If you had told me 16 months ago that the Strikeforce 2011-2012 Heavyweight Grand Prix would conclude with an unheralded reserve-fighter ending up in the finals, and tournament favorite Alistair Overeem nowhere to be seen due to promotional poaching and a subsequent drug-test scandal, I would have said “Yeah, that sounds about right, actually.”
The good news is, Josh Barnett vs. Daniel Cormier is a hell of a matchup — a classic generational battle between a battle-tested old veteran and a hungry up-and-comer. (As it turns out, Barnett is only like a year-and-a-half older than Cormier, but work with me here.) Also on the main card: Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson fight for Strikeforce’s lightweight title for the third time, while light-heavyweights Mike Kyle and Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante throw down in a rematch of their own.
Handling the play-by-play for the tonight’s Showtime broadcast of Strikforce: Barnett vs. Cormier is our own Elias Cepeda, who will be posting live results after the jump starting at 10 p.m. ET. Refresh the page every few minutes for all the latest, and let us know how you feel in the comments section. You ready for war? Because guys, we are always ready for war.
We are live!
Nah-Shon Burrell vs. Chris Spang
Round 1 – Spang is taking this one on short notice. Let’s see how ready he is for the opportunity. Spang with an overhand right, Burrell counters with a hook. Spang pushing forward, leading with the jab and looking for more hook counters.
Spang lands a huge head kick but Burrell seems unfazed somehow. He throws punches, most land only glancingly. Spang pushes Burrell against the cage. On separation Spang lands a couple more punches.
Burrell lands an uppercut, straight combo. Spang drops Burrell with a left hook. Burrell gets back to his feet but he’s clearly hurt. Spang unleashes knee after knee to the head from the Thai plum. Spang punches on separation then grabs the plum again and drops Burrell once more. He dives in for some ground strikes and referee Josh Rosenthal steps in to stop the fight.
Chris Spang with the first round TKO win.
Rafael Feijao Cavalcante vs. Mike Kyle
Rematch from three years ago. Back in ’09, Big Cavalcante got TKO’d by Kyle.
Round 1 – It doesn’t take long for Cavalcante to get his revenge on Kyle. Feijao throws an overhand right that misses, but after Kyle ducks low to avoid it, the Brazilian capitalizes and lands a knee to the head that drops Kyle and when “Mak” gets back to his feet, Cavalcante locks on a guillotine choke, jumps guard and, after a fight, Kyle taps out 33 seconds into the round.
Feijao by first round tap out.
Strikeforce 185lb champ Luke Rockhold and Tim Kennedy get interviewed because they are going to throw down July 14th. Luke implies that Kennedy has been ducking him. Kennedy compliments Rockhold, then threatens to twitter punk him tonight if given the opportunity. As we know, Kennedy is a dangerous man on twitter.
Gilbert Melendez vs. Josh Thomson III
Round 1 – Both men start out fast, moving in and out, exchanging flurries of punches. A minute and a half in, Gilbert scores the takedown. Thomson immediately starts to work his way up to his feet, cage walking against the fence.
Thomson gets back up and free. Gilbert stalking Thomson. They clinch and Gilbert lands a hard knee to the body. They free back up. Thomson switching up his stance repeatedly. Gilbert paws with the jab, both feeling each other out.
Thomson throws a body kick that is blocked. He throws another that is caught by Gilbert. He uses it to take down Thomson. Thomson swivels to inverted guard and promptly gets a hammer fist to the face. Horn sounds.
Round 2 – They are back at it again, swinging hard, mostly missing. Thomson throws a head kick that is blocked. Gilbert walks Thomson into the cage, scoring with multiple body shots. Thomson circles out.
Gilbert leading with the pawing jab and trying to follow with a hard right but Thomson gets out of the way. Thomson charges forward with punches but misses.
Gilbert lands an uppercut. Thomson gets hit with a punch but apparently also with an eye poke. It buckles him, he gets time to recover. Thomson lands with a cross but Gilbert lands another uppercut. He seems to hurt Thomson. Josh doesn’t back down but Gilbert gets another takedown.
