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Category Archives: Strikeforce

Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine Post-Fight Analysis

Here are some brief thoughts on last night’s fights…

-I haven’t really given Tarec Saffiedine the respect he deserves, and it’s about time I give him that respect. There’s something to be said for a fighter who is skilled in all areas of MMA, and is an active enough striker to out-point any opponent he’s matched up with. Saffiedine is tough defensively everywhere – he’s hard to hit cleanly, and hard to take down. He’s still not as much of a finisher as I would like, but he’ll prove a tough opponent for most welterweights in the UFC.

-I did allow for the possibility that Saffiedine would out-point Nate Marquardt if Marquardt fought at a slower pace. That’s exactly what happened – the first two rounds featured a lot of staring from Marquardt, and not a lot of action. By the time Marquardt picked up the pace, he was tired and hurt, and Saffiedine just kept pouring it on with those chopping leg kicks. To be sure, a lot of this is a credit to Saffiedine’s kickboxing ability, but Marquardt did himself no favors. Marquardt is on the decline, and I don’t expect him to be a title contender at 170 pounds in the UFC.

Daniel Cormier fought an extremely safe fight against Dion Staring, to the point that I would say he was “fighting not to lose,” instead of fighting to win. He would generally wait for Staring to engage with strikes, and immediately clinch. When Cormier opened up, and engaged with offense, Staring couldn’t stop anything he did. I’ll say a couple things about Cormier: one, this was only his 11th professional MMA fight. There is still some potential for growth in his game. And of the heavyweights brought in to lose, Staring is easily less bad than Nandor Guelmino. Still, elite fighters typically put over-matched opponents away in the first round. I’d love to side with Cormier in a potential fight with Jon Jones, but I can’t say Cormier is ready for that fight yet.

-The only thing surprising about Josh Barnett’s fight against Nandor Guelmino was that Barnett needed two takedowns to finish instead of one. While I can see Dion Staring succeeding at a low level in the UFC heavyweight division (against the Oli Thompsons of the world), I don’t see that in Guelmino.

-We all know that Dana White can be vindictive, but it would be awfully stupid of him not to offer Barnett a reasonable contract to fight in the UFC. The UFC badly needs talented heavyweights, and Barnett would give them one. Yes, Barnett has baggage with three positive drug tests. Yes, it’s painful to listen to Barnett on the microphone when he wins. But top ten heavyweights don’t grow on trees…

-Speaking of talented fighters, there are few in the world who are more talented than Gegard Mousasi. I remain convinced that if Mousasi decided to stand and trade with Mike Kyle, that Mousasi would have proven to be the much better striker. Instead, as I predicted, Mousasi passed on the striking match altogether, and instead took Kyle down, passed his guard, and submitted him. Mousasi should easily be a top ten light-heavyweight in the UFC, and possibly top five.

-Let’s not get too hyped up about Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza yet. I know we want to, and Souza’s looked fantastic in his last couple fights, but keep in mind that this is the same fighter who lost to Luke Rockhold, and perhaps should have lost to Tim Kennedy. It’s good that Souza looked impressive in wins over Bristol Marunde, Derek Brunson, and now Ed Herman, but Souza has yet to prove that he can beat a top 15 opponent in the middleweight division.

-I respect Ed Herman for being the one UFC fighter to move over and fight in Strikeforce, but he put himself in a no-win situation by doing so (and that’s why we saw Cormier and Barnett fighting obscure opponents). Herman’s stock rose higher than it should have been with wins over Tim Credeur, Kyle Noke and Clifford Starks. Really, Herman is a “C” middleweight, a fighter who is good enough to beat opponents on prelims, but not good enough to take out ranked opponents and main card guys.

Ryan Couture had a good chance to upset K.J. Noons, but to do so, he needed to avoid the striking game. By deciding to stand at distance with Noons, Couture played to his opponent’s strengths instead of his own. I have no doubt the UFC will push Couture, as he’s a natural fan favorite waiting to happen, but… wait, what? The judges gave that fight to Couture?? Oh…

-I was not blown away by Tim Kennedy’s performance against Trevor Smith. Smith was noticeably bigger than Kennedy, and proved tough to hold down, but an aspiring contender should be able to take him out without too much difficulty. Kennedy won by submission, but only after an ugly first two rounds. Kennedy is going to struggle in the UFC, and I think dropping to welterweight would be a very good idea for him.

