The conclusion of the Strikeforce Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament has been officially announced for Saturday, May 19, at HP Pavilion in San Jose, California. Former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett will face two-time Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier to determine the eight-man tournament champion.
The fight card will also feature a rubber match for the Strikeforce lightweight championship between two long-time rivals when champion Gilbert Melendez defends his title against number one contender Josh Thomson. Additionally, former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Rafael “Feijão” Cavalcante takes on the heavy-handed Mike Kyle and Bobby Voelker clashes with Nah-Shon Burrell in a welterweight tilt.
“Strikeforce is coming back to where it all started – San Jose,” Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said. “The Bay Area has some of the best fight fans in the world and we can’t wait to get back with an event like this on May 19. With the Heavyweight Grand Prix final between Josh Barnett and Daniel Cormier, along with Gilbert Melendez’s lightweight title defense against longtime rival Josh Thomson, you don’t want to miss this card!”
Currently riding an eight-fight win streak that includes tournament victories over Brett Rogers and Sergei Kharitonov, Barnett is hoping to conclude his run in the heavyweight tournament with an exclamation point by finishing his third opponent and claiming the trophy belt. At 31-5, the catch wrestling expert has proven he possesses a complete MMA skill set to compete with anyone he stands across the cage from. Now known as “The Warmaster”, Barnett owns career wins over legendary veterans including Randy Couture, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Pedro Rizzo and Dan Severn, and will look to add Daniel Cormier to his long list of conquests.
Cormier has experienced an incredible ascension through the heavyweight ranks since he began his professional MMA career in September 2009, after representing the U.S. at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics as a member of the freestyle wrestling team. Training at the famed American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Cormier has had the advantage of training with some of the sport’s best athletes. The Oklahoma State University All-American wrestler earned his way into the tournament as an alternate after defeating experienced veteran Jeff Monson last summer in a reserve bout and went on to knock out Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in dramatic fashion in his semi-final matchup. With a record of 9-0, “DC” looks to stay undefeated and make the most of this opportunity that will surely catapult him to the top of the heavyweight division.
Considered by most to be one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in MMA today, current Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez is looking to continue his dominance and extend his six-fight unbeaten streak with a successful title defense in the finale of this exciting fight trilogy. In addition to splitting wins with Thomson, “El Niño” also owns victories over Jorge Masvidal, Tatsuya Kawajiri, Shinya Aoki and Clay Guida, bringing his overall record to an impressive 20-2. Former Strikeforce lightweight champ and UFC veteran Josh Thomson steps back into the cage looking to reclaim what he feels is his and to earn his spot back atop the division. With a record of 19-4, 1 NC, “The Punk” recently outpointed KJ Noons in a number one contender’s match, and has defeated top stars such as Melendez, Duane Ludwig, Nam Phan and Pat Healy. Fans can expect these fighters to leave it all in the cage and pull out all the stops in this historic all-Bay Area championship matchup.
In what many considered a huge upset at the time, Rafael “Feijão” Cavalcante was defeated by the always dangerous Kyle in June 2009 in his Strikeforce debut. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt would rebound nicely and go on to defeat “King Mo” Lawal for the Strikeforce light heavyweight championship, and more recently he knocked out Olympic wrestler Yoel Romero. At 11-3, he will look to even the score when he gets his rematch with American Kickboxing Academy powerhouse Mike Kyle. Never one to settle for an easy fight, “MAK”’s wars with fighters like “Bigfoot” Silva and Fabricio Werdum are well noted throughout his career. This matchup seems tailor-made for the 19-8-1, 1 NC kickboxing pro who is looking to build off his win over Marcos Rogerio de Lima in September and firmly establish himself in the division.
Bobby Voelker steps back into the cage for the first time since defeating Roger Bowling in back-to-back welterweight battles. With a current record of 24-8, “Vicious” has developed a reputation for being an exciting fighter who never likes it to go to the judges, as evidenced by his 19 finishes. He meets Nah-Shon Burrell (fighting out of Philadelphia, Pa.) who owns an 8-1 overall record and is currently riding a six-fight win streak, including a victory over James Terry. At only 22, “The Rock-N-Rolla” is looking to make a name for himself in the welterweight division with an impressive performance over an MMA veteran.
Strikeforce Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament Final will air live on Showtime at 10 p.m. ET, while preliminary fights will be shown live on Showtime Extreme at 8 p.m. ET/PT. Tickets go on sale to the general public this Friday, April 6 at 10 a.m. PT at the HP Pavilion ticket office, all Ticketmaster locations, online at Ticketmaster.com or charge by phone at 1-800-745-3000.