Strikeforce has officially announced the eight man lineup for the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament. Heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem will join the lineup which features Fedor Emelianenko, Josh Barnett, Brett Rogers, Andrei Arlovski, and Fabricio Werdum.
The official announcement comes a day after the news leaked to MMA websites about the tournament. The tournament will feature arguably the most talented lineup of non-UFC heavyweight fighters in the world. First round matches will begin on February 12 in New Jersey with Fedor Emelianenko vs. Bigfoot Silva and Andrei Arlovski vs. Sergei Kharitonov (who knocked out Overeem in 2009).
The Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament bracketing may be the most interesting story of all. Showtime has released the bracketing which offers potential final matches in the semi final round. If Fedor wins his fight he would get the winner of Overeem vs. Werdum in the semi-final round. That is a bit of a surprise because I would have assumed that Overeem vs. Werdum and Fedor would be in separate brackets in full anticipation of an Overeem/Werdum vs. Fedor Grand Prix final.
I am still surprised that Strikeforce would officially announce Josh Barnett in the tournament while Barnett is not licensed. As I wrote in a previous blog, Barnett’s license is still suspended by the California State Athletic Commission for testing positive for PEDs a year and a half ago. Barnett’s suspension is technically up yet he hasn’t renewed his fight license. I can’t recall ever seeing a major combat sports tournament announced with a suspended fighter.
The other piece of news coming out of today’s Strikeforce announcement is the official word on a new deal between Fedor, M1 Global and Strikeforce. Scott Coker announced the new deal and the above linked report says that Fedor has signed for four fights. As I said in my blog earlier this week, it is very risky business for Strikeforce to proceed with Fedor in any kind of tournament. Things have not gone smooth for M1 and Strikeforce since Fedor signed his initial agreement. M1 have tried to renegotiate multiple times and there are many reports that indicate how frustrated Coker has been in dealing with M1. If Fedor wins the first round, M1 is going to have a ton of leverage with his next fight against either Overeem or Werdum. Scott Coker will be in the unenviable position of having to get a deal done without added negotiations, something he hasn’t been able to do thus far with Fedor and his management team.
My early prediction on the Grand Prix tournament is Alistair Overeem. I just think Overeem is at such an elite level right now that he may be the best heavyweight fighter in all of MMA. Next to Cain Velasquez I believe he is the most complete heavyweight in the sport. If Josh Barnett can get his license renewed an Overeem vs. Barnett final is the likely conclusion in my opinion.
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