesting potentials, depending, of course, on how the UFC 146 heavyweight extravaganza unfolds. Otherwise we're left with a brand new acquisition or "barely acceptable" choices like Monson, Rizzo, Sylvia, etc.
KJ Gould: I suppose there's always Shane Carwin, if he ever comes back from his various ailments. It's a name Heavyweight with legit stopping power, but beatable by either Barnett or Cormier. I'd definitely prefer that option over the 'Punter of Pereineums', Thiago Santos.