Let your guard down, GP semifinalists
It didn't carry the same energy or interest as February's first leg, but Strikeforce's world heavyweight grand prix finally returned after a long delay, and that's worth rejoicing. From the four heavyweight quarterfinalists to four tournament alternates, it was an important night in terms of trimming some fat from the division.
Follow us on Twitter
Don't miss a moment of the latest MMA coverage from around the world. Follow us on Twitter and stay informed. Join »
Controversy didn't mark Saturday's card in Dallas, though the decision in the main event can be and should be discussed. Judges awarded it unanimously for Alistair Overeem, and an argument could be made that it was the correct decision. I was on the other side and felt that a 29-28 score in favor of Fabricio Werdum was more appropriate. Either way, it was tremendously close and competitive, and largely decided on whether guard-pulling is a legitimate tactic or, conversely, retreating from the fight. In this case, it was unquestionably smart for Werdum to go after Overeem the way he did.
Perhaps a draw was the way to go. Who wouldn't have wanted to finish the evening with a dramatic and deciding fourth period?
As it is, these grades reflect the fighters' performances, which offered much more good than bad at the American Airlines Center.
Strikeforce GP report card
Daniel Cormier continued his progression with a three-round thumping of veteran Jeff Monson. With speed and precision, Cormier (8-0) offered up punching and kicking combinations we haven't seen before from the two-time Olympic wrestler. At 32, Cormier -- a squat powerhouse a la Fedor Emelianenko -- is off to a late start in MMA, so serious long-term success seems unlikely. It makes sense for him to be matched against Chad Griggs next.
When he's on, as he was Saturday, Jorge Masvidal presents problems for just about any lightweight. When Masvidal (22-6) mixes things up by combining blistering-fast strikes with changed levels and takedowns, watch out. The problem for the 26-year-old Floridian has always been consistency from fight to fight. Winning two in a row at 155 against Billy Evangelista and KJ Noons is impressive. However, Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez is an altogether different challenge.
Chad Griggs never stops, which made him just about the worst possible matchup for notorious quitter Valentijn Overeem. The 33-year-old from Tucson, Ariz., has lined himself up for proper tests, and won't be overlooked anymore. Is he a championship-level heavyweight? I don't think so. Doesn't mean Griggs (11-1) wouldn't give it his best effort, and when that's the case, you never know.
No surprise that Josh Barnett, 33, outclassed Brett Rogers. The former UFC heavyweight champion did exactly what he was expected to do by taking Rogers down early and sewing up a second-round arm-triangle choke. Next up for Barnett (30-5) is Sergei Kharitonov, who won't be so easy to put away.
The current Strikeforce heavyweight champion hit highs and lows during his 15 minutes against Fabricio Werdum. Alistair Overeem, 31, seemed genuinely surprised that Werdum would engage at all on the feet, and took his share of punches. He also dished out a dose of power hooks and good counter knees. Win, lose or draw, the decision would have been debatable. Overeem (35-11) failed to impress many fans, though he'll have another chance later this year against Antonio Silva.
Fabricio Werdum promised another surprise, but it never came. He did, however, force Alistair Overeem into a fight -- albeit a sloppy one in the latter half -- and arguably won the fight. No one enjoys watching fighters that pull guard, but as a tactic, sometimes it's the smartest way to go. In this case, the 33-year-old Werdum (14-5-1) didn't flop to avoid striking with Overeem -- he actually outlanded the Dutchman. He did so because there was no chance of pulling a double- or single-leg takedown. It was crafty, but in the end it not enough.
KJ Noons, 28, fell behind from the opening bell against Jorge Masvidal, whose timing and speed were clear factors in his favor. Many expected a stand-up war, but Noons' inability to stop takedowns meant he was on the defensive for 15 minutes. Cut early, Noons (10-4) was forced to contend with blood in his eyes and, as the fight progressed, knots on his face. It was the worst showing of his career and raises doubts about whether he'll ever work his way into the top 10. Doesn't look good.
Jeff Monson (42-12) took everything Daniel Cormier was willing to dish out, and that was about it. The 40-year-old fighter and submission grappling champion didn't have any answers, save the wherewithal to take punishment.
A big guy with a heavy punch, Brett Rogers isn't much of a mixed martial artist. Once he lost his first fight to Fedor Emelianenko, it's gotten ugly for the 30-year-old Minnesotan. That's three of four on the wrong side of the ledger. No one does very well when stuck underneath Josh Barnett, but Rogers (11-3) showed very little in the way of grappling acumen. Hip escapes back to guard? Nope. All Rogers had was power hip bumps, and they did not work.
This wasn't the first time Valentijn Overeem (31-29) folded. It was an embarrassing display from the elder Overeem, 34, against Chad Griggs -- the kind of performance that would prompt fans to never want to see him again.
Josh Gross covers MMA for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at JoshGrossESPN.
MORE MMA HEADLINES
- Bagautinov out 1 year for failed drug test
- Flyweight contender Dodson (ACL) out for year
- Zingano set for fight vs. Nunes at UFC 178
- Invicta announces Sept. 6 event on Fight Pass
MOST SENT STORIES ON ESPN.COM
- UFC retweeted
- Lorenzo Fertitta retweeted
- UFC retweeted