After over a month of speculation, planning, and contract negotiations, Strikeforce has confirmed that it will be holding its inaugural heavyweight tournament starting next month. The eight-man single-elimination Grand Prix is set in four stages; the quarter finals will be held on two events and the semi-finals and the finals will each take place on separate cards. All of Strikeforce’s biggest named heavyweights are involved in the tournament including current Strikeforce, K-1, and DREAM heavyweight champion “The Demolition Man” Alistair Overeem (30-12), who will be competing in the Grand Prix to defend his Strikeforce title.
On February 12 in New Jersey the quarter final match-ups will kick off the tournament as former UFC Heavyweight Champion “The Pitbull” Andrei Arlovski (14-8) steps into the cage opposite former PRIDE star Sergei Kharitonov (16-4), the last man to defeat Alistair Overeem. Then the card will turn its main event attention over to “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko (31-2) and “Bigfoot” Antonio Silva (14-2) as they battle to move forward in the quest for Strikeforce gold. The March 5 event in Ohio sees “Grim” Brett Rogers (11-2) returning to Strikeforce against controversial former UFC champion “The Babyfaced Assassin” Josh Barnett (21-5) in a match where both men are seeking a return to prominence on the global stage, and Submission of the Year winner Fabricio Werdum (14-4-1) will take his place against current heavyweight champ “The Demolition Man” in their long awaited meeting.
The tournament has received mixed reviews from fans and media alike. While many are excited to see the quality match-ups that could potentially emerge as the tournament goes on, others have registered complaints about the brackets themselves. Unlike most tournaments where the brackets are randomly drawn, Strikeforce set the first four matches themselves. A point of contention from many analysts is that, in a move to make more high profile fights to launch the tournament, Strikeforce has stacked the top four seeds, Emelianenko, Silva, Overeem, and Werdum on one side of the brackets. Those analysts and many other fans claim that this renders the other side of the brackets completely irrelevant. After all, fans may want to see the big name hard pressed by the underdog, but presumably few tune in to see the dogs fight each other. One positive that proponents of the tournament present is that this set up ensures fans that they will see Fedor fight multiple times this year (provided he wins) against top level opponents including one of two match-ups fans have been clamoring over for some time now, Fedor/Overeem or Fedor/Werdum II. Provided he can get past Silva, the fans are guaranteed one of these two match-ups.
Further details about the tournament will be published on MMA Gospel as they are released, including the official confirmation of the event dates and locations.