-It’s not hard to figure out why Pat Healy keeps getting buried on prelim fights against lower-level opponents like Kurt Holobaugh: as good as Healy is, his fights simply aren’t that exciting to watch. Healy is now 9-1 in his last ten fights, against a series of underrated opponents, like Mizuto Hirota, Caros Fodor, and Maximo Blanco. The result is that Healy is going to be ranked in the top ten at lightweight, when I produce my ELO rankings on this blog. Not helping matters is that Healy rarely dominates a fight, more often barely skating by. His luck will run out eventually.

-While Ronaldo Souza is a mixed martial artist with world-class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Roger Gracie is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master fighting in mixed martial arts. Gracie doesn’t have much in the way of striking or wrestling, and he clearly lost the first round of his fight against Anthony Smith before finally landing a takedown in the second round. Against opponents like Smith and a shot Keith Jardine, Gracie can win, but the moment he faces a UFC fighter with striking, takedown defense, and discipline, he’s done.

Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine Preview and Predictions

I know things have been quiet here on the blog recently, but trust me when I say that I’m doing things behind the scenes. In particular, here’s what I’m working on…

-I’m very close to finishing ELO ratings. At this point, it just needs some finishing touches. Expect top 25 rankings to be posted here next week.

-Since the next season of The Ultimate Fighter will be starting soon, I’ve started seriously crunching numbers. My attempts to predict who would do well on the show have been terrible the last couple seasons, and it’s about time I change that. I’m not sure there’s a single data point that would have rated Colton Smith well last season, but I think I can at least do a better job for season 17. We’ll see.

-A longer-term project I’m working on is a new fighter rating system that uses win/loss data for a fighter and his opponents (featuring both ELO ratings and a variant on an early version of SILVA scores), and uses Fight Metric data as well. For this one, I’m not playing around… I want all the data. If it is at all possible to have a GOOD rating system for fighters based on data, this one will be it.

Here are my abbreviated picks for tomorrow’s Strikeforce event. For the last Strikeforce event ever, there is some very good talent from top to bottom on the card. Unfortunately, much of that talent is facing over-matched opponents. As a result, I’m not going to spend too much time breaking these fights down, but I will provide some thoughts on the main card fights.

By the way, I’ve joined the Sherdog fantasy picks contest this year, to put my picks to the test. My screen name there is “dwilliamsmma” if you want to see where I rank on the leaderboard.

-From what I see, the one advantage that Tarec Saffiedine has over Nate Marquardt is that he’s a more active striker. Saffiedine is a fighter who doesn’t have any obvious weaknesses, but also doesn’t have overwhelming talent in any one facet of the MMA game. He’s a pretty good technical striker, but doesn’t have much knockout power behind his strikes. Saffiedine’s takedown game is pretty solid, particularly his takedown defense, but his tendency is to stand and strike. There are a couple problems. One is that Saffiedine has been facing a relatively low level of competition – he looked decent against Roger Bowling, Tyler Stinson, Scott Smith, and Nate Moore, but none of those fighters are anywhere near Nate Marquardt’s level. The other problem is that, against that level of competition, Saffiedine only did fairly well. Only against Scott Smith did Saffiedine turn in a dominating performance, and let’s be honest – Smith is pretty much a punching bag at this point.

There have been fights in which Marquardt looks lethargic. I’ll set Marquardt’s reasons for this aside for now. In Marquardt’s fight against Tyron Woodley, he looked anything but lethargic, eventually stopping Woodley by fourth-round KO. If Marquardt reverts to the slower pace that he showed against fighters like Yushin Okami, that opens the door for Saffiedine to win on points. I don’t think that’s going to happen – I see Marquardt being aggressive, landing the more powerful strikes, and if he doesn’t win by knockout, taking a decision. I’ll go out on a limb a little bit, and say that Marquardt wins by KO in this one.

-Heavyweight squash match #1 features Daniel Cormier, one of this blog’s favorite fighters, taking on an opponent in Dion Staring who at least enters with a 28-7 overall record. Besides the record, there aren’t many good things I can say about Staring, at least in the context of this fight. Staring has won nine of his last ten fights, but the only good fighter he faced in that time was Damian Grabowski, who submitted him. When Staring fought Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, he was out-struck, out-grappled, and just plain out-fought. If Staring struggles against good competition, what is he going to do against an elite heavyweight in Cormier? Cormier is a very smart fighter who knows that Staring’s only realistic chance is to catch him with a strike and knock him out. Look for Cormier to easily take Staring down and win by first-round TKO.

