When the Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament began, Strikeforce could reasonably claim a heavyweight division that was at least the equal of the UFC in terms of talent and competitiveness. Since the Zuffa buyout, major talents—Overeem, Werdum, Antonio Silva—have been promoted, and Fedor was dropped after his losses, leaving the UFC much stronger in the top weight class. But Strikeforce still has some great fighters, and two of them meet in the tournament final tonight: Josh Barnett and Daniel Cormier.
Cormier at #4 and Barnett at #7 are now the only Strikeforce fighters left in our Heavyweight top ten. Logically the winner should advance to the UFC, but can that happen?
Cormier trains with #6 Cain Velasquez, meaning that a matchup between the two might be hard to arrange. And of course Josh Barnett has simply not been welcome at the UFC for some time, and winning this tournament would probably mean he holds the Strikeforce belt and has to defend it. Alistair Overeem's recent testing snafu probably ruined any remaining chance for Barnett, as the last thing Dana White wants to do is welcome a 3-time positive tester back into the fold.
So this fight might really be for the Strikeforce belt and only the Strikeforce belt. After all, the UFC can't take every fighter, since White has said the promotion is going to continue for some time and not be absorbed into the UFC wholly.
The fight won't change our rankings much, either; Cormier is a fairly distant #4 and wouldn't move up any spots by beating Barnett; Barnett would simply replace Cormier at #4 with a win. The loser will fall to near the bottom of the top ten.
May Heavyweight rankings - fights through April 30th
|Fighter||WC||Rating||Rated Record||Feb-Apr Results|
|2||2||Junior dos Santos||HW||56.29||8-0-0|
|3||3||Fabricio Werdum||HW||53.07||14-5-1||Def Roy Nelson|
|5||5||Antonio Silva||HW||39.01||13-3-0||last win -14 months.|
|6||6||Cain Velasquez||HW||36.40||6-1-0||last win -18 months.|
Lightweight: #1 Melendez vs. #24 Thompson; Light heavy: #13 Kyle vs. #18 Cavalcante
The co-headline fight of the evening is Gilbert Melendez vs. Josh Thompson. Melendez is our #1 lightweight, outranking Benson Henderson by a decent margin. But he lacks strong competition in Strikeforce, and is taking on a fighter ranked just 25th in our book.
This lesser competition is why most rankings have Melendez 3rd or 4th behind Henderson and Frankie Edgar. That's where we'll have Melendez if he gets upset; he'd fall to #4, with Thompson moving up to #3, and Henderson at #1.
If Melendez wins as expected, he won't gain much in terms of points but he would avenge (for the 2nd time) one of the only two losses of his career. And the call for him to move to the UFC would increase, as he'd be on a 7-fight win streak.
The only other fight of interest in terms of our weight class rankings is Mike Kyle vs. Rafael Cavalcante in the light heavyweight division. While Strikeforce recently boasted great heavyweights and can still claim one of the very best light heavyweight fighers, the UFC clearly dominates the light heavyweight division. The winner of this fight will approach the top ten but won't quite reach it.
There is no current champ in that division for Strikeforce, which is reasonable since we rank no Strikeforce fighter in the top 7. Gegard Mousasi at #8 and Muhammad Lawal at #10 are the highest ranked for the promotion currently, and will remain so regardless of this fight's outcome.