Thursday, January 19, 2012

Strikeforce Heavyweights: How they’ll fare in the UFC

When I heard the news that Strikeforce was getting rid of its heavyweight division, I was equal bits confused and excited. Confused because I thought to myself “If Zuffa wants to keep Strikeforce around, why would they disband a roster that was one of the best the organization had?” However, that’s what led to the excitement. With more high-caliber heavyweights entering the UFC ranks, it ensures the most competitive and entertaining bouts we’ve seen in that division for a while. Here’s how I think they’ll fare:

Lavar Johnson – Coming off two loses, this was one of the more surprising acquisitions. However, that’s not to say it’s not a smart one. Johnson is an athletic heavyweight with big power in his strikes. He’s finished all 15 of his wins by stoppage, never once going to decision. He’s also been stopped before it hit the scorecards in each of his five loses. Still, his “kill or be killed” fighting style will be sure to win over UFC fans. Expect some big action when he takes on Joey Beltran on the undercard of the next UFC on Fox. Look for Johnson to be booked in entertaining slugfests, but a title shot doesn’t look to be in his crystal ball.

Chad Griggs – The man with the best sideburns in MMA makes a well-deserved leap to the big show. The former IFL vet was brought in to basically be a feeder to up-and-coming former pro-wrestler Bobby Lashley. However, that all changed when Girggs battered Lashley en route to a stoppage victory at the end of the 2nd round. He then reeled off consecutive 1st round stoppage victories over touted prospect (at least at the time) Gian Villante and The Reem’s big brother, Valentijn Overeem. It won’t get any easier for Griggs, as his first UFC foe will be undefeated, hard-hitting Travis Browne at UFC 145. Griggs has the skills and confidence to make some noise, but is he too small for the bigger heavyweights?

Shawn Jordan – A solid up-and-comer who has seen action in both Bellator and Strikeforce. After losing his Strikeforce debut to Devin Cole, he rebounded and impressed with a submission victory over Lavar Johnson. It will be a battle of prospects when he faces British-based Oli Thompson at UFC on FX 2. I really haven’t seen too much of Jordan to make a fair assessment on him other than the Johnson fight, so I guess I’ll see, as we all will, how he will pan out in the UFC.

Shane del Rosario – This was one I’m really excited about. After a car accident derailed the rest of his 2011 (and a potential match with Daniel Cormier, which would have been awesome), del Rosario was on a tear. He’s 11-0, all by stoppage, with 10 of them coming in the 1st round. He’s got great muay thai, and a good submission game as well, proving that by submitting Brandon Cash with an omaplata (I know you might be wondering who Brandon Cash is…but still, its and oma-freaking-plata!). At 28 years old, he has the skills and the time to really make some noise in the UFC heavyweight division.

Fabricio Werdum – Werdum went 2-2 in is initial UFC run. After losing to Andrei Arlovski in a fight that looked scarily similar to his snoozer with Alistair Overeem, he bested Gabriel Gonzaga and Brandon Vera by TKO. Then, he suffered a loss to a young prospect by the name of Junior dos Santos. It was considered an upset at the time, as many thought Werdum was in-line for a title shot. However, as we’ve all seen, that loss looks a lot less shocking now. After two wins in Strikeforce, Werdum did some shocking of his own, as he became the first man to legitimately beat Fedor Emelianenko. With one triangle choke, Werdum ended the mystique of the unbeatable Russian, and boosted his own stock as well. Things won’t be easy for him in his UFC return, as he faces Roy Nelson at UFC 134 in February. With his excellent ground game and ever-improving strikes, Werdum can give a lot of top contenders fits. However, I don’t think he has what it takes to be a champion with guys like dos Santos and Overeem lurking.

Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva – Silva’s record is 16-3. He compiled impressive wins in Elite XC, World Victory Road, and Strikeforce. People really began to notice when he was able to ground and pound Fedor out of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix via Doctor’s Stoppage at the end of round 2 in their February bout. He’s strong, has good strikes, and has a great ground game, especially for a guy his size…but here’s why he won’t make a huge impact in the UFC: he’s way too slow. He made Daniel Cormier look like Manny Pacquiao, and let’s not forget that this is the same “Bigfoot” Silva was dropped and in a lot of trouble against MIKE KYLE! Yes, the journeyman Mike Kyle who now fights at light-heavyweight. The common denominator is that they were both much quicker than Silva. And if Cormier and Kyle were able to get Silva into trouble, image what Cain Velasquez could do to him. If the rumored bout does come to fruition, expect it to look a lot like Cormier vs. Silva, except a lot more painful.

Alistair Overeem – His debut already happened, but, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, I’m glad he’s there. By demolishing Brock Lesnar, The Reem has proved he is worthy to be a top contender in the UFC. He’s proved me wrong a lot recently. I thought he’d be a middle-of-the-pack heavyweight. Wrong. I thought Cro Cop would knock his head off. Wrong, he was thoroughly dominant until the accidental groin strike. His win over Badr Hari was a fluke, there’s no way he’d even come close to smelling a K-1 Title. Wrong. Brett Rogers and Todd Duffee should give him a good challenge. Wrong and wrong, he decimated them both. Werdum and Brock have the kind of styles to give Alistair fits…you get the picture. At this point, I’m finally starting to drink some of The Reem’s Kool-Aide. Say what you want about whether his physique is real or not, but the fact remains that he is a powerful and technically sound Dutch muay thai specialist with an ever-improving ground game and takedown defense. He has truly evolved and become a legitimate top-5, if not top-3, heavyweight. The upcoming title fight between Overeem and dos Santos is going to be HUGE. No pun intended.

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