Strikeforce: 'Barnett vs Cormier' predictions, preview and analysis

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Strikeforce is ready to (finally) tie a ribbon around its heavyweight grand prix tournament tomorrow night (May 19, 2012) LIVE on Showtime from the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California.

"Barnett vs. Cormier" will feature a headlining heavyweight hoedown between longtime mixed martial arts (MMA) veteran Josh Barnett taking on undefeated fight phenom Daniel Cormier in the night's main event. Elsewhere on the card, Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez puts his 155-pound title on the line in a rubber match against former division titleholder Josh Thomson.

Remember: MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the main card action on fight night (Sat., May 19, 2012), which is slated to air at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime. The latest quick updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 8 p.m. ET with the "Prelim" bouts on Showtime Extreme.

So who keeps themselves relevant on Saturday night?

After the jump, I'll be taking a quick look at all the main card action, as well as provide quick picks for all the undercard match-ups. There's a total of eight fights in all, and best of all, they're available to Showtime subscribers only for free!

Let's get to it.

265 lbs.: Josh Barnett (31-5) vs. Daniel Cormier (9-0)

Nostradumbass predicts: This is one of those bouts, that if I skipped the event and just hit the quick results the next morning, where I would not be surprised to learn that either man came out victorious. While I believe Josh Barnett is the superior fighter, a win for Daniel Cormier would hardly be an upset.

I still won't pick him.

"DC" has a lot of momentum heading into this bout because he was able to stop Antonio Silva via technical knockout last September, but "Bigfoot's" stock was elevated in the wake of his upset win over Fedor Emelianenko a few months prior. Let's not forget this was the same Silva that was knocked out by Eric Pele and floored to the canvas by Mike Kyle, a natural light heavyweight.

I don't want to call his stand-up stiff, but he makes the Tin Man look like Reed Richards.

I'm also not impressed by Danny's unanimous decision win over Jeff Monson. True, "The Snowman" is a grizzled veteran and Abu Dhabi champion, but he also has the wingspan of a shuttlecock and could be the only heavyweight on the roster who's shorter and stubbier than Cormier.

Yes, he's undefeated at 9-0, which ain't too shabby, but go ahead (without looking at his record) and rattle off a couple of his opponent's names and where they've fought.

Uh-huh, that's what I thought.

Barnett is far from perfect, and he faces an Olympian task (literally) of overcoming his enemy's wrestling while forcing the issue himself. I believe he gets it done, because there is very little Cormier can give him that he hasn't already seen in a career that spans 15 years across the world's top promotions.

Both are serviceable strikers, but this fight is decided in the clinch and on the floor.

If this was a collegiate wrestling match, I would have the AKA product all day, but MMA wrestling belongs to Barnett and nobody transitions into submissions, at least in this division, like "The Warmaster" does. Key lock, heel hook, toe hold ... you name it, he can secure it.

I think if Cormier was 23 and not 33, he might be able to stay fresh enough to grind this one out with his aggressive offense, but all things considered, I predict his conditioning (torpedoed by Barnett's defensive wrestling) will fade midway through the fight and he'll likely give away rounds three through five.

Final prediction: Barnett def. Cormier via split decision

155 lbs.: Gilbert Melendez (20-2) vs. Josh Thomson (19-4)

Nostradumbass predicts: Oh cool, these guys are fighting again. I know that's probably an unfair jab since it is a rubber match, but if Gilbert Melendez doesn't care about this fight, why should we?

I think part of that comes from our desire to see "El Nino" crossover to the UFC and make some noise in what could be one of the deepest divisions in all of MMA. Add Eddie Alvarez to that melting pot and well, it's easy to see why "Melendez vs. Thomson III" is not garnering the Showtime network any new subscribers.

Still, it should be an entertaining and fairly competitive fight.

Thomson is a credible threat, but I can't pick him outright because he's the exact same fighter he was when they first met back in 2008, while Melendez has clearly evolved. That was evident in their 2009 rematch and it will become painfully obvious tomorrow night

In fact, don't bother with a scouting report, just compare their respective bouts against Tatsuya Kawajiri.

