- Brian Knapp
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Alistair Overeem punched his ticket to the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix semifinals but did little to inspire confidence from the buying public.
In a bizarre three-round fight marked by extended periods of inaction and posturing, Overeem claimed a unanimous decision from Fabricio Werdum in the Strikeforce "Overeem vs. Werdum" headliner Saturday at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. The crowd showered the two heavyweights with boos, unleashing their displeasure in a boisterous chorus.
"Fabricio [is] one of [the] best grapplers in the world, so I didn't want to play with him on the ground," said a winded Overeem, who will face Antonio Silva in the grand prix semifinals. "He fought a little bit unpredictably, fighting in the standup. I predicted he would only go for takedowns."
Overeem looked nothing like the Dutch juggernaut who had wiped out his last six opponents inside one round. His strikes were often limited to single shots, as Werdum interrupted his rhythm by pulling guard, shooting for takedowns and punching effectively. By the end of the first period, both men appeared spent, and the pace of the match slowed considerably.
Werdum actually landed more strikes in the 15-minute encounter, but they lacked the sting necessary to overcome his hulking opponent's considerable power advantage. Overeem worked from inside the two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist's guard in Rounds 2 and 3, but Werdum failed to threaten with anything substantial. He trapped Overeem in a loose kneebar in the closing seconds, but the Golden Glory star successfully defended until time ran out.
Barnett choke submits Rogers
Former UFC champion Josh Barnett submitted Brett Rogers with a second-round arm-triangle choke, advancing to the semifinals of the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix. Buried inside the choke, Rogers asked out of the fight 1:17 into Round 2.
"Big ups to Brett," said Barnett (30-5, 1-0 SF), a winner in seven straight bouts. "That guy is a horse. I want to see him back in Strikeforce knocking people out -- just not me."
Barnett, who will face Sergei Kharitonov next, dominated from the start. He struck for a power takedown, hoisting the monstrous Rogers (11-3, 2-3 SF) skyward before planting him on the canvas inside the first minute. Barnett moved immediately to side control and transitioned to mount, where he spent the majority of the last half of the round.
Rogers' situation did not improve between rounds. After absorbing a left hook from Barnett, the Minnesotan engaged in an ill-advised clinch and wound up on his back. Barnett again moved to mount and locked up the fight-ending choke.
"We could talk about fighting in the UFC, about challenging this guy or that guy, but I've still got a tournament to fight," Barnett said. "I'm going to take them down, one by one, until I'm standing on top of a pile of bodies with a pile of gold in my hands."
Masvidal overwhelms Noons, eyes title shot
American Top Team's Jorge Masvidal transformed former EliteXC lightweight champion K.J. Noons into a ghoulish mass of bruises and blood, as he landed perhaps the most significant victory of his career with a unanimous decision in a featured bout at 155 pounds.
All three judges scored it 30-27 for Masvidal (22-6, 4-0 SF), who appears to have moved to the front of the line for a shot at Strikeforce lightweight king Gilbert Melendez.
"K.J. was more aggressive [in the fight]," Masvidal said. "He's a good striker. I'm just a bad style matchup for him. I'm a good counterpuncher."
Masvidal went to a multipronged offensive attack against Noons, blending takedowns with jabs, combinations and thudding knees, one of which opened a nasty gash near his foe's hairline. Masvidal nearly finished it in the first round, as he caught the bloodied Hawaiian with a perfectly timed kick to the side of the head. Noons (10-4, 2-2 SF) fell backwards, visibly stunned, and Masvidal pounced, showering him with punches from above. Somehow, Noons survived.
Rounds 2 and 3 belonged to Masvidal as well, as he raised a grotesque swelling above Noons' eye with a relentless barrage of punches and knees. He delivered multiple takedowns in both rounds, keeping Noons guessing and on the defensive. The defeat was Noons' first as a lightweight in more than four years.
Cormier dominates Monson, stays undefeated
Unbeaten two-time Olympian Daniel Cormier spent 15 minutes putting fist to Jeff Monson's face and cruised to a unanimous decision in a featured heavyweight matchup. All three judges scored it 30-27 for Cormier, who has won eight straight fights to start his professional mixed martial arts career.
Cormier (8-0, 5-0 SF) delivered clean combinations on the rugged Monson throughout their one-sided encounter. His attack featured everything from powerful left hooks to a Superman punch. The 32-year-old American Kickboxing Academy representative kept his world-class wrestling skills on the shelf, choosing instead to lean on heavy power punches and occasional leg kicks. Faced with a younger and superior athlete, the 40-year-old Monson (42-12, 0-1 SF) was on the defensive from Moment 1.
Griggs ground strikes stop Overeem
Griggs (11-1, 3-0 SF) walked through a glancing head kick, pressed the clinch and took Overeem to the mat with a beautiful lateral drop. From there, the 33-year-old firefighter went to work in half guard, forcing Overeem (29-26, 1-1 SF) to roll into a vulnerable position. Unanswered punches from behind brought forth Overeem's tap out.
Eye poke ends Wilcox-Cavalcante in second round
An inadvertent eye poke form Gesias Cavalcante left surging American Kickboxing Academy representative Justin Wilcox unable to compete 31 seconds into the second round of their anticipated lightweight match. The result of the bout was a no-decision.
Wilcox (11-3, 5-1 SF), who entered the cage on the verge of lightweight title contention, made a quick impression, as he bullied Cavalcante to the ground in the first round and later delivered crisp strikes to the head of the two-time K-1 Hero's 154-pound grand prix winner. The right cross found its mark more than once on Cavalcante (15-4-1, 1 NC, 0-1 SF), who sprawled effectively and managed to stay off his back in the first five minutes.
All of their work was rendered moot inside the first minute of Round 2, as Wilcox, in pursuit of the Brazilian, took a violent poke to the left eye and could not see well enough to go forward with the fight.