-Heavyweight squash match #2 features Josh Barnett taking on Austrian heavyweight Nandor Guelmino. Unlike Staring, I had never heard of Guelmino before he was announced as Barnett’s opponent. So I decided to do some YouTube scouting, and the first Guelmino fight I watched was this one…

That’s all I needed to see. Guelmino’s opponent, Aljin Ahmic, took him down, mounted him, blasted him with punches, and probably could have submitted him. When Guelmino went for what looked like a desperate guillotine choke, Ahmic tapped out so quickly that it was suspicious. In this fight, look for Barnett to throw Guelmino around the cage, possibly with a suplex, before either choking him or nearly ripping off one of his limbs. Barnett by first-round submission.

Gegard Mousasi versus Mike Kyle is far from a squash match, but it’s still a fairly lopsided fight. Mousasi is a very talented fighter, with a good submission game to go along with excellent striking. Mousasi is a good enough striker that he has twice competed in kickboxing matches on K-1 Dynamite!! shows, and defeated both Musashi and Kyotaro, both very high level kickboxers. By contrast, Mike Kyle is a slugger whose career has mostly consisted of overwhelming inferior strikers. To Kyle’s credit, he does have a TKO win over Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante on his record, but he’s in over his head here. If Mousasi chooses to strike with Kyle, he should prove to be the much better technical striker, and will probably win by knockout. I think Mousasi will skip the striking game altogether, take Kyle down, and submit him.

-When I saw the betting lines for Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Ed Herman, my initial instinct was to think that Herman wasn’t getting enough respect from the betting public – Souza is currently a 4-1 favorite to win. But the more I look into this fight, the more I think the steep line is justified. Herman’s strength as a fighter is his wrestling, and he almost always goes to it. He also has good submission offense, but that’s irrelevant against “Jacare.” What is relevant is that Herman has five losses by submission in his career, and four of them were against fighters who aren’t nearly as good on the ground as Souza is (the other was Demian Maia, who IS as good as Souza on the ground). I would like to think that Herman’s smart enough not to take this fight to the ground, but he didn’t show much urgency to keep his fight against Jake Shields standing. And even if this does become a striking match, Souza could well prove to be better at it. I have to pick Souza to win by submission in this fight.

Here are my picks for the preliminary fights… I’d love to say I’m picking an underdog somewhere, but I’m being a weenie and going with all chalk:

-Pat Healy over Kurt Holobaugh by decision
-Roger Gracie over Anthony Smith by submission
-Tim Kennedy over Trevor Smith by decision
-K.J. Noons over Ryan Couture by decision
-Adriano Martins over Jorge Gurgel by decision (please Jorge… for once in your life, take the fight to the ground)
-Estevan Payan over Michael Bravo by decision

As always, thanks for reading, and enjoy the fights.

Time Capsule Results For January 2012 Prognostications in MMA

Hmm… what’s this? It looks like a time capsule. And it says I need to open it up on New Year’s Day 2013. Uh oh…

Last January, I published a series of posts comparing a fighter’s SILVA score to his ranking in the Bloody Elbow meta rankings. I then used that comparison to make some predictions. For fighters whose SILVA score was high but ranking was low, I predicted their ranking would increase in 2012. For fighters whose ranking was high but SILVA score was low, I predicted their ranking would decrease in 2012.

Here are links to the posts I wrote last January:

Let’s see how I did, starting with fighters I predicted would rise in the rankings.

Fighter December 2011 ranking December 2012 ranking Did the rank increase?
Phil Davis 7 6 Yes
Daniel Cormier 8 4 Yes
Luke Rockhold 9 7 Yes
Michael Chandler 9 8 Yes
Bibiano Fernandes 9 6 Yes
Muhammed Lawal 11 14 No
Hector Lombard 12 11 Yes
Alexander Gustafsson 13 5 Yes
Ben Askren 13 12 Yes
Patricio Freire 15 25 No
Eduardo Dantas 15 11 Yes
Tatsuya Kawajiri 16 12 Yes
Tyron Woodley 17 18 No
Sean Sherk 17 Unranked No
Mike Russow 18 17 Yes
Rousimar Palhares 18 Unranked No
Johny Hendricks 18 2 Yes
Joe Warren 18 18 No
Cole Konrad 19 Unranked No
Alexis Vila 19 17 Yes
Matt Mitrione 20 Unranked No
Chris Weidman 20 2 Yes
Jay Hieron 20 17 Yes
Ryan Jimmo 22 17 Yes
Alexander Shlemenko 22 21 Yes
Josh Thomson 23 16 Yes
Ricardo Lamas 24 3 Yes

Overall, there were 27 fighters who were already ranked, who I predicted would rise in the rankings. 19 out of the 27 did improve, while the other eight either stayed the same or declined. That’s a pretty good success rate. Let’s see how I did with fighters I predicted would decline in 2012.

