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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
Strikeforce's Heavyweight World Grand Prix finally comes to a close tomorrow night as Daniel Cormier faces Josh Barnett in the finals in San Jose, Calif. on Showtime. Cormier makes it into the final despite not even being a designated alternate when it kicked off last February, yet nevertheless he's more than a deserving contender in this slot. Additionally, Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson will square off for a third time for the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship. Here's what's on tap for the Showtime broadcast tomorrow night:
Josh Barnett vs. Daniel Cormier (Strikeforce Heavyweight World Grand Prix Finals)
Josh Barnett has won eight straight fights dating back to 2008, and he hasn't lost a fight since New Year's Eve of 2006, when he dropped a decision to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. That eight fight winning streak is just the latest chapter of a lengthy career, yet it almost matches the entirety of Cormier's MMA run, which has seen the former Olympian go 9-0 since entering the sport in 2009.
However, while Barnett's certainly got a massive experience edge over Cormier, this fight represents a massive shift in opponents from what Barnett has faced during this most recent run. If you look at the opponents Barnett has taken on over the last four years, none have much if any wrestling to speak of. He's been having a lot of success against strikers that he can hang with on the feet, but who can't hang with him on the ground.
Against Cormier, he's got a former Olympic wrestler who is one the most accomplished wrestlers competing in the sport, and he's shown some very good striking as of late as well. His three round performance against Jeff Monson was impressive, and his knockout of "Bigfoot" Silva as well was an eye opener in that department.
Barnett's got a great top game and very solid striking, but Cormier is capable of standing and being effective against Barnett in the striking game, and he won't be dominated on the ground. In fact, I'd be surprised if Barnett can find a way to score a takedown in this one. I like Cormier to keep his record undefeated here. Cormier via decision
Gilbert Melendez vs. James Thomson (Lightweight Championship)
These two fought twice 18 months apart in 2008 and 2009, and the difference between the two fights was immensely clear. Thomson's injury issues just three years ago saw him become a slower and less effective version of the fighter that defeated Melendez, and the current Champ dominated the action throughout all five rounds of the rematch.
Since that fight, Melendez has won three more fights, and Thomson has won three of four. However, injury issues once again have hampered Thomson, and he was out of action for another 15 months between his last two fights.
There's absolutely no reason to believe this fight will be any different than the second fight. Melendez is simply the superior fighter in every aspect of the sport in 2012. Thomson is immensely tough, and he'll have some success in a 25-minute fight, but this is very likely going to be a repeat of their December 2009 title bout. Melendez via decision
Rafael Cavalcante vs. Mike Kyle (Light Heavyweight)
This fight pits two of the only viable light heavyweight fighters left on Strikeforce's roster against one another, and it's another rematch on the card. Kyle knocked Cavalcante out almost three years ago when "Feijao" was still an up and coming contender in the division. At the time it was a shocking outcome, but Kyle's continued to have a modicum of success in the years since that win.
Kyle is 6-2 with one no contest in nine fights since that knockout win, and both losses came in the heavyweight division when he jumped up to take on Fabricio Werdum and Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva. In his six wins at 205 lbs. since their first fight, Kyle has stopped all but one.
Cavalcante would rebound from that loss, and in fact captured the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Title from Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal before getting knocked out by Dan Henderson last year.
This is going to be a striking heavy fight, and both are going to be swinging with bad intentions looking for a finish. Both have suffered recent knockout losses, and there are questions on the chins for both, but at this stage I think I have more faith in Kyle's than Feijao's. I'll take Kyle by KO in the second round
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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