"El Nino" is the better wrestler, the better striker and will prove in the co-main event he's the rightful champion. The problem is, we knew that already, so expect hellfire and brimstone from the fans in attendance the second this thing stalls on the ground.

Only a highlight reel finish can save these two from a bore of attrition.

Final prediction: Melendez def. Thomson via unanimous decision

205 lbs.: Rafael Cavalcante (11-3) vs. Mike Kyle (19-8-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: Oh cool, these guys are fighting again. I know Strikeforce is going to eventually eliminate its heavyweight division, but when this is your co-main event, you can make an argument the 205-pounders gotta go as well.

Especially with Dan Henderson in the UFC and Muhammed Lawal in Bellapact. Heck, even Lorenz Larkin got the heck outta Dodge.

Anyway, for those who just got to the party, Mike Kyle pasted Rafael Cavalcante at the Strikeforce event in St. Louis back in 2009. "Feijao" was bloated and out-of-shape after a long layoff and got his ass handed to him in a fight he was supposed to win.

Now it's payback time, but will history repeat itself?

Probably not. "MAK" is a powerful fighter and aggressive in his attack, but he's more fire than finesse and I still think the Brazilian is more well-rounded. He made the mental mistake of going punch-for-punch against Dan Henderson and paid the price for it, but was also the first guy to finish off "King Mo" and has 10 of his 11 wins coming by way of (T)KO.

Heavy are the hands that crack the crown.

Kyle has also done his share of winning since their last encounter, with equal success, but I just have a hard time seeing a fully prepared Cavalcante giving this one away. He's the better fighter in every skill set, now he has to go out there and prove it.

I believe he does.

Final prediction: Cavalcante def. Kyle via technical knockout

170 lbs.: Nah-Shon Burrell (8-1) vs. Chris Spang (4-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: I know most hardcore fight fans are too fickle to give Nah-Shon Burrell a second look and casual fans, well, they won't even be watching.

That's unfortunate.

It's hard to build a "one to watch" case for "The Rock-and-Rolla" based on the ugliness that was his split decision win over James Terry earlier this year, but let's not forget he just turned 22 and has less than two years of professional experience.

And he can strike.

Like the Philly fighter, Spang is one of the taller welterweights, measuring in over six feet, but his inability to implement his reach in this fight will be his undoing.

He looked unimpressive in his unanimous decision loss to Ricky Legere Jr. at the "Rockhold vs. Jardine" event back in January and despite beating some decent competition on the regional scene, I expect him to get lit up by Burrell by the end of the first frame.

Final Prediction: Burrell def. Spang via technical knockout

155 lbs.: Gesias Cavalcante (16-4-1) vs. Isaac Vallie-Flagg (12-3-1)

Nostradumbass predicts: Remember back in late 2007 when "JZ" was one of the world's top lightweights? How the mighty have fallen. He's still a dangerous fighter and he was robbed blind against "The Punk." Vallie-Flagg is on a hot streak but when you compare their quality of opposition, well, there's no comparison. Cavalcante by TKO.

205 lbs.: Virgil Zwicker (10-2) vs. Guto Inocente (5-0)

Nostradumbass predicts: I know Filho is supposed to be the big bad Brazilian, who is undefeated and unbreakable and blabbity, blabbity blah, but he's going to get smashed by "Rezdog." Don't tell me that getting pasted by Lavar Johnson is a knock on Zwicker, since that guy can punch his way out of a bank vault.

205 lbs.: Derrick Mehmen (12-4) vs. Gian Villante (9-3)

Nostradumbass predicts: Villante was nearly sent back to Ring of Combat (ROC) after two consecutive losses, but I think he's finally got his groove back following a pair of wins and should outwork the tough (but inconsistent) "Meh"men en route to a unanimous decision victory.

170 lbs.: Quinn Mulhern (17-2) vs. Yuri Villefort (6-0)

Nostradumbass predicts: Villefort is undefeated and has five finishes in six wins, but there is no way I'm picking a guy who hasn't competed in two years against a guy who is 17-2 with 11 submissions. Yuri gasses and Mulhern passes.

That's a wrap, folks.

What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.

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