The Strikeforce World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament will finally come to an end on May 19 from the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. The 15-month tourney has gone anything but as planned for the promotion. In fact, the fight will mark the second-to-last heavyweight bout to occur under its banner.

What started out as the most heralded assembly of heavyweight talent since the days of Pride has all but fizzled out. When the promotion was purchased by Zuffa in March of last year, few expected them to dissolve the division and move the roster under the UFC banner, but that’s exactly what happened.

Now Josh Barnett and Daniel Cormier are the last men standing. While the case could be made that the winner deserves an immediate title shot in the UFC following the bout, they’ll be forced to remain as the lone wolf in the promotion, awaiting one final fight as stipulated by the promotion’s broadcast partner Showtime.

All of that said, there is still one hell of a fight taking place on Saturday night. Barnett enters as the experienced veteran looking for redemption and a way back to the UFC. Cormier looks to keep his undefeated record intact and prove that he’s ready for the big show.

Let’s take a deeper look at the fight. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills matchup against one another.

Striking: Barnett – 7, Cormier – 8

Cormier (L) finishes off Silva (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

By no means are either of these heavyweights considered natural strikers. Their combined 13 stoppages in 45 fights is a low number for a pair of top-tier heavyweights.

For Barnett, it has always been about surviving long enough on the feet to bring the fight to the ground. On his resume are submission wins over high-level strikers such as Mark Hunt, Mighty Mo and Sergei Kharitonov. However, against a kickboxer with takedown defense such as Mirko “Cro Cop,” Barnett struggled mightily, losing on three separate tries.

Cormier is still very green as a fighter, but with each fight he has shown that his training at the American Kickboxing Academy has paid off. He put on a striking clinic against Jeff Monson prior to entering the tournament as an alternate in the semifinals. Against a much larger opponent in Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, Cormier used speed and technique to score a violent knockout win.

The Clinch: Barnett – 8, Cormier – 8

Without a doubt, this may be the most closely-contested aspect of this fight. Neither fighter will use the clinch for heavy strikes like you’d see in a Muay Thai fight, but both of them will use it to set up the wrestling. Although the wrestling advantage will side with Cormier, Barnett’s experience is more than enough to have a few tricks up his sleeve if the fighters tie up along the fence.

Ground Game: Barnett – 9, Cormier – 6

Barnett (top) works from the mount (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

If there is one area where Barnett holds a distinct advantage in this fight, it is the submission game. Seventeen of his 31 victories have come by submission and the big man and his “catch wrestling” style have claimed multiple grappling tournaments outside of cage.

Cormier, on the other hand, is still inexperienced in the jiu-jitsu game. However, his vast wrestling experience gives him an edge in the positional aspect of the ground game.

The deciding factor in this fight may come down to how the fighters react to fighting off their back. While Barnett may be the more experienced submission artist, nearly all of his wins have come from the top position. Obtaining that against Cormier may be easier said than done.

Wrestling: Barnett – 8, Cormier – 10

Cormier (R) in wrestling competition (Robert Laberge/NBC)

If Barnett has the edge in the submission game, Cormier makes up for it in the wrestling department. The former Olympic competitor is one of the most decorated amateur wrestlers to transition into MMA. If he can use his skills to put Barnett on his back or simply keep the fight on the feet, he will hold a huge edge over his more experienced opponent.

Barnett’s claim that he’ll be able to take Cormier down is certainly unlikely. That fact alone may decide this fight. If Barnett can’t gain the top position and implement his submission attack, he’s going to be in for a long night.


The other thing that may play a huge factor in the outcome of this fight is size. Cormier would be the first to admit that he’s an undersized heavyweight, but after years of cutting weight for wrestling, the fighter’s kidneys cannot handle the stress required to get down to the next division. As such, Cormier will be giving up four inches in height, seven inches in reach and 20 pounds in weight against Barnett. Against Silva, Cormier used his speed to overcome similar discrepancies, but if Barnett can establish his jab and prevent Cormier from getting inside, it will be a whole different fight.

Total: Barnett – 32, Cormier – 32

Verdict: It’s a coin flip. Can Cormier use his wrestling and speed advantage to outpoint Barnett? Or will Barnett find a way to get on top and score a submission win? Based on their past performances, I have to go with the latter, as Barnett takes the Grand Prix crown with a second-round win by arm-triangle.

Top Photo: Josh Barnett (L) faces off with Daniel Cormier (Showtime Sports)