Stupid Predictions™: Still Stupid (Strikeforce – Barnett vs. Kharitonov)

Posted: September 6, 2011 in MMA
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Strikforce-Poster

I’m not going to kid you because you probably know this already: Strikeforce’s Grand Prix has lost a ton of its luster. We already have the heavyweight champion, Alistair Overeem out of the tournament despite a victory, and the entire organization is slowly being gutted by Zuffa. Besides the pilfering of their welterweight champion (Nick Diaz) and Jason Miller, and the release of their women’s bantamweight champ, Marloes Coenen, due to a dispute with her management company (Golden Glory), there’s serious talk of Dan Henderson (also a current Strikeforce champion) and Overeem moving to the UFC. The writing’s on the wall, so the stakes for Strikeforce dominance don’t appear to be very high. Also, the prospect of Daniel Cormier and Chad Griggs fighting each other in the finals, a remote possibility, would be quite anticlimactic considering how this tournament looked at the start.

Nevertheless, we do see several matches this Saturday night that are interesting in their own rights, so it’s probably going to be a good watch. Let’s look at the stakes involved in each match, and what either result would bring. Then I’ll say something really stupid: I’ll make a pick.

As always, if Jason Probst publishes his picks, I’ll place them here. He’s been kicking my ass for the past two cards, so I could really use the win.

Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Semifinals #1: Josh Barnett vs. Sergei Kharitonov

At stake for Barnett: Barnett should be the favorite to win this tournament with Overeem gone (and maybe with him still in it), and if he wins it, it’s a big statement as to Barnett’s place in the heavyweight rankings. The big question is whether that will get him a UFC roster spot. He has a bad relationship with Dana White, so there may be nothing he can do to break into an already deep heavyweight division (though he is trying). For this reason, perhaps fans of the UFC should be rooting against Barnett, as this tournament should represent an automatic opportunity for its winner to break into the big league.

At stake for Kharitonov: Who? Right now, Kharitonov is a nobody, but not because he’s a bad fighter. He’s still a solid fighter, and many have referred to him from the start of this Grand Prix as the “dark horse.” Although I’m not betting my money on it, many believe he could be the surprise winner of the tournament. If he loses, though, his status as an unknown, combined with the aforementioned dispute between the UFC and Kharitonov’s management company (Golden Glory), will almost certainly result in his release. Because he’s a decent fighter, this is yet another reason to root against Barnett in this fight, but that’s for you to decide yourselves.

The analysis: Barnett is just too good here, being slightly shorter yet heavier. He’ll crowd Kharitonov, and that will take the Russian out of his game. It’s just a matter of time before Barnett takes Kharitonov to the ground, where Barnett will overwhelm him.

The stupid pick: Barnett by stoppage. If it’s a choke, Kharitonov will probably choose to go unconscious rather than tap.
The Probst pick: Barnett by submission in the third round.

Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Semifinals #2: Daniel Cormier vs. Antonio Silva

I think Fedor is ...

At stake for Silva: If you beat Fedor, you should be pretty good, unless Fedor has lost his edge. (Yes, it’s a tired argument as to which is true.) If Silva wins, he’s on quite a roll, and if he gets the chance to win this tournament, as I said above, it means quite a bit towards whether he’ll eventually get the call to move over to the UFC. If he loses, will we finally have our our answer as to both Silva and Fedor? Will the discussion about Fedor end? Probably not.

At stake for Cormier: This is a no-lose situation for Cormier. It’s a chance to test himself in a fight he’s not expected to win. If he loses, it’s not a big deal for his career, but if he wins, it’s a huge deal for his career, and the chance to do it again at either Barnett or Kharitonov.

The analysis: Silva is foolishly allowing himself to be distracted by Chael Sonnen’s tweeting, which Silva actually started. Nevertheless, Cormier isn’t ready yet. He has present and potential skills but hasn’t been tested against the top brass of the division. Hopefully, the loss won’t be too discouraging.

The stupid pick: “Bigfoot” Silva by KO/TKO
The Probst pick: Silva by either a late submission or technical knockout in the third round.

Strikeforce Middleweight Championship: Luke Rockhold vs. Ronaldo Souza

At stake for both fighters: Winning a fight. Nothing more than that. As I discussed above, the Strikeforce Middleweight Championship probably means very little at this point with Zuffa likely gutting the organization.

The analysis: This is a tough pick. Souza has twice as much experience (14-2 with 1 no contest), but Rockhold is a more-than-respectable 7-1, finishing every fight he’s won. When you compare the level of competition, though, and combine that with “Jacare’s” experience advantage, you’re given no choice but to pick Souza.

The stupid pick: Souza by close decision.
The Probst pick: Souza by second-round submission.

Muhammed Lawal vs. Roger Gracie

At stake for Lawal: He hasn’t fought in a while. If he wins, he’s back, and it sets up a match against Dan Henderson unless Dan runs to the UFC to fight Anderson Silva. With Chael Sonnen fighting Brian Stann for the #1 contender spot and next fight against Silva, the UFC might not feel the need to grab Henderson just yet, giving Lawal that opportunity. So, keep an eye out on this fight and the Sonnen-Stann fight (and its aftermath) to see what’s going to happen. If Lawal loses, he has two primary excuses: ring rust and Gracie’s status as an up-and-coming fighter. A loss won’t hurt Lawal much at all, especially if Henderson leaves for the UFC anyway. On the other hand, kicking people when they’re down is a potential problem for his image. Apparently, he disagrees.

At stake for Gracie: His status as an up-and-coming fighter and, as always, his family’s name. I don’t believe any fighter’s performance speaks for any other fighter’s performance, but try to tell that to a Gracie. If he wins, he maintains that status, deservedly or not, but if he loses, he’ll be accused of being given more than he deserves simply because of his name (again, deservedly or not).

At stake for the fight world: Fair or unfair, this fight is another win or loss in the never ending battle between wrestling and submission fighting. “Which style is better? Find out, this Saturday!” (Not really.)

The stupid pick: Lawal by decision.
The Probst pick: Lawal by unanimous decision.

The rest of the card follows (picks in boldface):

Pat Healy vs. Maximo Blanco (Probst: Blanco by clear-cut decision.)
Yoel Romero Palacio vs. Rafael Cavalcante (Probst: Palacio by unanimous decision.)
Marcos Rogerio de Lima vs. Mike Kyle (Probst: No pick.)
Evangelista Santos vs. Jordan Mein (Probst: Mein by explosive knockout in the second round.)
Amanda Nunes vs. Alexis Davis (Probst: No pick.)
Chris David Mierzwiak vs. Dominique Steele (no pick) (Probst: No pick.)

There are some good names in there, so even the undercard should be a good watch.

Follow me on Twitter @MMADork
Follow Strikeforce on Twitter @Strikeforce
Follow Josh Barnett on Twitter @JoshLBarnett
Follow Sergei Kharitonov on Twitter @sergeikhar (unverified, and little-used, account)
Follow Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva on Twitter @BigfootSilva
Follow Daniel Cormier on Twitter @dc_mma
Follow Luke Rockhold on Twitter @rockholdMMA
Follow Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza on Twitter if you can find him there. I couldn’t.
Follow Muhammed Lawal on Twitter @KingMoFH
Follow Roger Gracie on Twitter @rogergracie, or don’t. He has a single tweet on there that’s almost 1 year old.

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