Strikeforce: Heavyweight World Grand Prix Semi-Finals

21 Sep

I wanted to preface this article by saying that I am by no means an MMA expert.  I am more than a casual fan, but going forward, most MMA pre and post-fight card analyses are going to come from joeb87.  It also comes more than a week and a half later than I wanted it to…whatever.  I was busy this past week with working and drinking.

Overall, this was one of the most exciting fight cards that I’ve watched yet this year which took me by total surprise.  Not to put Strikeforce down, but their cards are usually a showcase of talent that can’t be employed (literally and metaphorically) elsewhere (i.e. in the UFC).  The fights are often sloppy and/or one-sided.

 

The card:

 

Pat “Bam Bam” Healy vs. Maximo Blanco

I had never seen Blanco fight before, but he has a quick, impressive (although daffy and overzealous) style of striking.  Early off, Blanco dropped Healy with a sweep kick followed by a seamless, driving left straight.  Healy, the veteran, ended up taking advantage of one of Blanco’s cavalier advances.  He took him down against the cage, following with a rear naked choke some minutes later adding a 26th win to his extensive fight record.  Despite the loss, the younger Blanco (27) could be a very fun fighter to watch in the future.

 

Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal vs. Roger Gracie

I was really looking forward to this fight because I thought it would be a good litmus test (a classic joeb87 metaphor) for Gracie’s comprehensive ability.  Wins over guys like Trevor Prangley and Kevin Randleman are definitely wins (they aren’t cans), but it still left me curious as to how good Gracie really was.  Going 4-0 entering into the fight, he looked pretty sharp as a striker and the BJJ and grappling background made for a solid resume, not to mention the “Gracie” name recognition.

Gracie looked lost in this fight.  Despite the height and reach advantage, he not only left a low guard, he continually made these half-assed clinch advances on King Mo who actually does have heavy hands.  King Mo caught him with a devastating right hook that dropped Gracie to the mat and then ragdolled him with another right before it was called.

Gracie better sharpen his standup, particularly against guys like King Mo who have the clichéd one-punch knockout power.  BJJ is great, but if you can’t stand with somebody, you’re in for trouble.  That being said, I still look forward to seeing Gracie fight in the future.  Now, I’m more interested in seeing King Mo fight.

 

Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs. Luke Rockhold

This was the best fight on the card and also the most surprising.  I was expecting the typical, boring unanimous decision for Jacare after five rounds of him taking his opponent down and then sitting on them.  Rockhold, who was coming into this fight after being out of the cage for 19 months, immediately showed that he wasn’t afraid to strike with Jacare.  He is just as spry on his feet as Jacare and offers a wide arrange of kicks coming from his AKA background (which sets up very well in punch-kick combinations later in the fight).

Jacare was able to take Rockhold down a total of three times in the first round, but in atypical fashion, Rockhold stood up from all three.  Jacare landed some frighteningly accurate blind hooks while on the ground.  This proved further that Rockhold must have a decent chin.  At the end of the first round, Rockhold set up a sweet kick by leveraging himself on Jacare’s left thigh and unleashed a high left kick.  After that he, as Mack from It’s Always Sunny would say, put on a clinic.  Though Rockhold looked very strong at the end of the fight and was able to stand up from Jacare’s takedowns, I still gave the round to Jacare.

In the second round, Rockhold seemed to scare Jacare on a few occasions with his kicks and his combination onslaughts.  Rockhold stalked Jacare for the majority of the round and forced Jacare to play his game.  Round 2 for Rockhold.

Rockhold began the third round with a number of impressive flurries that landed.  Unfortunately, he tagged Jacare in the coin purse about 1 ½ minutes in.  It was clearly inadvertent, but Jacare was clearly pissed (can you blame him?).  Jacare earned a takedown when Rockhold tried to pogo and punch at the same time.  For the remainder of the round Rockhold determined the pace and ultimately earned himself the round in my book.

Round 4 was a hell of a round.  Rockhold is landed a number of 3-4 punch/kick combinations, though Jacare effectively countered on some of these advances because of Rockhold’s low guard.  Jacare had some heavy blows around the 2 minute mark, but Rockhold largely controlled the round with very active striking.

Both fighters were definitely tired in Round 5, but it wasn’t the gas-fest I expected it to be.  Rockhold certainly didn’t have the power behind his kicks and Jacare was a little heavy on his feet.  This for me was the hardest round to judge.  Rockhold was the more active striker, but Jacare did get a takedown, had some impressive counter-strikes and a sweet front kick to Rockhold’s jaw at 1:23.

I personally had the fight scored 48-47 Rockhold.  One could make the argument for 49-46 Rockhold with the last round as a toss-up.  Whichever judge scored the contest 50-45 should be fired.  I am very much looking forward to seeing Rockhold fight again.  His landing percentage was almost identical to the former champion’s and he threw almost 3 times as many strikes.  I think the obvious fight is a rematch between him and Jacare.

And who let Herschel Walker in the ring after the fight??

Do yourself a favor and watch it.

Jacare vs. Rockhold Part 1

Jacare vs. Rockhold Part 2

Jacare vs. Rockhold Part 3

 

Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva vs. Daniel Cormier

Though I like Bigfoot Silva as a fighter, Cormier simply made him look bad in this fight.  Silva came into this fight with a 20 lb. weight advantage, a 5 inch height advantage and an almost 10 inch reach advantage.  Very early on in the fight, Silva rushed Cormier against the fence and looked menacing.  Seconds later, Cormier downed Silva with a concrete right; within fifteen seconds, Cormier motioned Silva to his feet.  After Cormier tagged Silva 3 or 4 more times, the clearly dazed Silva shot for a pathetic takedown.  It had to have been a stall tactic on Silva’s part (because why would you shoot on an Olympic wrestler?) as Cormier didn’t look to be too interested in the ground game anyway.

Not long after standing up, Silva threw a kick and Cormier swept him for a second takedown.  When the referee stood the fight up again, Silva worked a smiling Cormier around the edge of the cage before Cormier caught yet another of Silva’s kicks, ducked under a backfist and then landed a left hook.  After that, he just outstruck Silva hitting a four-punch combo.   Silva crumbled and absorbed two unnecessary (and entirely brutal) hammer punches before Ref. Franklin (Rich’s brother) called it.

I wasn’t surprised by the outcome because Cormier looked solid against Monson (particularly at the ends of the 1st and 3rd rounds), but to dismantle Bigfoot Silva like that amazed me.

 

Josh “the War Master” Barnett vs. Sergei Kharitonov

First off, let me just say that “the War Master” is a way better nickname for Josh Barnett than “the Babyface Assassin.”  His pre-fight interview was absolutely hysterical and his post-fight wrestling with referee Dan Miragliotta is totally ridiculous…not to mention the mic grapple with Mauro Ranallo.  Ranallo may have hit the nail on the head with his $20 word: Barnett is a master of “histrionics.”  (Josh Barnett being a War Master)  In fact, Barnett more than any other fighter in MMA, with the exception of Jason “Mayhem” Miller, could easily make the transition to pro wrestling.

That being said, Barnett looked really good out there.  Early on in the fight, Kharitonov stunned him with 2-1-2 combination—and Kharitonov’s hands look as heavy as I’ve seen anybody’s.  Not long afterward, Barnett got a sweep flowing immediately (and gracefully for a 260 lb. monster) into full mount, and began a relentless ground and pound.  He took the fight by rear naked choke within a minute.

Part of me was upset that limb wasn’t torn from limb and blood wasn’t spilled, but it was a more than impressive win for Josh Barnett.  Now we have the final Cormier vs. Barnett to look forward to.

 

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