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Eight Ways of Looking at Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum

Remember that whole Strikeforce heavyweight Grand Prix thing? It didn't disappear -- turns out it was just hibernating. The big men return to action tonight in Dallas, so it's time to sort through all the major storylines and burning questions.

I. November 16, 2007. That's the last time Alistair Overeem went more than one round in an MMA fight. True, he has gone longer in K-1 bouts recently, but that's a different type of fighting and a different type of cardio. Werdum thinks the extra "40 pounds of whoop-ass" that Overeem is so proud of may tire him out late in the fight, but the truth is that we just don't know how the present day Overeem will look in the third round. We may not get to find out tonight, either.

II. For pure entertainment value, this card has as much or more to offer than the last couple UFC pay-per-views.
Even better, it's free with a Showtime subscription, and the prelims are on HDNet, so if you paid for the top of the line cable package you now get great fights and the same four Tom Cruise movies on an endless loop. Talk about a deal. On paper, at least, I can't recall a better night of fights in recent memory that didn't cost 50 bucks upfront. Now if only Showtime would get it through their heads that Pat Miletich ought to be a staple at the broadcast table, they'd really be in business with this MMA stuff.

III. Josh Barnett continues the grand tradition of the very good heavyweight with a very poor physique.
Seeing him on the scales on Friday reminded me of one sportswriter's description of baseball player Kirby Puckett as a man with the body of "a poorly packed duffel bag." Let's face it, Barnett will never be the ripped action-hero type, which might make him a tough sell to casual fans tuning into Showtime to see these supposedly great heavyweights. That's fine. Barnett doesn't have to be a fitness model. He just has to win the fights and prove that his lack of quality competition in recent years doesn't mean he can't still hang with the Overeem's of the heavyweight division, even if he'll never look like them.

IV. K.J. Noons insists he isn't looking past Jorge Masvidal. At the same time he does seem to think he's already worthy of a Strikeforce lightweight title shot, and is just waiting until Strikeforce realizes it too. An impressive win over Masvidal will help with that campaign, but only if Noons doesn't get so caught up trying to be impressive that he forgets to be smart.

V. This week's open media workouts were almost like a personality test for each fighter. Barnett did his pro wrestling schtick. Werdum joked and played around with flying armbars and fancy sweeps that he almost certainly does not plan on using on Saturday night. Overeem did his workout primarily in private, essentially defeating the purpose of the open workout altogether. Rogers took it all very seriously, hitting mitts like he was trying to break his coach's hands. So what did we learn? That these are four very different men, with very different approaches to their craft. But we probably knew that already.

VI. If Daniel Cormier beats Jeff Monson -- and he probably will -- the grooming period is officially over. Cormier is 32 years old and he has two years of MMA experience under his belt. A win over a veteran like "The Snowman," and he won't be able to take the slow, gradual approach to moving up the ladder anymore. Unless he loses or looks terrible on Saturday night, things are about to go into hyper-drive for Cormier.

VII. The most unpredictable and interesting fight on the main card might also be the least meaningful. I refer now, of course, to the Chad Griggs-Valentijn Overeem bout. It's not that the fight is insignificant, but as a reserve bout in a tournament that goes months between events anyway, the winner probably won't ever see his name in the official bracket. Is that so bad? Not necessarily. Overeem is a journeyman, and Griggs ought to be a light heavyweight, so a chance to show off some skills and get a paycheck out of it is nothing to complain about. Still, I have no idea how this one is going to go, which is part of what makes it so fun.

VIII. Werdum cited his win over Fedor Emelianenko last time this year as proof that June is his month. He's fought three times in June so far in his career (the fight with Overeem will be the fourth), and he's never lost yet. He just has to hope his next fight doesn't go down in October -- a month where he's 0-2.