He has Thomson against the cage and Josh is attempting to walk his way back to his feet. He gets up and Gilbert throws a flurry of punches at him as soon as he does. Under ten seconds left and Josh shoots for a takedown. He doesn’t get it, as Gilbert uses elbows to the side of the head to defend. Horn sounds.
Round 3 – Gilbert throws two wide hooks that land, shoots for a takedown. Thomson defends and charges forward, landing a punch combo flush to the face of Gilbert. Thomson shoots and gets stuffed.
Uppercut from Thomson lands clean on Melendez. Gilbert responds with his own uppercut. Thomson throws Melendez to the ground but Gilbert rolls backwards and stays away from Thomson. He’s back up to his feet.
Gilbert with an uppercut to the body of Josh. From the clinch Gilbert lands several hard uppercuts to the jaw of Josh. Thomson responds by charging forward. Gilbert’s right eye is starting to swell. Thomson says he’s gotten poked in the eye again but gets back to action right away.
Round 4 - Thomson opens the round with another high kick that is blocked by Gilbert. Gilbert triples up on the jab and finishes with the overhand right. Thomson lands a huge right hand, throws another high kick that is mostly blocked. Gilbert lands his own big punch on Thomson.
Melendez has had enough of this and lands another double leg take down. He’s pressing Thomson against the fence, Josh gets back up to his feet. Gilbert lands a one-two punch combo. Thomson throwing the push kick and circles out.
Gilbert shoots for another double leg off of a jab lead. Thomson defends well. Melendez lands an elbow on separation. They are back standing in free range.
Melendez’ right eye is bleeding more. Thomson tries to use his own jab. Josh throws but whiffs on a four punch combo. Thomson with a trip takedown on Melendez and some nice straight punches to the grounded Gilbert.
Thomson in Gilbert’s full guard. Melendez sits up turtles up and Thomson takes his back. Under a minute left and Josh has Gilbert’s back, working for the rear naked choke. Thomson switches to a short choke grip. Melendez is in deep water but gets his chin back under the grip. Melendez stands, tries to shuck Thomson off of him.
Josh has the back still as the horn sounds.
Round 5 – Thomson is psyched at the start of the round – bounces up and down, nodding and smiling at Gilbert. Melendez with a short hook to Josh’s head. Thomson fires back, Melendez shoots and scores another double leg take down. Josh gets back up to his feet fast.
Gilbert has an egg swelling over his left eye now. Thomson lands a right punch. Thomson lands a right hook and uppercut in close range. Gilbert lands a stiff jab. Thomson lands a straight right, followed by a four-strike punch and kick combo. Thomson shoots for a take down and gets stuffed.
Thomson says he’s gotten poked again and gets time. Doesn’t take much, though, and they are back in action. Gilbert lands a left hook to the head of Thomson. Josh charges forward with a punch and knee combo but mostly misses. One minute left in this war.
Gilbert shoots for a double and gets stuffed. Thomson lands two more punches on the feet. Thomson lands another trip take down with thirty seconds left.
Gilbert is in full guard, throwing rabbit punches. Thomson staying safe, crowding Gilbert. Thomson throws three elbows to end the round.
Decision time is next!
Judges score it 48-47 Thomson, 48-47 Melendez, 48-47 Melendez. Split decision win for Gilbert Melendez. Split crowd, half cheers, half boos. Thomson is irate.
Even so, Thomson is all class telling the crowd, “Please don’t boo Gilbert. He’s one of the best fighters, if not the best fighter in the world.”
Thomson calls for a fourth fight, the crowd wants it too. Gilbert says, “yeah, sure, whatever,” before giving his teammate Nate Diaz props, calling him the next lightweight champion of the UFC.
Daniel Cormier vs. Josh Barnett
Round 1 – Barnett pumps the double jab out sharply right away. Cormier lands his own jab now. Barnett throwing fast but Cormier throws three for every one punch Barnett can
Cormier goes to the body and head with combos. Barnett getting tagged but is unfazed. Cormier not eager to look for take downs at all, seems completely comfortable on the feet. Cormier begins to find his range with the right cross. Barnett lands his own punches now.
Cormier still doubling Barnett’s shots. Barnett catches a kick from Cormier and throws a right cross that lands and hurts Cormier. Barnett follows with a knee that hurts Cormier further. Cormier grimaces but gets his composure back and presses Barnett against the cage.
