Surprise! Alistair Overeem, Strikeforce’s heavyweight champ and the current “scariest-looking fighter in the universe”, is out of the organization’s grand prix for reasons that could be anything from the stated toe injury to whispered contract issues to God knows what. Is it a blow to the tournament that’s been unfolding at a snail’s pace before our eager but slowly glazing eyes? Sure it is. As champ, the gargantuan Dutchman lent the whole affair an air of legitimacy (of course, having Fedor Emelianenko and two former UFC title holders helped as well). But now that Overeem is gone… life goes on, and we still have a pretty kickass pair of semifinal brackets left to us.
Tasked with replacing Overeem is Daniel Cormier, an Olympic-level wrestler who is thus far undefeated in mixed martial arts. Yes, Cormier is fighting way above his pay grade when he takes on Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in September, and yes, Cormier is a far cry from the elite kickboxer and experienced MMA fighter the Brazilian was to have faced. But one thing is for sure: no way is Bigfoot out-wrestling the American. And wrestling could mean the difference between an ugly murder and an underdog’s inspiring victory.
Truthfully, though, it’s Silva’s bout to lose. However, if the Dutchman’s recent scrap with Fabricio Werdum is of any indication – a fight that saw an uninspired performance by both men – that may have been the case anyway. It’s quite possible Silva would have been making it to the finals in either scenario.
Which leads us to what is the real meat and potatoes of the semifinal bracket: Josh Barnett versus Sergei Kharitonov. In this pairing, which pits a submission wizard against a Russian capable of punching an opponent’s head clean off, there promises to be fireworks of the most violent and satisfying kind. Regardless of Overeem’s further participation in the grand prix, this match-up remained concrete, and it continues to be something for us to look forward to.
When Strikeforce’s heavyweight tournament was announced it was hailed both as ambitious and pure folly, and when the competitors were announced, it was at least assumed that Fedor would’ve made it out of the first bracket. But the nature of tournaments is such that the only valid assumption is unpredictability. Well, that unpredictability has come to pass, and Fedor and Overeem are both out – two veritable “lemons” if ever there were.
Thankfully, Bigfoot, Cormier, Barnett and Kharitonov are still around to give us our lemonade.