King Mo, during the
UFC application process post-fight interview. Props: Showtime Sports
Last night, the real story behind “Barnet vs. Kharitonov” had nothing to do with the heavyweight grand prix. It had nothing to do with the middleweight championship of a sinking organization. Last night, as with every other Strikeforce show since the promotion was purchased by Zuffa, was little more than an audition. It was about who will get a UFC contract when Strikeforce goes under, and who will have to go through TUF. The fans knew it, the announcers knew it, going as far as confirming the Belfort vs. Le rumor, and the fighters definitely knew it.
Despite Strikeforce’s best efforts to hype Josh Barnett vs. Sergei Kharitonov as a potentially close fight, we all knew what to expect: A repeat of Kharitonov vs. Monson, except with a far superior version of Jeff Monson. Because of this, it’s hard to be impressed with anything that Josh Barnett does at this point. The tournament’s biggest names and most intriguing matchups for Barnett- Fedor, Werdum and Overeem- were all removed well before last night. Barnett has become such an overwhelming favorite to win that when he wins, he’s simply living up to expectations. He was paired up against an opponent with weak grappling credentials, knew he would dominate the fight once Kharitonov was on the ground, and fought accordingly. At least the tournament was set up so that he would get to face a competent grappler in the finals.
Oh, about that: Looks like the answer to overcoming Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva’s sheer size and strength lies in exploiting that glass chin. Much like he did in his fight with Jeff Monson, Cormier kept the one dimensional grappler standing as often as possible. Although he showed off his wrestling credentials with an occasional takedown, Cormier refused to fight Silva in his comfort zone by forcing the fight to be stood up every time Silva was on his back. That strategy will work against Antonio Silva, but is his striking good enough to do that against Josh Barnett? For that matter, is Josh Barnett’s grappling going to prove too much for Cormier at this point in his career? We’ll have to wait until Cormier recovers from the hand injury he suffered, which will more than likely be early 2012. Assuming that Strikeforce is around at this time, of course.
If there’s one fighter who didn’t seem to realize that last night was an audition, it was “Jacare” Souza. Souza seemed to buy into the nonsense that some people were spewing about how Jacare vs. Anderson Silva would be a fight worth watching, and seemed to believe that as long as he could go the distance against Luke Rockhold, the judges would give him the fight. Yes, it was far closer than the 50-45 fight that some people seemed to believe it was. Yes, Jacare probably should have lost by split decision instead of unanimous decision. But does it really matter? A losing effort, no matter how close, is still a losing effort. Still, give Luke Rockhold the credit that he deserves for his performance last night. After shaking off the cobwebs that come with over a year and a half away from competition during the first round, Luke Rockhold fought like someone who saw the fight for the audition that it was. It’ll be interesting to see who he gets to defend the title against (again, assuming Strikeforce is around long enough for him to do so).
Other than that, King Mo showed that having “good striking for a Gracie” is like being “a good fighter for a professional reporter”, shutting out Roger Gracie’s lights early. Do we even bother angling for a fight against Dan Henderson, or do we just assume that both guys will be in the UFC before the next Strikeforce card? That isn’t rhetorical, comments section. Also, Pat Healy managed to survive Maximo Blanco’s wild strikes- some of which illegal- long enough to spoil Blanco’s hype. Healy sure has a habit of killing the hype for Strikeforce prospects. Let’s see if that translates into a step up in competition for him.
Full results, courtesy of MMAJunkie:
OFFICIAL MAIN CARD RESULTS
Josh Barnett def. Sergei Kharitonov via submission (head-arm triangle choke) – Round 1, 4:28
Daniel Cormier def. Antonio Silva via knockout (strikes) – Round 1, 3:56
Luke Rockhold def. Ronaldo Souza via unanimous decision (50-45, 48-47, 48-47)
Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal def. Roger Gracie via KO (punch) – Round 1, 4:33
Pat Healy def. Maximo Blanco via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 4:24
OFFICIAL PRELIMINARY CARD RESULTS
Mike Kyle def. Marcos Rogerio de Lima via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante def. Yoel Romero via KO (strikes) – Round 2, 4:51
Jordan Mein def. Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos via TKO (strikes) – Round 3, 3:18
Alexis Davis def. Amanda Nunes via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 4:53
Dominique Steele def. Chris Mierzwiak via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 29-27)