Fighter December 2011 ranking December 2012 ranking Did the rank decrease?
Chael Sonnen 2 6 Yes
Jon Fitch 2 4 Yes
Urijah Faber 2 2 No
Yushin Okami 3 9 Yes
Hatsu Hioki 3 7 Yes
Brock Lesnar 4 Unranked Yes
Mauricio Rua 4 7 Yes
Demian Maia 5 11 Yes
Jake Ellenberger 5 5 No
Marlon Sandro 5 15 Yes
Scott Jorgensen 5 10 Yes
Fabricio Werdum 6 3 No
Clay Guida 6 11 Yes
Shane Carwin 7 13 Yes
Forrest Griffin 8 12 Yes
Brian Stann 8 12 Yes
Martin Kampmann 8 7 No
Miguel Torres 8 20 Yes
Mark Hominick 11 Unranked Yes
Takeya Mizugaki 11 15 Yes
Joe Lauzon 12 12 No
Chan Sung Jung 12 5 No
Nate Diaz 13 4 No
Manny Gamburyan 13 20 Yes
Roy Nelson 14 10 No
Wanderlei Silva 15 25 Yes
Tito Ortiz 17 Unranked Yes
Stephan Bonnar 21 Unranked Yes
Mark Hunt 22 12 No
Pat Barry 23 Unranked Yes
Alessio Sakara 23 Unranked Yes

I had a similar success rate with fighters I predicted would fall in the rankings, as 22 out of 31 did fall, with nine either staying the same or rising.

Before you cry foul at guys like Brock Lesnar being listed, when we all knew he was retiring… it’s true, some of my picks here were cheap. In some cases, luck was on my side. But in other cases, luck was against me. Example: Urijah Faber still being ranked #2 at bantamweight, only because of Dominick Cruz’s injury. Another example: Joe Lauzon having the same ranking as last year, and he will presumably decline after his UFC 155 loss to Jim Miller.

Overall, there were 58 fighters I made predictions on. My predictions were successful for 41 out of the 58, for a success rate of 70.7%. I’m not running SILVA scores anymore, but it’s great to see that the time I spent developing them resulted in what was a pretty good predictive tool.

SILVA Scores Release – 8/27

Here’s the latest batch of SILVA scores to come out, with a bit of commentary on each fighter.

IN THIS POST

  • Vitor Belfort
  • Daniel Cormier
  • Eduardo Dantas
  • Jussier da Silva
  • Nate Diaz
  • Nick Diaz
  • Jake Ellenberger
  • Johny Hendricks
  • Frank Mir
  • Tyson Nam
  • Dennis Siver

Vitor Belfort – SILVA Score: 75.20

Ladies and gentlemen, the next challenger to Jon Jones’s title. Obviously, the circumstances leading to the selection of Belfort were quite unique and difficult, but that doesn’t mean Belfort isn’t an underwhelming selection. The thing Belfort has going for him is the same thing Dan Henderson had going for him – serious knockout power. Unfortunately for Belfort, he’s historically had difficulty with wrestlers, and I highly doubt that Jones is going to stand and strike with Belfort, and give him a chance to score that KO. I see Jones taking Belfort down and eventually winning by TKO or submission.

Daniel Cormier – SILVA Score: 86.77

This blog has never failed to sing Cormier’s praises, and the latest edition of SILVA is no exception. Unlike the last version, however, Cormier is not the #1 rated heavyweight – instead, he’s in a virtual tie with Cain Velasquez for #2. But here you have the best wrestler in the heavyweight division, and one who’s developed a quality striking game. Oh, and in his fight against Josh Barnett, he showed he knows what he’s doing in the submission game as well, as the dangerous Barnett was never too close to catching Cormier in a submission attempt. If you’re looking for a heavyweight to beat Junior dos Santos, I think Cormier has the best chance of anybody.

