Maybe there was too much riding on it. Or maybe they gassed. Or maybe it was just a stalemate. To co-opt a phrase from Strikeforce announcer Gus Johnson for something much more worthy of the sentiment: sometimes these things happen in MMA.
Whatever it was, when Alistair Overeem met Fabiricio Werdum last night in the quarterfinals of Strikeforce’s Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament, the result was a resounding three-round letdown. Each man refused to play the other’s game and by the end of the first frame had already set these definitive images: Werdum on his back, hands clasped in mockery, begging Overeem to join him on the mat; Overeem standing over Werdum, arms stretched out in frustration, waiting for Werdum to stand himself back up again.
And on it went, again and again.
Overeem landed enough power shots and trademark knees and nullified Werdum’s gameplan to walk away with the judges’ decision. Werdum, on his part, won several striking exchanges and had Overeem frozen against the fence and searching for a counter strike more times than the champ might have liked.
Overeem will advance to meet Antonio Silva in the semifinals and remains a top draw to win the tournament, but fan anticipation to see him in the Octagon against the UFC’s top heavyweights may have waned. If anything, he’s kept his mystique; after finally taking on a worthy opponent and edging out the man who first bested Fedor, it’s nonetheless still hard to say where he fits in the overall rankings.
Josh Barnett also advanced in the tourney, handily taking down Brett Rogers, stifling him with top control and submitting him in the second round with an arm triangle. Barnett looked ever the veteran, calm and cool and in control at all times.
If fireworks were missing from the main draws at the top of the card, sparks were to be found earlier from lightweight contenders Jorge Masvidal and K.J. Noons. Masvidal picked Noons apart over the course of three rounds, proving himself to be not only the better striker but the better mixed martial artist, working in takedown attempts and cage work to keep the very game Noons guessing the entire bout. Masvidal might not be expected to take the belt from Gilbert Melendez, but it should be one heck of a scrap.
Full results below.
Isaac Vallie-Flagg def. Brian Melancon via split-decision
Nah-Shon Burrell def. Joe Ray via unanimous decision
Conor Heun def. Magno Almeida via unanimous decision
Gesias Cavalcante vs. Justin Wilcox, no decision (eye poke), round two
Chad Griggs def. Valentijn Overeem via submission (strikes), round one
Daniel Cormier def. Jeff Monson via unanimous decision
Jorge Masvidal def. K.J. Noons via unanimous decision
Josh Barnett def. Brett Rogers via submission (head and arm choke), round two
Alistair Overeem def. Fabricio Werdum via unanimous decision