Strikeforce holds one of its final cards with heavyweight matches tonight with the event marking the conclusion of the end of the Heavyweight Grand Prix. It seems like so long ago that the idea of a gathering of some of the best heavyweights outside of the UFC was a good one. Names like Alistair Overeem, Josh Barnett and Fedor Emelianenko ran our collective imaginations rampant with possibilities. However, few could have predicted what really happened from injuries to upsets to the organization’s heavyweight roster being absorbed by the UFC.
Some fun facts about the Grand Prix dominate this abbreviated edition of By the Numbers:
0 – A bit unrelated to this event, but of Strikeforce’s 59 events none have left the United States. One of the missed opportunities for Strikeforce has been attempting to cater to the globalized Mixed Martial Arts market. While focusing on capturing large American audiences through through numerous broadcasting arrangements (including the CBS events,) Strikeforce has never left American soil to reach out to the International markets. In comparison, fighters from six different countries have held Strikeforce gold in their various divisions.
1 – In the entire Heavyweight Grand Prix, only one fight has gone the distance, and in fact, past the second round. Overeem and Fabricio Werdum battled in an fairly uneventful battle last June. The match saw Overeem overpower Werdum, fighting out of his attempts to take him to the ground and little else. Overeem’s game plan worked, however, as he took the decision win. Circumstances as they were, this fight marked the last Strikeforce appearance of both men as both were in the UFC by year’s end.
2 – The number of submission wins in the Heavyweight Grand Prix, both of which belong to Barnett. Barnett, holder of 19 career submission wins, has submitted three of his last four opponents, and has not gone the distance in a fight since 2008.
3 – This is the third fight between Josh Thomson and Gilbert Melendez and is the famed “rubber match” between the two. Thomson holds a decision victory over Melendez in 2008, while Melendez defeated him just shy of eighteen months later in their rematch. Oddly, that was also a unification bout. A broken ankle forced Thomson into a year long absence from the cage, resulting in Melendez fighting Rodrigo Damm for an interim title along the way. There have also been three TKO victories in the Heavyweight Grand Prix thus far: Antonio Silva‘s doctor’s stoppage against Emelianenko, Daniel Cormier‘s Round 1 victory over Silva, and Sergei Kharitonov‘s stunning knockout of Andrei Arlovski.
4 – The number of original tournament participants still under contract to Zuffa (Barnett, Werdum, Silva, Overeem.) Only Barnett of these remain with Strikeforce, and Overeem’s contract with the UFC is currently in a purgatory-esque state with his suspension. In comparison, four of the eight original reserves (Chad Griggs, Shane del Rosario, Lavar Johnson and tournament finalist Cormier) are still under contract as well.
5 – Career fights for Chris Spang, the least of any fighter on the card. Spang faces Nah-Shon Burrell in a fight that has come come under scrutiny for the fact that it appears on the main card and nothing else. The consensus amongst many fans and MMA media is that perhaps Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante and Ike Vallie-Flagg should be on the main card. Burrell and Spang, however, have combined for wins in ten of their last eleven bouts, though the one loss was Spang’s last fight against Ricky Legere.
6 – Career fights, and wins in debuting Yuri Villefort‘s career. Villefort’s time with Strikeforce has been tumultuous to say the least. After bursting on the scene at age 18, Villefort rang up six quick victories by his 19th victory. However, has been on the wrong side of injuries as of late. Recurring knee troubles forced him out of his original debut date against Travis Bush, and Villefort now steps into a Strikeforce cage some 11 months after he was first scheduled. He will face former King of the Cage Welterweight Champion Quinn Mulhern.
7 – Career knockout wins by Virgil Zwicker and Bobby Green, the most of any of the prelim fighters coming into the event. Zwicker’s seven knockout victories are more wins than his opponent Carlos Filho (aka Guto Inocente) has in his entire career. Inocente, however, is an undefeated 5-0, having never gone farther than the second round. Green fights James Terry, whom after starting his career winning ten of twelve, has now dropped two of three.
8 – Barnett’s consecutive win streak coming into this fight. The seven stoppages in those eight fights (the only decision is a 2008 victory over Jeff Monson) include KO victories over Pedro Rizzo and Gilbert Yvel, and his two Arm-Triangle Choke tournament victories over Brett Rogers and Kharitonov.
9 – Not to be outdone, Cormier rides a nine fight win streak into his matchup with Barnett. Amongst them, he also holds a decision win over Monson, as well as knockout victories over Soa Palelei and his most recent over Silva which booked his ticket to the finals.
10 – The longest unbeaten streak of anybody on this card, held by Vallie-Flagg. The streak is comprised of nine wins and a single draw. Vallie-Flagg has not lost since July 28th, 2007, but will be in tough when he faces Cavalcante.
12 – This is Melendez’s 12th appearance in Strikeforce, and 10th in a title fight capacity. Melendez has just a single Strikeforce loss, that being the aforementioned decision loss to Thomson.
13 – Not to be outdone, this is appearance number thirteen in Strikeforce for Thomson. This is Thomson’s sixth title related fight under the Strikeforce banner.
14:41 – Between Cormier and Barnett, the elapsed in-tournament time (reserve bouts aside) in which both men have fought to get them to the finals. Barnett’s submission victories over Rogers and Kharitonov total 10:45 total, while Cormier knocked out Silva in a shade under four minutes.
463 – The length of time, in days, this tournament has taken to reach its finals. The first bouts for the Heavyweight GP occurred on February 12 2011. This will officially be the final heavyweight bout in Strikeforce, as Zuffa has committed to moving all applicable contracts over to the UFC.
The Strikeforce Grand Prix Final kicks off its prelim show on Showtime Extreme before transitioning over to the main Showtime network. Canadians can catch the event on Superchannel. Check your local listings for showtimes.
PHOTO CREDIT – STRIKEFORCE