Report by Thomas Gerbasi, Strikeforce.com
Antonio “Big Foot” Silva and Sergei Kharitonov got company in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix semifinals, as Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett both moved closer to the tournament title with wins Saturday night at American Airlines Center.
Overeem earned a date with Silva by decisioning Fabricio Werdum, while Barnett defeated Brett Rogers to move on to a meeting with Kharitonov.
Overeem vs. Werdum
In the main event, Overeem avenged his 2006 PRIDE loss to Werdum via unanimous decision.
Scores were 30-27 twice, and 29-28 for Overeem, who ups his record to 35-11 with 1 NC. Werdum falls to 14-5-1.
Werdum missed a wild head kick to start the bout, and he continued to try to surprise Overeem with his strikes until trying for three takedowns and being rebuffed each time. Attempts four and five were pushed away as well by a smiling Overeem, who calmly waited for his moment to strike. Midway through the round, Werdum pulled Overeem to the mat, but the Netherlands knockout artist quickly rose. As the round progressed, Overeem manhandled Werdum, first with a left hook and then with a throw to the mat. Each time, Werdum tried to goad him into following him to the mat, but Overeem was not biting.
The fighters traded knees as the second opened, and Werdum was showing no fear of Overeem, even rocking him briefly with a right knee to the head. After a brief foray to the mat, Werdum got up slow and appeared to be limping. Overeem followed up with a combination of strikes that dropped the Brazilian, and this time Overeem did follow him to the mat, but only for a few seconds, as his corner implored him to get up. Each ensuing exchange saw Werdum dragging his foe to the mat, with boos following as the action stalled.
Coming out swinging and firing knees, Werdum made every effort to turn the tide. Every return bomb from Overeem led “Vai Cavalo” to seek refuge on the mat though, and the crowd didn’t like it. This strategy was baffling, since Werdum was having success on the feet with the K-1 Grand Prix champion, but he didn’t deviate from his plan. With 90 seconds left, the crowd began chanting “Stand them up,” but to no avail. With 30 seconds left, the two stood and Werdum again scored well, even going for a late submission before the bell sounded. It wasn’t enough though, as Overeem moved on to the semifinals.
Rogers vs. Barnett
Former UFC heavyweight champion and PRIDE star Barnett had little difficulty with the overmatched Brett Rogers, submitting him in the second round. See post-fight interview
Not surprisingly, Barnett got the bout to the mat early, slamming Rogers in the first 30 seconds. After Rogers put up some resistance, Barnett got into the mount position midway through the round, but “Da Grim” wouldn’t give his foe the opening he needed to finish the bout, instead holding on for dear life as the time ticked away on the round.
A quick exchange between the two big men in the opening seconds of the second led to another Barnett takedown, and again he got into the mount position. This time, Barnett wouldn’t be denied, and an arm triangle choke forced Rogers to tap at 1:17 of the round.
With the win, Barnett improves to 30-5; Rogers falls to 11-3.
Noons vs. Masvidal
In a clash between lightweight contenders, Jorge Masvidal shocked KJ Noons, putting on a counterstriking clinic en route to a three round unanimous decision win. See post-fight interview
Scores were 30-27 across the board for Masvidal, who improves to 22-6 while making a case for a shot at Strikeforce lightweight boss Gilbert Melendez.
Noons (9-3) was the aggressor as the bout got underway, but Masvidal’s counters – both punching and with his knees – were rock-solid, eventually leading to a takedown two minutes in. After a short spell on the mat, Noons got back to his feet, but he was soon bleeding from his hairline, and the blood was visibly bothering him as Masvidal potshotted him with quick jabs to the face. With 30 seconds left, Masvidal dropped his foe with a right kick to the head, and proceeded to pound away for the rest of the round, but Noons survived.
Masvidal’s crisp shots left Noons’ forehead with a huge knot, and two takedowns made matters worse. Midway through the round, Noons got back to his feet and began pressing again, but Masvidal couldn’t miss with his shots to the head and body. With less than a minute remaining. Noons finally saw some daylight with some ground strikes, but when Masvidal got back to his feet, he finished the round with a flush knee to the head.
Bloody, but unbowed, Noons kept pressing in the third round as Masvidal’s work rate dropped. A takedown in the second half of the final stanza got him back on the board, and his control on the mat in those last few ticks of the clock sealed the victory.
Cormier vs. Monson
Rising heavyweight star Daniel Cormier stepped up when he needed to against longtime heavyweight contender Jeff Monson, ultimately scoring the most impressive win of his young career as he shut out “The Snowman” over three rounds. See post-fight interview
Scores were 30-27 across the board for Cormier, who improves to 8-0 as a pro.
Cormier was remarkably cool and composed in his biggest fight to date, and while he controlled all the close quarters grappling, it was his standup which was the true revelation, as he bloodied and bruised Monson’s face with thudding and punishing punches throughout the opening stanza.
Monson began to tag Cormier with hard shots in the second round, but they had little effect on the two-time Olympian, whose return fire was just as effective. With a little over a minute remaining, Cormier whipped off a flurry to the body and head that ignited the crowd, adding more points to his side of the ledger before the end of the frame.
The former UFC heavyweight title challenger continued to eat more leather as the third round opened, and while Monson (42-12) would throw back the occasional haymaker, there was no question that Cormier was the one on the verge of a stoppage win if he could put together the right series of shots. And while he didn’t get the finish, he did put together a massive win over a top level foe to propel himself to the next stage of his promising career.
Overeem vs. Griggs
Heavyweight Chad Griggs put a sudden end to Valentijn Overeem’s night in the main card opener, using a barrage of ground strikes to score a first round TKO victory.
After narrowly avoiding a swooping kick to the head, Griggs closed the distance and began mauling the veteran at close range. The bout soon strayed to the canvas, and after Overeem fell short on a kimura attempt, Griggs found enough room to start firing off punches to the face. After a series of unanswered blows, referee Kerry Hatley called a halt to the bout at the 2:08 mark.
With the win, Griggs ups his record to 11-1; Overeem falls to 29-26.
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