Eduardo Dantas – SILVA Score: 79.22

One of the themes of my analysis on this blog is the idea that one loss does not break a fighter’s career. Dantas really should have been able to beat Tyson Nam, but getting caught as Dantas did is hardly the most shocking upset ever in MMA. The open question is whether the Nam loss is Dantas’s “Matt Serra” moment, or if it’s an indicator of things to come. After watching the fight, it seems Dantas’s biggest error was overconfidence, something that hopefully will be corrected with proper coaching. The point is this: Dantas is still rated as the top bantamweight in the world by SILVA. You can decide whether that’s right or not, but Dantas is a greatly talented fighter whose career isn’t ruined by this one loss.

Jussier da Silva – SILVA score: 54.47

“Formiga” will be making his UFC debut soon, against John Dodson, in a fight highly anticipated by hardcore fans. His SILVA score might seem relatively low, but it’s actually quite high for the flyweight division, rating only below Joseph Benavidez and Demetrious Johnson. Da Silva does have a loss to Ian McCall on his record, but has more than made up for it with wins over Mamoru Yamaguchi, Danny Martinez, and Shinichi Kojima. Given how thin the flyweight division is, I anticipate “Formiga” will earn a title shot in the UFC relatively quickly.

Nate Diaz – SILVA Score: 71.04

SILVA has been VERY slow to warm up to Nate Diaz, who has recently been on a terrific run, but before that, had lost to wrestlers repeatedly. But perhaps Diaz deserves more respect from SILVA? Two of his five UFC losses were by split decision, and two others were to welterweights in Rory MacDonald and Dong Hyun Kim. Still, it’s hard for me to give Diaz a great chance in his upcoming title fight against Benson Henderson, a fighter who is a good wrestler on top of being a good striker and grappler. If Diaz’s fight history is any indication, though, it figures to be a very exciting and competitive fight.

Nick Diaz – SILVA Score: 82.64

The other Diaz – Nick – is received more warmly by SILVA, but he also has historically had problems with wrestlers. And as I have pointed out before, Diaz hasn’t faced a true wrestler since… Gleison Tibau? Sean Sherk? In the welterweight division, Diaz will eventually have no choice but to prove he can win a fight against somebody who will take him down. But against the diet of strikers and brawlers he’s been fed, Diaz has been fantastic, even with the close decision loss to Carlos Condit back in February.

Jake Ellenberger – SILVA Score: 80.84

“The Juggernaut” certainly qualifies as one wrestler, and along with Johny Hendricks, has the most striking power in the division. He showed it early in his last fight, against Martin Kampmann, but that fight also showed a lack of efficiency out of Ellenberger. After knocking Kampmann down early, Ellenberger settled into a top control game that completely failed to capitalize on Kampmann being hurt. Ellenberger definitely has the talent to be a championship contender, but I’m not sure if he has the fight IQ.

Johny Hendricks – SILVA Score: 88.87

There are some out there saying Hendricks is overrated, and will lose to Martin Kampmann. Maybe Hendricks will lose, but I do favor him to beat Kampmann, and I don’t think he’s overrated. Take some of the better wrestlers at welterweight – Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch, Mike Pierce. Improve their striking technique a tad. Then add a ton of knockout power. That’s Johny Hendricks, and while I wouldn’t pick him to beat a healthy Georges St-Pierre, I’ll pick him to beat any other fighter at 170 pounds.

Frank Mir – SILVA Score: 68.75

With his recent knockout loss to Junior dos Santos, it feels like Mir’s career has run its course. He’s been in the UFC for what seems like an eternity – besides B.J. Penn, who had to be coaxed out of retirement, I can’t think of an active UFC fighter whose UFC career began earlier than Mir’s*. Now, Mir will be headed over to Strikeforce, where he’ll have to find a way to submit Daniel Cormier. I highly doubt Mir will offer anything that Josh Barnett didn’t.

Tyson Nam – SILVA Score: 35.81

That’s right… Tyson Nam rates 44 points lower than Eduardo Dantas despite just knocking out the Bellator champion. I’ll simply say that just as one loss doesn’t define the career of Dantas, one win doesn’t define the career of Tyson Nam. And make no mistake about it – Dantas is Nam’s only win against a top 50 bantamweight fighter. The way SILVA is designed, it will want Nam to prove he can beat a quality opponent again before it gives him too much credit.

Dennis Siver – SILVA Score: 72.80

Siver is one of the better featherweights in the UFC, but I don’t think he’s going to rise any higher. Siver is a good striker, and has a strong base, but he doesn’t possess elite-level skills. I would say that Siver’s narrow decision victory against Diego Nunes is a great indicator of how good he is – an above-average, quality UFC featherweight, but not a serious title challenger.

*I thought of one! Vladimir Matyushenko. …I think my point stands.

