Dave Metlzer of the Wrestling Observer is reporting UFC President Dana White has predicted UFC blacksheep and former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett will win the entire Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix tournament. It's hard to believe given the utter disdain White holds for Barnett, but apparently it's true. Here's Meltzer in his own words:
Silva will face the Overeem vs. Werdum winner while Kharitonov faces the Josh Barnett vs. Brett Rogers winner. For the record, Dana White is predicting Barnett, who he hates, to run the table. He believes Werdum will catch Overeem on the ground, but Barnett, who has never been submitted, will be strong enough to avoid Werdum’s strength.
Certainly Overeem vs. Werdum is your classic match dependent upon whether or not Werdum can get it to the ground. Rogers has a good punch, but unless Barnett has slipped a lot, and we don’t know because it’s been years since Barnett was in with elite competition, he has to be the favorite.
Before the tournament began I would've called this prediction highly dubious. As Metlzer notes, Barnett hasn't faced elite competition in years. 2006, to be precise, where he lost to former PRIDE and UFC heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at PRIDE Shockwave 2006. Since that time he's faced a continuous stream of fighters that are ostensibly not on the level of a Josh Barnett in the best case and deeply unimpressive in the worst. I'd also be slightly more forgiving of the poor strength of Barnett's schedule had he dispatched his opposition more quickly. Yet, he went three rounds with Hidehiko Yoshida (I think he carried Yoshida in this bout) and went to a decision with non-contender Jeff Monson. He also took far too long to put away Gilbert Yvel from an insanely superior position.
Yet, in the aftermath of Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva, maybe White is on to something. I still favor Alistair Overeem over Fabricio Werdum given that Overeem was handily winning their first contest before a late mental lapse. The major question marks hanging over Overeem's head are real, but neither Antonio Silva nor Werdum are exactly the type of fighters to answer them. But a Werdum win is certainly not out of the question. Either way, Barnett is likely a strong contender against Werdum and probably competitive against Overeem. Barnett's tendency to slug too long may cost him, but a win against Overeem is a very real possibility.
Sergei Kharitonov looked impressive against Andrei Arlovski late in their fight, but Barnett's movement and angles as well as vastly superior, sramble-friendly ground game make him a tall order for the Golden Glory fighter. Brett Rogers could knock out Barnett, but few take the possibility seriously.
So, we have Barnett very likely winning his side of the bracket. With the exception of Alistair Overeem, Barnett stands a very good chance of beating Silva or Werdum on the other side of the bracket, thereby taking the whole thing. Again, all of this speculation is predicated on the idea that Barnett can still compete at a world-class level, something very much in doubt.
The larger point, though, is that folks have been saying the winner of the tournament will be the number one heavyweight in MMA. I've always found that notion a little hard to swallow. But if it is true and if Barnett does win the entire tournament, we'll have a number one heavyweight in MMA who won't be allowed to compete in California, Nevada or New Jersey.
For Barnett, that'd be some career resurgence. For Strikeforce, I won't call that disaster, but I'm not sure that's progress either.