Strikeforce: Barnett vs Cormier will take place on May 19, 2012 at the HP Pavillion in San Jose, California. The card marks the final of a prolonged Strikeforce heavyweight tournament. It was highly rumored that the winner of Josh Barnett vs Daniel Cormier was getting an immediate entry into the UFC, but recent statements from Strikefore executives have said otherwise.
At the outset of the tournament, Cormier wasn’t even a participant. Everyone’s two top picks were Alistair Overeem and Fedor Emelianenko; neither of which had more than one fight in the bracket. Overeem’s departure lead to the Olympic wrestler stepping in and Knocking out Antonio Silva, instantly promoting him into the final. With the event set in San Jose, not only does Cormier have a jolt of momentum behind him, but he has home-field advantage as well.
Barnett is one of the most veteran MMA fighters in the sport today. To put this into perspective, he was the UFC heavyweight champion in 2002 at UFC 36 and now sits at an impressive 31-5. Barnett is a catch-wrester who has shown to have very dangerous striking if you are not careful. He has most recently dominated Brett Rogers and Sergi Kharitonov to earn his spot in the final.
I will be very interested to see what kind of game-plan Barnett chooses to employ. Many think that he may be forced to stand and kick-box, and I think he knows that as well. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Barnett try to surprise Cormier with some heavy leg kicks and stiff, stright boxing, setting up take-down attempts. In heated scrambling situations, don’t be surprised to see Barnett dive for leg-locks.
Cormier will likely look to mix up his boxing with his wrestling. He has recently shown major leaps forward in his striking ability, winning his last two fights on-the-feet. Expect him to try and slip under the longer strikes of Barnett and use Barnett’s leg kicks as take-down opportunities. Barnett can never get too comfortable striking, because Cormier may be very able to take him down at will.
The striking will be decided on how much pressure Cormier is trying to put on. If he is rushing Barnett, expect Barnett to counter-box and jump on submissions if they present themselves during take-downs (guillotines, kimuras, leg-locks). If Cormier is being a mobile target on the outside, expect Barnett to blast him with kicks and keep him at a jabs length.
If this fight finds it’s way to the ground as I expect it to, the battle will quickly be Cormier looking for ground-and-pound and Barnett looking for submissions. If Cormier leaves something open, you can bet that Barnett will jump on it instantly. Wrestlers have historically had problems with leg-locks when facing a high-level submission specialist – and history repeats itself.
My official prediction is Josh Barnett by submission (heel hook)
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