“Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier” took place Saturday night from the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California and featured a main event headliner of former UFC champion Josh Barnett taking on unbeaten former Olympic Wrestler Daniel Cormier in the Heavyweight Grand-Prix final. The event also featured a lightweight title fight between champ Gil “El Nino” Melendez and long-term rival Josh Thomson as well as former champion Rafael ‘Feijao’ Cavalcante taking on former foe Mike Kyle in a rematch.
RAFAEL “FEIJAO” CAVALCANTE VS. MIKE KYLE
These two had met once before, back in 2009 at “Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields” with Kyle knocking ‘Feijao’ out in the second round. This one was not to go the same way. Cavalcante came out quickly and landed a knee up the middle that sent Kyle back against the cage before following up with a barrage of punches which sent him to the canvas. The Brazilian then sunk in a guillotine choke and, despite Kyle’s best efforts to escape it, he was forced to tap at just 33 seconds of the first round.
Feijao is now 12-3 in his career and has won two straight since dropping the light-heavyweight title to Dan Henderson back in March 2011.
Mike Kyle falls to 19-9-1 with 1 no contest in his pro career.
GILBERT MELENDEZ VS. JOSH THOMSON
Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson are no strangers to each other, having fought for 50 minutes against each other in two previous meeting (split 1-1) for the Strikeforce lightweight title.
The rubber match did not disappoint as they once again put on a show against each other for the full 25 minutes.
Thomson opened up the first round as the more active fighter, working well on the feet and earning a trip takedown. Melendez quickly got back to his feet controlled the cage for the rest of the round before scoring a knockdown in the closing seconds of a close first round.
Melendez looked to get in close in the second round as he looked to land shots from the clinch and take it to the ground. Thomson exhibited his takedown defense for much of the round but, with a minute left in the round, Melendez drove in and finally landed one before landing some shots as Thomson scrambled up to his feet.
The third round saw them go to war as they exchanged big shots on the feet before Thomson scored a brief trip takedown. Melendez came back with big blows on the inside as they both staked a claim for another very tight round.
The fourth round saw the rounds even up 1-1 with 2 close rounds as Thomson came close to finishing Melendez. “El Nino” did manage to land a big takedown, but couldn’t hold keep his rival on the ground. Thomson got back to his feet and worked another trip takedown before transitioning to Melendez’ back. There, Thomson worked for the rear-naked choke; coming just inches from locking it in but Melendez somehow fought them off and made it in to the fifth and final round.
Melendez opened up the final round with a quick takedown, but again just couldn’t keep his opponent down as Thomson got back to his feet, composed himself and landed some punches in close. He again showed his takedown defense before landing another trip, finishing the fight in top position. Another close fight between the two going to a decision and it could easily have gone either way.
The judges gave the win to Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez via split decision with scores of 48-47, 47-48 and 48-47 but there should be no doubts that the fight could just as easily have gone the other way and there could have been no arguments. It was that close.
Melendez (21-2) retains his belt, takes his current win streak to 7 and comes out on top in the Melendez-Thomson trilogy.
Melendez also said he considers the battle between the two over and has no interest in a fourth fight with Thomson.
“I don’t have any interest in fighting Josh again. This was the end of the trilogy, and it was supposed to settle it. Maybe if they offer me double or triple the purse I would consider it, but otherwise it’s on to the next one.”
Thomson (19-5), who is now just 3-3 in his last six fights, said he doesn’t blame Melendez for calling it time on their rivalry, stating; “I wouldn’t want to fight me a fourth time either if I was him.”
It can surely only be a matter of time before Melendez is moved over to the UFC lightweight division for some unbelievably exciting fights with some of the top guys in the world.
JOSH BARNETT VS. DANIEL CORMIER
The Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand-Prix had been running since February 2011 and had featured some of the biggest names in the business in the brackets.
In the quarter-finals Fedor Emelianenko had been shockingly eliminated in a devastating loss to Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva, Arlovski was knocked out (literally) by Sergei Kharitonov, Josh Barnett had advanced by submitting Brett Rogers and Alistair Overeem had eliminated Fabricio Werdum, only to be cut from the tournament and Strikeforce after refusing a fight date in September because he felt he wouldn’t be fit for it.
The Overeem release meant there was an open slot for one of the many heavyweights who had been competing in the tournaments reserve bouts. It came down to Cormier, Valentijn Overeem, Chad Griggs and Shane Del Rosario. Cormier was given the opportunity which has changed his life.
Daniel Cormier stepped up to face Antonio Silva, the man who had just eliminated the legendary Fedor. The relatively unknown Cormier came in as a big underdog to Silva but pulled of a big upset by knocking Silva out in the first round. That same night featured a headliner of Josh Barnett choking out Sergei Kharitonov to set up Barnett vs. Cormier in the tournament final.
Barnett came in to the fight with on the back of an 8-fight win streak and was the favourite against the unbeaten Cormier.
Cormier looked extremely relaxed throughout the fight and looked to utilize his ever improving boxing game, staying inside and punishing Barnett with punches and knees to the body and head while Barnett looked to work behind his jab and look for potential submissions whenever the fight hit the ground.
The boxing continued throughout the first and second round with Cormier mostly winning the exchanges until, halfway through the second round, Cormier shot in with a single leg and forced the fight to the mat. Barnett stayed busy on his back and looked for various submission attempts but Cormier answered with elbows from the top and opened up cuts on Barnett’s face.
Cormier went back to his boxing in the third round before putting Barnett on his back again with a big high-crotch slam. Barnett forced his way back to his feet but Cormier landed a big high kick flush and swarmed with a flurry of shots. Barnett looked covered up and somehow survived the round.
Cormier had never been in the championship rounds but you wouldn’t have known that to watch the fight. Cormier continued to fire off high kicks and punches to the body and head. Barnett, to his credit, continued to move forward and engage in the battle (at one point attempting a spinning back fist) and looked to pick up a comeback win late in the round by nearly locking out a heel hook. Cormier managed to escape and take top position to end the round.
The fifth round was little more than an inconvenience on Cormier’s way to the win as he outworked the more experience Barnett and controlled him up against the cage for much of the round before the bell rang and Cormier was named the winner of the tournament he wasn’t even originally a part of.
Cormier now moves to 10-0 as a professional and has made a huge name for himself with the tournament win. It is only a matter of time before we see him face the top talent in the UFC but he is expected to fight once more under the Strikeforce banner before they erase their heavyweight division once and for all. Josh Barnett (31-6) sees his eight-fight win streak snapped and his future is now uncertain.
Full Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier results
Daniel Cormier def. Josh Barnett via unanimous decision (49-46, 50-45, 50-45)
Gilbert Melendez def. Josh Thomson via split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47) – Strikeforce lightweight title fight
Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante def. Mike Kyle via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 1, 0:33
Chris Spang def. Nah-Shon Burrell via TKO (strikes) – Round 1, 1:55
Isaac Vallie-Flagg def. Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Guto Inocente def. Virgil Zwicker via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Gian Villante def. Derrick Mehmen via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Quinn Mulhern def. Yuri Villefort via split decision (30-27, 28-29, 29-28)
Bobby Green def. James Terry via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
Tags: Bobby Green, Chris Spang, Daniel Cormier, Derrick Mehmen, Gesias Cavalcante, Gian Villante, Gilbert Melendez, Guto Inocente, Isaac Vallie-Flagg, James Terry, Josh Barnett, Josh Thoson, Mike Kyle, Nah-Shon Burrell, Quinn Mulhern, Rafael Cavalcante, Strikeforce, Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, Virgil Zwicker, Yuri Villefort
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