If there was some skepticism toward Cormier after his impressive win over Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva (Bad matchup for Bigfoot, bad night for Bigfoot, Bigfoot hadn’t really beaten anyone outside of Andrei Arlovski and Fedor Emelianenko), it has to be out the window now.
While I didn’t doubt Cormier could beat Barnett, I think we all kind of expected that some kind of intangible factor would go Barnett’s way (Craftiness?) that would make it a close fight or maybe even allow Barnett to beat someone who appeared to be a fairly bad style matchup for him.
Kept on the defensive and often on his back by Cormier, Barnett was able to mount a little offense, but still dropped every round in the opinion of two of the three judges and just about every MMA media member that watched the fight. When Barnett went for a sub, as with the heel hook attempt in the fourth round, Cormier escaped, unfazed. When Barnett tried to strike, Cormier limited the damage with movement and counters. Then, there was Cormier’s wrestling, which was every bit as good as advertised.
Cormier would appear to be a great fit for the top of the UFC heavyweight division, although he will have to let his hand heal and waste his time for one more bout in the Strikeforce cage before he can sign with the UFC. Hopefully, Barnett will join him, as he would make a nice addition to the upper echelon that exists right outside of the title picture, along with quality fighters like Frank Mir, Roy Nelson, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and so on.
Say It Ain’t So
The title of this section is my own personal thoughts on a possible fourth fight between Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson. I understand that it is hard for people to swallow when a challenger wins the championship rounds, but does not win the belt because he dropped the first three. However, let’s not get crazy here. These guys have already fought three times, Josh did his best this last time out, and it should be over with now.
Melendez has more to do (preferably outside of Strikeforce), and to me it reeked of desperation when the announce team was alternatively salivating over the fight and anticipating yet another matchup between the two. You don’t say, guys? You actually want one of the last remaining draws in the promotion you work for- a promotion that would be on life support at best with the loss of more marquee fighters- to stay with the organization and fight another ultimately meaningless fight? Why would that be? Well, you don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to know that something smells funny there.
It was a good bout, mainly because Thomson was in shape, appeared to be healthy, and fought one of the better fights of his career. But let’s get serious here, people. You can’t keep saying Melendez is the number one lightweight in the world while lobbying for him to have a fourth freaking fight with a guy who hasn’t been ranked in the top ten in YEARS. It’s ridiculous.
And yes, Melendez didn’t look that great. I still think he’s deserving of a spot among the top five in the division, though. Does this affirm my belief that he was not the top lightweight in the world? Sure, it does. However, Thomson matches up well with Melendez and simply was on top of his game, which meant Melendez was going to have a tough go at it. I wouldn’t say he drops in the rankings or anything because of the somewhat disappointing performance. Thomson fought out of his mind, that’s all.
–Wow, did Nah-Shon Burrell look crappy on Saturday night, or what? Chris Spang is no world beater, but his aggressive approach and Burrell’s lackadaisical effort together ultimately did Burrell in. Spang does have upside that I’d estimate at future UFC roster member, although I don’t expect him to crack the top ten or anything like that at any point. Burrell certainly disappointed Strikeforce, as I think they really expected him to get the “W” and impress us all in this one.
–How far has Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante dropped in recent years? Well, since being in everybody’s top ten after a great win over Vitor “Shaolin” Ribeiro in 2007, he has slowed down considerably. He’s gone 2-4 in his last eight fights, along with two no contests (one when he injured Shinya Aoki with illegal elbows and one when he poked Justin Wilcox in the eye). Now, he loses to the mostly unheralded Isaac Vallie-Flagg. Hey, maybe Vallie-Flagg will go on to become an elite fighter and this will just be one of the milestones along the way. I think it is more likely, though, that Cavalcante just doesn’t have it and lacks the consistency to be an elite lightweight himself.
Movin’ On Up Award
I wouldn’t normally bestow this to the best heavyweight in a promotion’s entire division, but if you look at Daniel Cormier’s career in terms of the big picture, he moved up quite a bit with a great performance against Josh Barnett. Now when he goes to the UFC, he will likely step right into either a title eliminator or perhaps a title shot right off the bat.
Beautiful Loser Award
Again, when you win the last two rounds of a championship fight against the champ himself, that’s pretty damn good. It’s unfortunate for Josh Thomson that the clock ran out of him, and you have to wonder if he doesn’t wish he showed a little more urgency in the first three rounds now. Nonetheless, he looked better than he has in years on Saturday night.
Holy $#!% Award
The best qualifier for this esteemed award would have to be Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante, who dismissed all talk of an upset with a huge right knee to the facial region of the hard-hitting Mike Kyle just seconds into their bout, then seized up a standing guillotine before pulling guard to finish the job in just 33 seconds during their bout.
Tags: Chris Spang, Daniel Cormier, Gesias Cavalcante, Gilbert Melendez, Isaac Vallie-Flagg, Josh Barnett, Josh Thomson, Mike Kyle, Nah-Shon Burrell, Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante, Strikeforce, Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier