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Strikeforce Announces Heavyweight Grand Prix, Effectively Rules MMA’s Biggest Weightclass

The long-rumored, much-desired Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix tournament has finally come together. It features the biggest names under the Strikeforce banner and brings with it the possibility of Fedor Emelianenko or Alistair Overeem fighting a possible three times in 2011. Meanwhile, the UFC’s entire roster of name-brand heavyweights is nowhere to be seen.

We’ll start with the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix which has been a pipe dream for MMA fans for what seems like forever. The MMA media – myself included (if you want to consider me media) – gives Strikeforce a lot of shit for, well, basically for not being the UFC. In this case, they’re setting themselves up for a standing ovation.

and it has the potential for greatness. Alistair Overeem and Fabrico Werdum will fight in the first round for a chance to take on Fedor Emelianenko in the semifinals. That alone is worth the price of two weekends of Showtime on your cable bill.

On the other side of the bracket, there are some notable fighters with checkered pasts. Andrie Arlovski is coming off three consecutive loses. He’ll take on Sergei Kharitonov who beat Werdum in 2005 and lost to Overeem in 2006. Winner gets the victor of Josh Barnett – assuming he can get licensed to fight somewhere in America – and Brett “The Tire Salesman” Rogers.

Winner of the whole thing gets called the best heavyweight in the world. Originally, I was going to qualify that with “not named whoever-wins-when Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez finally fight,” but that’s unfair. Fedor mythically ruled over the division for a decade. Overeem has been a beast and while he’s mostly been crushing cans,

My only problem with this tournament is that its not being held over three dates. I’m afraid this is going to fall apart, but as long as the left side of the bracket is completed, who cares? We just need three fights to happen successfully and fans should be thrilled.

Fedor Emelianenko (32-2, 1nc, 1-1 Strikeforce) vs. Antonio Silva (15-2, 2-1 Strikeforce)
Andrei Arlovski (15-8, 0-2 SF) vs. Sergei Kharitonov (17-4)
Alistair Overeem (34-11, 3-0 SF) vs. Fabricio Werdum (14-4-1, 3-0 SF)
Josh Barnett (26-5, 0-0 SF) vs. Brett Rogers (11-2, 2-2 SF)

There will also be a couple alternate bouts that nobody cares about. And this is purely a guess – when Brandon Vera’s face is fixed, he could be used as an alternate. Or just let him fight one of the losers. At least one of those guys should be certified can by then. Now, allow me to use Brandon Vera to smoothly transition to the UFC’s heavyweight division.

Champion Cain Velasquez is out with a shoulder injury. Former champion Brock Lesnar retreated into the woods after Velasquez squashed him. We have no idea when he’ll return. Fellow giant Shane Carwin is coming off surgery and months away from returning. TUF 10 winner Roy Nelson is stuck in legal limbo. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira is coming off surgery. Randy Couture fights at 205 now.

The only healthy contender is Junior dos Santos. For the first half of the year, the UFC will have no heavyweights to offer except for middle-of-the-pack guys like Brendan Schaub, Stefan Struve and Frank Mir. For now, it looks like Strikeforce will become the premiere heavyweight division in mixed martial arts… Assuming the tournament doesn’t fall apart.

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