SILVA Predictions for Strikeforce: Rousey vs. Kaufman

Are here:

 

My pick for the main event will be for Ronda Rousey to submit Sarah Kaufman. I know, it’s not going out on a limb, but the idea here is to try to be as accurate as possible. I just don’t see Kaufman stopping Rousey’s game.

As it turns out, all of the main card fights feature lopsided odds, and SILVA isn’t going against the betting public in any one fight. I’ll be very surprised if more than one underdog wins on the main card. The fighter with the best chance of pulling off an upset is probably Roger Bowling, just because of the knockout power he possesses.

Enjoy the fights, everybody.

Roger Bowling and the Concept of Efficiency

I remember hearing a ton about Roger Bowling in 2009. As a fighter who had, at the time, never competed in anything resembling a major promotion, this struck me as odd. And yet, Bowling was getting coverage from guys like Kevin Iole, Leland Roling, and John Morgan. As somebody whose knowledge base on MMA wasn’t what it is now, I deferred to the wisdom of the aforementioned gentlemen, and when Bowling was signed by Strikeforce, waited for his seemingly inevitable rise to title contention.

But it didn’t happen. Instead, Bowling lost to Bobby Voelker by TKO twice, losses which deflated the tires of the Bowling bandwagon. Now, Bowling will be taking on Tarec Saffiedine, and to read the hype from 2009, it seems that Bowling should be a heavy favorite. Instead, it’s Saffiedine who’s considered the heavy favorite to win – a 3:1 favorite according to the current lines listed at Best Fight Odds.

What happened? As far as I see it, two things. One is that Bowling was considered a great prospect for the wrong reasons. Namely, Bowling had three very quick TKO wins early in his career – against Shamar Bailey, Seth Baczynski, and Devon Plaisance. Bailey and Baczynski are known fighters, and beating them in a combined 37 seconds is certainly not something to sneeze at. At the same time, a lightning-fast win is not the best indicator of future greatness for a fighter. I’d much rather see a comprehensive domination over a period of time than a win in the lightning-quick variety. Case in point:

Sokoudjou rocketed into the top 10 of a lot of rankings based on that win and a follow-up victory at the final PRIDE event against Ricardo Arona. In later fights, when Sokoudjou didn’t get the early KO, he was exposed to have insufficient conditioning, and is now an afterthought in the light-heavyweight division.

I feel the story of Roger Bowling is very similar. Check out his second fight against Bobby Voelker, from Strikeforce Challengers 11:

In the first minute of this fight, three thoughts popped into my head. One was that Bowling was throwing strikes with a lot of power, and it’s easy to see how he has seven TKO wins and a submission due to strikes in 13 fights. The second was that Bowling’s striking defense, particularly his hand placement, could be exploited by a skilled striker. The third, and the most important, was that Bowling was going to gas out if he continued to fight at his early pace. Surely enough, Bowling faded badly in the second round, in which he was defeated by TKO, which I believe was primarily due to exhaustion.

Fighters like Bowling are inefficient. Bowling’s offense largely consists of strikes thrown with a lot of power and effort, along with takedowns which also require a lot of effort. Sure, the possibility of winning by quick KO is always present, but that’s difficult to achieve against the skilled strikers which populate the upper levels of MMA. And if Bowling doesn’t get the knockout early, it’s very hard to see him winning. In both his losses to Bobby Voelker, my takeaway was not that Voelker had defeated Bowling, but that Bowling had defeated himself.

SILVA PREDICTION: TAREC SAFFIEDINE (47.80) OVER ROGER BOWLING (38.56)

Tarec Saffiedine is a heavy favorite to win because he has exactly the abilities required to beat a fighter like Bowling. In particular, Saffiedine has good defensive striking, which should minimize his risk of being knocked out, and good conditioning, which will enable him to capitalize on the opportunity to finish Bowling later in the fight. I can see why Bowling was so hyped just a few years ago – if all you see on tape is a fighter destroying his competition, it’s easy to get sucked in. But unless Bowling showcases a more efficient means of scoring points and generating offense, he’s going to lose to Tarec Saffiedine.

A Lack of Opponents for Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza

A fighter I haven’t talked about much on this blog, but one I’m fond of, is Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace who has adapted very well to the sport of mixed martial arts. A former champion in Strikeforce, Souza was defeated by Luke Rockhold in September of last year, and since then, his opponent selection has been a bit underwhelming. No disrespect to Bristol Marunde, who Souza defeated in March, or Derek Brunson, Souza’s upcoming opponent this Saturday, but they are simply not fighters who are on Souza’s level.

