Two very powerful heavyweights will duke it out this Saturday night (Jan. 12, 2013) as Josh Barnett takes on Austrian newcomer Nandor Guelmino on the final Strikeforce card in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Barnett got off to a tremendous start in his Strikeforce career, destroying both Brett Rogers and Sergei Kharitonov in the quarterfinals and semifinals of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix respectively. He came up short, losing a five round decision to Daniel Cormier in the finals, but has definitely put himself in a position to earn a shot in the UFC if he can get past Guelmino.
Nandor Guelmino is a striker hailing from Austria with a major background in the martial arts. He got involved in MMA after watching the original UFC events on DVD with his buddies. He rose to become the heavyweight champion of the WFC promotion overseas and now has a tremendous opportunity to make a name for himself if he can pull off the upset this Saturday night.
Will Barnett steamroll as predicted? Can Guelmino pull off one of the biggest upsets of the decade? What's the key to victory for both men?
Record: 31-6 overall, 2-1 in Strikeforce
Key Wins: Sergei Kharitonov (Strikeforce: Barnettt vs. Kharitonov), Aleksander Emelianenko (Pride Total Elimination Absolute), Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira (Pride Final Conflict Absolute)
How he got here: Josh Barnett has had a roller coaster of a career. The craziness began back in 2002 when he defeated Randy Couture at UFC 36 for the UFC heavyweight title. He didn't have long to celebrate as he tested positive for a banned substance and was stripped of his belt.
Barnett has never returned to the UFC and would instead spend the next six years of his career fighting in Japan. He fought nine times in Pride where he mixed results, primarily due to three defeats at the hands of Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic. His most impressive victory, a split decision over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira would be avenged in his final fight with Pride.
After Pride was bought out by Zuffa, Barnett would fight for World Victory Road's Sengoku Raiden Championships and he then teamed up with the upstart Affliction promotion in the United States. He won his first two fights and was all set up for a "mega-fight" with superstar Fedor Emelianenko before again testing positive for steroids while applying for his license to fight in California. This final steroid test would force him to back out of his fight with "The Last Emperor" and it crippled Affliction, causing the cancellation of its third event and forcing head honcho Tom Atencio to give up on his promotional dreams and return to the role of sponsoring fighters.
He next signed a deal with Strikeforce to participate in the Heavyweight Grand Prix and was grandfathered in when Zuffa purchased the promotion, where he has apparently made peace with Dana White at the Fight Summit earlier this year. "The Warmaster" crushed Brett Rogers in the first round of the grand prix and proceeded to steamroll Sergei Kharitonov in the semifinals, defeating both men easily via submission.
In his last bout, he put up a strong effort, but he was no match for Daniel Cormier, losing a dominant five round decision in the tournament finals. Now, he's hoping to bounce back and potentially earn some good will with the UFC.
How he gets it done: Josh Barnett is a catchwrestler at heart, even competing in professional wrestling matches in Japan on the side of his mixed martial arts career. The ground is absolutely his home. and that's where he's going to be victorious this weekend.
At some point in the fight, expect Barnett to drop down for a takedown. Even if he doesn't get it right away, he'll push Guelmino into the fence, keep a low base and try to lift him up into the air and slam him to the ground with authority. Guelmino doesn't have a great grappling background, so this should be easier than most.
If and when the fight goes to the ground, Barnett will be patient. Barnett has extremely tight top control and it's very difficult to escape once he has you on the ground. He'll be just as happy to smother Guelmino and make the Austrian carry his weight for up to three rounds, although he'll likely be working to put Guelmino away via submission the second an opportunity arises.
Record: 11-3-1 overall, 0-0 in Strikeforce
Key Wins: none
Key Losses: Semmy Schilt (LOTR)
How he got here: Nandor Guelmino got his start in martial arts when he began training in taekwondo as a child. By his teens, he was a black belt and looking to expand his knowledge of combat arts and add weight lifting to his regime. By 2002, he began training in mixed martial arts although he didn't make his professional debut until 2007.
Guelmino has had mixed results throughout his career, only winning four of his first eight professional bouts, although he's hit his stride as of late, winning seven straight fights dating back to June of 2010 including five stoppages.
When Strikeforce came calling in need of an opponent for Barnett, Guelmino accepted the challenge.
How he gets it done: Guelmino may have submitted his opponents in six of his 11 career victories, but he absolutely cannot afford to let this fight go to the ground. There's a big difference between taking out European heavyweights who lack a ground game and Josh Barnett's elite catch-as-catch-can wrestling skills.
Look for Guelmino to try to keep his distance and work his strikes. Barnett's been known to screw around on his feet, giving his opponents an opportunity to strike with him for a while before he pounces. This is Guelmino's opportunity. If he can catch Barnett with one of his taekwondo kicks, it could be a strike that "The Warmaster" never sees coming simply because heavyweights don't throw them often. Barnett's been taken out by Cro Cop's head kicks in the past, perhaps Guelmino could repeat history.
Granted, it's a long shot.
Fight X-Factor: In all honesty, the biggest X-Factor for this fight has to be Guelmino's strength of opposition and the tremendous leap he's taking by accepting this fight against Barnett. He's only ever fought one notable opponent in Semmy Schilt and he was knocked out in the first round.
If he's intimidated, what little chance he has will be thrown out the window. He has to treat Barnett like he's no better than any of his prior opponents, psyche himself up and just go for it. If not, he might as well not even show up.
Bottom Line: This fight is likely going to be one-sided. Barnett is considerably more skilled and experienced than Guelmino and possesses a significantly better ground game. If he takes this fight to the canvas, it's probably going to be over very quickly. It's worth watching just to see "The Warmaster" at work, similar to what he was able to accomplish against Kharitonov in his last victory.
Who will come out on top at Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!