Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier wasn't the best card ever, but it was pretty decent. Daniel Cormier truly arrived as a top heavyweight with a mostly one-sided victory over Josh Barnett to claim the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, and it will definitely be interesting to see what they do with him next. On the other hand, Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez just barely squeaked by nemesis Josh Thomson in a performance that clearly hurt his stock a bit. Where he goes from here will be just as interesting, and no, it will not be to the UFC.
Let's take a look at the events this evening.
- Barnett said in his post-fight interview that he broke his hand in the first round, which obviously affected him a bit. It's no excuse, but I wonder if things would have gone any differently if that didn't happen. I wasn't exactly enamored with Cormier putting it on cruise control in the fifth, just holding Barnett against the cage and circling away a lot without engaging. I get why, but it still irks me a bit when guys do that.
- Melendez made it clear in the post-fight interview that he was in a no-win situation by taking this fight, and he was 100% right. A finish would have been the only way to really make a statement. Instead, he barely won and was in clear danger at one point. Thomson is crafty and those trips are truly works of art, but there's no way that anyone can call Melendez the number one lightweight in the world after that fight tonight. And a possible fourth fight would be even worse for him.
Much more after the jump.
- The disorganized post-fight interview after Melendez vs. Thomson was all kinds of weird.
- I've always been a fan of Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante, and I'm not quite sure why. He's a nice guy and a tough fighter, and he absolutely blasted Mike Kyle tonight. That knee was deadly and taking that slam while continuing to hold onto the guillotine was excellent. It's pretty clear that Feijao should meet Gegard Mousasi for the vacant Strikeforce light heavyweight title as soon as possible.
- Chris Spang surprised me. After getting handled in his last fight, he took his time early in tonight's bout with Nah-Shon Burrell, then just lit him up when he had him hurt. I couldn't believe how many knees it took to put Burrell down, but it seemed like the ref wasn't going to to stop it until he did. I'm not a big fan of fights getting stopped when a guy is still standing, but that certainly looked like a good time for it.
- Gesias Cavalcante started strong and faded badly late once again. I'm a big JZ fan, but it's pretty clear he's not going to be a top lightweight any longer. Isaac Vallie-Flagg looked pretty good and while I don't think he's going to be fighting Gilbert Melendez soon or anything, he definitely raised his stock with that performance.
- Guto Inocente looks like someone to watch out for in the future. His striking was on point and he absolutely blasted Virgil Zwicker with everything imaginable. Zwicker showed an absolute iron chin and a ton of heart by taking all that and continuing to fire away with his own offense. They both gassed badly and it was sloppy at the end, but that was definitely my favorite fight of the night.
- Gian Villante seems like a natural next opponent for Inocente with his workmanlike win over Derrick Mehmen. He hurt Mehmen twice in the first and looked good in the bout, but it wasn't an overwhelming performance or anything. He didn't really show a lot of killer instinct.
- Yuri Villefort frustrated me. He has a wealth of talent and his submission escapes were really crafty, but he just couldn't stop the takedown. The prospect battle fell kind of flat, and neither looked ready to step up onto a bigger stage.
- I used to like Heidi Androl. I always thought she did a good job on LA Kings broadcasts, but she's absolutely dreadful at handling interviews in Strikeforce. Trying to create drama between Tim Kennedy and Luke Rockhold was awkward, and Ronda Rousey looked like she wanted to hurt her (again). She's got to go.