Barnett does not give up and closes with his own flurry of strikes. Cormier is bleeding but landed twice the strikes.
Round 2 – Barnett returns with his jab. Cormier starting to finish up his punch combos with leg kicks. Barnett backs Cormier up with punches, Cormier throws a knee. Cormier lands a hard short upper cut. Barnett returns with a straight cross. Cormier lands a huge combo to the head and body.
Cormier shoots for and gets a single leg take down, halfway through the round. Cormier in Barnett’s full guard. Cormier is smothering and posturing, throwing the occasional punches. Cormier starts to open up with forearm and elbow strikes. Barnett shoots a triangle choke but gets shrugged off by Barnett. Barnett fires an arm bar attempt into a leg lock attempt. Cormier defends it all and returns fire with more elbows.
Barnett’s face is a bloody mask with thirty seconds left. Cormier ends the round hammering away with punches.
Round 3 – Barnette backs Cormier up once again. Cormier lands a counter right from in close. Barnett shoots for a single and then double leg take down. Cormier defends and circles away from the cage. Barnett with an inside leg kick.
Cormier shoots for a single leg then switches to a high crotch take down and lifts Barnett up into the air and slams him into the ground. He lands in side mount on Barnett. Barnett looks to be in trouble from side control but gets up to his feet.
Cormier lands an overhand right then a left hand. Cormier lands another right hand, Barnett lands his own. Cormier shoots for a single leg but gets dedended.
Cormier lands a head kick that hurts Barnett. Cormier follows up with knees to the head. Barnett is hurt but returns fire with his back to the cage. Cormier circles and Barnett’s back while standing. Round ends in that position.
Round 4 – Barnett is bloodied but still opens up the round attacking. He backs up Cormier with feints and jabs. Cormier weaves to his right to avoid a jab and runs right into a knee from Barnett. Cormier lands a left hook.
Nice left-right combo from Barnett. Left lead high kick from Cormier lands. Right high kick from Cormier lands! Barnett closes the distance and pushes Cormier against the cage. Cormier circles out and gets back to the center of the cage.
Barnett lands a right lead punch. Jab-hook combo from Cormier. Cormier shoots in and then pops up and lands a right hand, then changes levels again and lands a take down. Barnett immediately rolls for a leg lock and looks to have Cormier in trouble but the wrestler turns and burns and gets out of danger.
Cormier is in Barnett’s full guard, lands a short elbow. Barnett works for a kimura shoulder locked but is shrugged off by Cormier. Referee stands them up.
Another left jab feint into knee to the head from Barnett to Cormier. Round ends with Barnett pressing Cormier against the cage.
Round 5 – Barnett walks down Cormier and throws a body kick. He follows up with a push kick. Quick break for referee Josh Rosenthal to dry up some water on the mat that Cormier points out.
Barnett presses Cormier against the fence once they get back at it. Knee to the head, straight right combo from Barnett. Left high kick from Cormier blocked by Barnett.
Cormier lands a one-two punch combo on the stalking Barnett. Cormier ducks under a spinning back fist from Barnett, takes him down. Barnett gets back to his feet but is lifted and nearly slammed again by Cormier. Barnett stays on his feet again, almost immediately.
One minute left. Cormier has a left under hook on Barnett, pressing him against the cage. Barnett gets double under hooks but still has his back pressed against the cage with thirty seconds left. Cormier gets his left under hook back in. Ten seconds left and they are in free standing. Cormier is content to just run away the final seconds.
The horn sounds and Cormier raises his hands. What a great, competitive and brutal fight between the two heavies but Cormier likely won all five rounds.
Decision time is next.
We finally have a Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix champion. Daniel Cormier wins a unanimous decision. Scores were 49-46, 50-45 and 50-45 in favor of Cormier.
An emotional Cormier says that “It means everything to beat somebody like Josh Barnett. I’ve lost a lot of people in my life. This is for all of them…this means the world to me.”
Barnett says that he “broke the ever living crap out of my hand against Daniel in the first round…I was going to make him earn this…today Daniel was better.”
That’s it, folks. Great night of fights, thanks for cage surfing with us.