This got me thinking… who exactly is there for “Jacare” to fight in the Strikeforce middleweight division? To answer the question, I went to the Strikeforce website to find a list of middleweights presumably under contract with the promotion. Here is the entire list, along with their corresponding current rank according to Fight Matrix:

  • Luke Rockhold (4)
  • Roger Gracie (17)
  • Tim Kennedy (18)
  • Lorenz Larkin (21)
  • Robbie Lawler (25)
  • Derek Brunson (41)
  • Keith Jardine (43)
  • Nate James (45)
  • Danillo Villefort (46)
  • Adlan Amagov (50)
  • Anthony Smith (52)
  • Bristol Marunde (70)
  • Lumumba Sayers (85)
  • Antwain Britt (278)
  • Keith Berry (NR)
  • Yancy Medeiros (NR)
  • Benji Radach (NR)

18 fighters – the above list along with “Jacare” – represent the entirety of the Strikeforce middleweight division. This is a good thing, given the relative lack of events Strikeforce is putting on these days. As a side note, I’ve been waiting to see Yancy Medeiros compete since I saw him on the preliminaries of the Fedor-Werdum event; I was impressed with his skills, but at this point, he hasn’t competed in over two years.

Anyway, let’s narrow the list down to just fighters ranked in the top 50. That gives us Rockhold, Gracie, Kennedy, Larkin, Lawler, Brunson, Jardine, James, Villefort, and Amagov. Now, “Jacare” has already fought Rockhold, Kennedy, and Lawler, so let’s remove them too.

Now, our list features Roger Gracie, Lorenz Larkin, Derek Brunson, Keith Jardine, Nate James, Danillo Villefort, and Adlan Amagov. Brunson happens to be Souza’s next opponent, and quite frankly, James, Villefort, and Amagov present the same problem, in that they aren’t on Souza’s level as a fighter and don’t have very much name value.

And in terms of fights I’m interested in, I’m sorry, but Keith Jardine just isn’t the guy at this point.

Ultimately, in Strikeforce’s middleweight division, the only fights that make sense for Souza (besides perhaps a rematch with Tim Kennedy) are against Roger Gracie or Lorenz Larkin. And of course, we just saw Gracie beat Jardine and Larkin beat Lawler, removing them as available opponents for this Saturday’s event.

Given the circumstances… all of a sudden, I can see Derek Brunson as the best available opponent to put against Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. The continued existence of Strikeforce as a side promotion for Zuffa is something that, to me, is little but a source of constant frustration at this point.

SILVA Predictions for Strikeforce: Rockhold vs. Kennedy

So I have a radical idea… how about I produce the SILVA scores for Strikeforce’s main card on the day BEFORE the fights? Crazy, huh?

Surprise! SILVA is picking Tim Kennedy, a 5-2 underdog at the moment, to score the upset, and defeat Luke Rockhold for the Strikeforce middleweight championship. I consider Rockhold to be a very good prospect, so I think he has more upside than Kennedy for sure, but this fight could be more dangerous for him than many are expecting.

SILVA also likes Tyron Woodley to beat Nate Marquardt in what would be a mild upset. Questions abound as far as Marquardt is concerned. Is he really no longer on TRT, and if so, how much will that negatively affect his performance? How will he deal with the long layoff? How will he respond after cutting to 170 pounds? SILVA respects Marquardt, but loves Woodley, and therefore picks him to win the fight.

In the other fights, SILVA likes 12-0 Lorenz Larkin, whose loss to “King Mo” Lawal was overturned to a no contest, to beat Robbie Lawler, and also likes world-class Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master Roger Gracie to find a way to submit Keith Jardine.

Daniel Cormier Now SILVA’s Top Heavyweight

After a decisive and thorough victory over Josh Barnett to win the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, I see some suggesting that Daniel Cormier is an elite heavyweight, deserves to be ranked in the top five, and perhaps deserves a UFC title shot against the winner of Junior dos Santos vs. Frank Mir. I agree with all of those statements, but I would have made them before Cormier fought Barnett, as Cormier was SILVA’s #3 heavyweight going into that fight. In fact, I picked Cormier to win the tournament the moment he was announced as a replacement for Alistair Overeem. SILVA has been vastly improved since then, and I’ll admit to badly underrating Overeem at that time, but my thoughts on Cormier have been consistent: he’s an elite heavyweight and should be favored to beat the vast majority of top heavyweights.

