Biggest Winner: Daniel Cormier
The former Olympian got a few laughs at the pre-fight press conference by making it very clear that he didn't mind winning a decision over "Bigfoot" Silva. Then he went out and demolished the much larger Brazilian with some punishing right hands, rocketing himself up the ranks and into the big time. The win proved not only that Cormier can hang with quality heavyweights, but also that his size isn't necessarily a deal-breaker. There aren't a whole lot of 5'11" heavyweights in the top ten, but when you're as quick as Cormier -- and when you have wrestling skills that allow you to do something other than stand at the end of a taller man's reach -- maybe it doesn't matter. Now Cormier's in a no-lose situation. Even if he gets beat by Barnett in the finals, it won't be so devastating. It will be just his tenth pro fight, after all. If he wins, he's the newest heavyweight superstar. Now let's just hope that his hand injury isn't too serious. The most disappointing possible outcome would be Strikeforce replacing him in the finals. It would also be the dumbest possible outcome, but more on that later.
Biggest Loser: Yoel Romero
The Cuban light heavyweight came into his undercard bout with "Feijao" Cavalcante looking like he had all the makings of a future star. Between his wrestling skills and his mini-Bobby Lashley physique, he seemed like someone who might be only a big win or two away from being thrust into the spotlight. But after a bizarre first round in which referee Dan Miragliotta actually called timeout so he could implore Romero to fight, he got knocked into the land of wind and ghosts by a brutal assault that left him stretched out on his back. That's not the image you want to leave people with. Especially not after you just spent five minutes breakdancing. All in all, it was a bad night with a worse ending for Romero. Now it's just a question of what he decides to do with it.
Most Consistent: Josh Barnett
When the Grand Prix bracket was first revealed it seemed like Barnett had the surest path to the finals. But then, between Fedor Emelianenko's opening round loss and Alistair Overeem's withdrawal, nothing in this tournament worked out the way it was supposed to. Nothing except Barnett, that is. He rolled right through his first two opponents and now he's through to the finals with a minimum of cage time. Though everyone else derailed in one way or another, Barnett is pulling into the station right on schedule. He's also keeping things interesting with his pro wrestling-style promos from time to time, and yet not overdoing it to the point where it becomes cloying. Basically, Barnett's starting to look like he could be a valuable asset for the UFC. It's just that history of failed drug tests and the contentious relationship with Dana White that stands in his way. The former has a lot to do with the latter, but all he can do now is play by the rules, make nice, and hope for the best.
Most Remarkable Recovery: Luke Rockhold
Several times in his middleweight title fight with "Jacare" Souza he got rocked by big right hands, but thanks to his mutant healing powers he was right back in it before Souza could capitalize. I still gave the slight edge to Souza in the bout, but it was close enough that I can absolutely see how you might score it 48-47 for Rockhold (though, 50-45? that's just crazy talk). At least the title shake-up gives Strikeforce some much-needed options at middleweight, since Souza had already fought just about everyone there was in the division. Rockhold is probably looking at a fight with Tim Kennedy now, but whether he wins or loses, this is a problem that isn't going away. The pool of contenders at 185 pounds is too small in Strikeforce. If they end up passing the title back and forth among each other, it won't take long before fans lose all interest. Meanwhile, the UFC could sure use some new faces at middleweight now that Anderson Silva has demolished every credible contender. I have an idea for a solution that could benefit both parties...
Least Secure Future: (tie) Antonio Silva and Sergei Kharitonov
As we've already noted, fate has not been kind to the losers in the heavyweight Grand Prix thus far. At least Silva and Kharitonov made it into the semis before getting beat, but now what do you do with them? I suppose you could have them fight each other in some kind of third-place match, but that's probably not going to excite the fan base all that much. In the end, Zuffa is still looking at two mid-level heavyweights who don't speak much English. When the UFC eventually absorbs these guys (come on, we all know that's what's eventually going to happen) you have to wonder how much value it will see in Silva and Kharitonov. If they do meet each other, it might be in a bout that's more of an audition than anything else.
Worst Idea, Even in Theory: Replacing Daniel Cormier
When Strikeforce's Scott Coker said that the organization might have to move on with the Grand Prix final without Cormier if his hand injury sidelines him for too long, I admit I was stunned. I could see replacing someone earlier in the tournament, but in the final? Barnett-Cormier is the only fight that makes sense at this point, and it's the only one anyone wants to see. It's a great match-up too, plus there's Cormier's whole Cinderella story as an alternate who made the most of an unexpected opportunity. Even if it takes a year, I think you have to wait it out. There are simply no other decent options. Who would you even replace Cormier with at this point? Who's the alternate for the alternate? Chad Griggs? Antonio Silva? Fabricio Werdum? None of those would feel like a genuine tournament final bout. It would be better to risk leaving this unfinished than to move on with some artificial ending that Strikeforce tries to sell as a meaningful finale. Not only would no one believe it, it would just be insulting and degrading for all of us, Strikeforce included.
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