When Strikeforce and Showtime announced they had signed an extension that would effectively place the promotion on the premium channel until 2014, Scott Coker dropped a big chunk of news — the Strikeforce heavyweight division would be killed following the Heavyweight Grand Prix. The reasoning is that there just isn’t enough depth at the highest levels of the division and the heavyweights would be better suited in the UFC. With Chad Griggs and Fabricio Werdum announced as UFC bound, let’s take an honest look at the Strikeforce heavyweight division and see how they’d fare in the UFC. All heavyweights will be taken from Strikeforce’s official website.
Antonio Silva: Bigfoot is coming off one of the most tumultuous of his career. He picked up a humongous win over Fedor Emelianenko, where he brutalized the Russian on the ground forcing the doctor to stop the fight in between the second and third rounds. Silva is a black belt in both judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu so he has the grappling skills to be dangerous against anyone yet also has the physical traits to be a monster on the feet. He’s only faced defeat three times in his career, two coming by way of TKO. Silva could be a force in the mid-tier of the division like Cheick Kongo. The loss to Daniel Cormier creates suspicion in his ability to defeat a speedy boxer.
Chad Griggs: “Griggs! You’re getting too old for this stuff!” Chad Griggs may be the feel good story of 2010 and 2011 but at 33 and fighting on a regular basis for the first time since 2007, it may just be a case of it being too late for the muttonchopped mauler. His ability to take a punch should be commended as should his victory over Bobby Lashley, halting all talks that Lashley would be propelled to the top of the division. He’s only suffered one loss in his career while in the IFL but his strength of schedule is terrible. His biggest win is over Gian Villante who was an undersized heavyweight and still hasn’t developed as a light heavyweight. He’ll fight the Rob Broughton’s of the UFC but he’ll never be a player in the heavyweight division.
Daniel Cormier: Along with Josh Barnett, DC may be the biggest pick up for the UFC out of this entire deal. Former Olympic team captain, undefeated as a heavyweight, and heavy hands all make Cormier an interesting piece in the restructuring. Cormier has legitimate “world class” wrestling and has been successful at the highest levels. He’s a little undersized for a heavyweight but his speed and footwork allow him to stand with anyone in the cage. Following his win over Antonio Silva in the semi-finals of the Heavyweight Grand Prix, fans and media made comparisons to Fedor. Cormier’s age may be an issue as will his unwillingness to face Cain Velasquez but he’ll be an immediate contender in the UFC’s HW division.
Josh Barnett: Josh’s return to the UFC isn’t guaranteed. Dana White has said time and time again that he’ll never be in the Josh Barnett business ever again. For a while I was on this band wagon. It’s not that I had anything wrong with Barnett as a fighter, I just hated his inability to accept responsibility for his own actions. He faces Daniel Cormier in March or April for the grand prix finals. He’ll likely need to win to secure a UFC contract. If he does get past Cormier and is brought over he’ll likely immediately challenge for the heavyweight strap. For all of his personal flaws, Barnett is still one of the best heavyweight’s in the world. He’ll be a huge asset to the division.
More after the jump…
Lavar Johnson: Johnson has been announced as the opponent of Joey Beltran at UFC on Fox 2. He’s a feel good story in his return to MMA after getting shot in the abdomen and chest. He’s heavy handed but just isn’t elite. He’ll float around the mid-tier facing the Beltran’s and Barry’s and will likely become a .500 fighter in the UFC. I know that Buffer is a consumate professional but even he may break down and laugh when saying “Lavar ‘BIIIIIIIIG’ JOHNSON!!!”
Shane del Rosario: His return to the fight is unknown. This summer he was in a motorcycle accident and he suffered a herniated disk which forced him out of his fight with Daniel Cormier. Del Rosario is considered a top prospect at heavyweight as he’s skilled no matter where the fight takes place. If/when he makes his return, he’ll be a fighter to watch. Hopefully he hasn’t lost too much of a step when that happens.
Sergei Kharitonov: Sergei is another mystery as there is uncertainty about his contract. After all the issues with Golden Glory went down this summer and the strained relationship between the UFC and the camp, Sergei just very well be out of a job. He looked absolutely atrocious against Josh Barnett this summer and even when he looks good, he still looks physically out of shape. He has solid boxing and footwork but will get stopped by better boxers and grapplers. I also don’t see any intriguing fights for him in the UFC where I say “I HAVE TO SEE THIS FIGHT!” If he’s brought over he’s a nice addition to round out the division but he won’t be a factor for the belt with so many younger and hungrier fighters all vying for the title.
Fabricio Werdum: Werdum, like Barnett, will also be making his return to the UFC. His fight with Alistair Overeem was abysmal but there is no arguing his skills on the ground. The words ‘world class’ get thrown around a lot in MMA but Werdum has world class BJJ. His inability to get a fight to his world is troubling, especially in the wrestler-rich heavyweight division. He’ll add depth at the top and his inclusion will create interested match ups even if he never challenges for the UFC title. He’s set to face Roy Nelson in his return.
Final Thoughts: Outside of Cormier and Barnett, there just aren’t any elite level heavyweights in Strikeforce. There are some interesting match ups ahead of Antonio Silva and he’ll likely remain in the top 10 but he’ll never really be a major factor. Shane del Rosario could be an interesting pick up if he’s healthy and able to return. The rest of these fighters will help fill out the 224 preliminary fights they’ll hold in 2012.
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