Uncertain Proving Grounds: Barnett vs. Cormier and Bellator 69

by Kevin Marshall   May 18, 2012 at 12:30PM  |  Views: 650

Spike.com is pleased to welcome MMA blogger Kevin Marshall to the fold. Kevin has blogged for TimesUnion.com and UFC.com, as well as his own site. His opinions are his own and do not necessarily represent those of Spike.

Hey, quit harping on fights that won't happen like the one between Josh Koscheck and BJ Penn (he already told you he was retired! Leave BJ alone!). There's plenty of interesting stuff that IS going down this weekend, even if many of the fighters involved face more uncertainty once their evenings are over.


In Saturday's main event, Josh Barnett meets rising Heavyweight star Daniel Cormier in the long-awaited finals of Strikeforce's Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament. It's going to be interesting to see if Cormier, undefeated in his nine fights, is the elite heavyweight I suspect he is. I've been impressed with him ever since he debuted in Strikeforce, but even I was surprised when he KO'ed Antonio Silva back in September. Not to take anything away from "Bigfoot," but Barnett is in a different class altogether. He's got a much deeper toolbox than any of Cormier's opponents thus far and hasn't lost a fight in over five and a half years.

Strikeforce Interviews: Josh Barnett and Daniel Cormier
Get More: Strikeforce Interviews: Josh Barnett and Daniel Cormier

So what's at stake? Well, nobody's really sure. It's been revealed and confirmed by Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker that the winner of the Final won't be heading to the UFC... or, at least, not right away. They will, at the very least, have one more fight in Strikeforce. What happens after that is anyone's guess, and the folks at Zuffa seem mum on the whole deal. What makes this interesting - if not outright strange - is that the rest of the heavyweight division in Strikeforce has already been absorbed into the UFC's roster, from Antonio Silva to Chad Griggs.

So what gives? It's certainly possible that the UFC expects Barnett to win the fight and Dana White still has an axe to grind. The only other thing I can think of is that they want to reinstate the division, but there's been nothing to indicate that and it'd be a terrible idea given the lack of depth at Heavyweight (a common problem these days in all of combat sports).

Another fighter on the card who, win or lose, finds his career in limbo: Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez. Melendez has an impressive resume, is a consensus top 3 fighter at 155, and has repeatedly expressed a desire to fight the best the UFC has to offer.

Unfortunately, the UFC has been vague about its intentions with Melendez and there hasn't been any indication that he'll be making the move or that Zuffa will send any UFC fighters his way. Instead, he'll close out his trilogy with Josh Thomson this Saturday. The two have split the difference thus far, but Melendez is a much better fighter now than he was when he lost their first meeting four years ago.

Also worth paying attention to: the undercard bout pitting Mike Kyle against Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante. Kyle beat Cavalcante in June of 2009 in the latter's Strikeforce debut. Cavalcante later went on to win the promotion's Light Heavyweight Championship, but dropped it in his first defense against Dan Henderson, who in turn made the jump to the UFC and vacated the title. A strong statement from either fighter could put them in a position to be in consideration for a title fight.

The uncertainty facing the big names on Saturday's card certainly won't detract from the entertainment value. Barnett and Cormier is an intriguing match-up and Gilbert Melendez always puts on an entertaining clinic. It's just a shame they won't be getting the chance to show their wares on a larger stage.


Also this weekend is Bellator 69, which has the finals of the season six Middleweight Tournament. Actually, it almost wasn't a Middleweight fight at all, as for the second time in a row Maiquel Falcao was unable to make weight on his first attempt. After a couple hours he was able to shed two pounds to make the one-pound allowance. The drama with his weight is just the latest in what's been a controversial and habitually tumultuous career for Falcao, which includes a dismissal from the UFC following an arrest stemming from charges for a 2002 assault against a woman during a fight at a Brazilian nightclub. Standing in his way is 9-1 Swedish sensation and stand-up specialist Andreas Spang.

In addition to the $100,000 prize, the winner will also face the previous season's Middleweight tournament champion Alexander Shlemenko for the Bellator Middleweight Championship, which was vacated when former champion Hector Lombard signed with the UFC.

There are two other fights worth going out of your way to see. First will be David Rickels and Karl Amoussou in a Welterweight tournament semi-final. If the weigh-ins were any indication, it might be real ugly real quick. In a good way.

And in a real treat, Bellator has obtained Megumi Fujii and Jessica Aguilar to slug it out in a battle of arguably the top two 115 pound female fighters in the world. I've seen both before, and this one could easily steal the show.

Photo: Mike Roach/ Forza LLC/ Getty Images


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