Now, with others having caught up to the idea of Cormier as an elite fighter, SILVA has decided to take things a step further. In fact, Cormier is now the top-rated heavyweight in the world according to SILVA, with a SILVA score of 98.29.

So is this it? Is Cormier the best in the world now? Well, before I get too far ahead of myself, Junior dos Santos, currently #2 at heavyweight according to SILVA, will be fighting Frank Mir in the main event of UFC 146 on Saturday. And if dos Santos manages to beat Mir, his SILVA score will rise to 100.37… to put him back ahead of Cormier.

Here’s what I’ll say right now. Daniel Cormier has world-class wrestling, and has successfully applied his wrestling abilities to MMA. He has developed a striking game and submission game that are both very good, particularly his striking. He is now the kind of fighter who can fight on his terms, and it will take a serious talent indeed to be able to top Cormier both standing and on the ground.

Meanwhile, Junior dos Santos is an outstanding striker, one with both great precision and power. He has terrific takedown defense, and having trained with the Nogueira brothers for a while, I can only imagine his ground game is excellent as well. He does deserve to be regarded as the #1 heavyweight in the world, and he should be at the peak of his career right now.

If Junior dos Santos beats Frank Mir, and Daniel Cormier beats his mystery opponent in his next fight, the only fight to make as far as I’m concerned is dos Santos vs. Cormier for the UFC heavyweight championship, and this is simply because those are clearly the two best heavyweight fighters in the world.

SILVA Predictions for Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Cormier

At last, the finals of the labored Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix have arrived. The tournament began with some genuine MMA superstars, names like Fedor Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum, and Antonio Silva. But at this point, the only two fighters who remain are Josh Barnett and Daniel Cormier, and Cormier wasn’t even in the tournament to begin with.

So Strikeforce’s experiment fizzled out, and I have no doubt that being acquired by Zuffa didn’t really help matters (remember Overeem being abruptly released from Strikeforce, only to be signed by the UFC soon afterwards?). But what we’re left with is a very compelling fight, featuring a long-time elite heavyweight in Josh Barnett and a new phenom in Daniel Cormier. The other fights on Saturday night feature a lightweight championship match and also a rubber match in Gilbert Melendez vs. Josh Thomson, a light-heavyweight battle between Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante and Mike Kyle, and a welterweight clash between Nah-Shon Burrell and Christopher Spang. Here’s what SILVA has to say about the fights:

Those who have been reading this blog for a while should know all about how much I like Daniel Cormier. He’s by far the best prospect in heavyweight MMA right now (although he is arguably not a prospect anymore since he’s beaten Antonio Silva and Jeff Monson). Cormier has legitimate world-class wrestling skills, but has supplemented that with punishing boxing and quick hands. Meanwhile, Josh Barnett is still the same fighter who has been a perennial top 10 heavyweight for a decade now, but his level of competition has not been terrific since the collapse of PRIDE FC in 2007.

Barnett has outstanding catch wrestling and is a master of using pressure to compel his opponent to make the move Barnett wants him to. He’s very tricky with submissions, and has solid striking as well. At the same time, I think Cormier has developed his striking into something better and more dangerous than Barnett’s, and while it’s not impossible for Cormier to be taken down, that will be an extremely difficult task for Barnett to accomplish, especially if he has to do it more than once. To top it off, Cormier is a fighter on the rise, who is just now entering the beginning of the prime of his career, while Barnett has been in the MMA game a very long time now. I understand why Barnett opened as the betting favorite, and he’s definitely a skilled fighter, but I see this being Cormier’s time to announce his arrival as an elite heavyweight in MMA.

As for the lightweight championship match, there are a lot of people counting out Josh Thomson, but SILVA sees Thomson as a top 10 lightweight right now, based on being 1-1 against Melendez and having wins over Gesias Cavalcante, Pat Healy, and K.J. Noons. Thomson is a well-rounded fighter with good grappling, but he’s looked somewhat shaky in recent fights, and he’s getting to the point where he has a lot of “mileage.” Meanwhile, Melendez is as good as he’s ever been. Thomson will need to take Melendez down consistently to have a chance in this one. I’m not going to count Thomson out, because of his SILVA score and prior win over Melendez, but if recent fights are any indication, Melendez has a good chance of winning by TKO.

SILVA also likes Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante to beat Mike Kyle in what figures to be a striking war, and Nah-Shon Burrell to beat the inexperienced Christopher Spang in the first fight on Showtime. Enjoy the fights!