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Boom to bust: Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix is not greater than the sum of its parts

<em>Oh, what could have been. </em>
Oh, what could have been.

This sucks.

Let's just be honest and get it out there right now. When the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix was first rumored back in December of last year, it created a buzz for the promotion like it had never seen.

We were excited because we couldn't help it. The tournament field was deep and filled with relative star power. The anticipation was palpable; it was just too easy to get sucked into the notion that the eight-man tourney would flow smoothly and go off without a hitch.

As if.

Steadily rising expectations were quickly replaced with skepticism and apprehension. How could Strikeforce, a promotion that willingly hands out title shots to fighters coming off losses, pull this off?

Murphy's law, my friends.

And really, when looking back on it, we knew this was coming. There were too many speed bumps -- and warning signs every step of the way for said speed bumps -- to actually make it work. We were foolish to get our hopes up in the first place.

It started with the very layout of the bracket itself. The big four -- Fedor Emelianenko, Antonio Silva, Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum -- were all matched up against one another on the left side of the bracket.

That left all the weak links -- Josh Barnett, Sergei Kharitionov, Andrei Arlovski and Brett Rogers -- on one side with very little intrigue or interest stateside.

It also meant the conclusion of the tournament, no matter who won on either side, would be terribly anticlimactic. Every compelling fight possible was on the left side and would play itself out within the first two rounds.

So why the hell would fans have any reason to care about the final?

Not only that, but what was at stake, ultimately? The heavyweight champion was slotted as a participant who had probably the biggest chance of winning, anyway. What's the point then?

Perhaps it was to showcase the depth of the promotion's heavyweight division and put its stars on display in explosive match-ups that would garner plenty of interest and steal some headlines from the 800-pound gorilla in the business, the UFC.

That would be why all the big dogs were on the same side of the bracket; to get them in against one another as soon as possible and crown the winner the greatest heavyweight in the world today. Or at least make an argument that they deserve to be in the discussion.

There's no way in hell that happens now.

That's because as soon as the tournament got underway, disaster struck. The biggest draw in the grand prix, Emelianenko, was absolutely spanked by his less heralded Brazilian opponent, Antonio Silva.

There goes the number one reason nearly half of viewers were tuning in to begin with.

But that's okay because there's still Overeem, the champion who's built his following organically by destroying a list of opponents that reads like a who's who of the senior can circuit.

However he got here, it worked wonders for his value and he was placed in a marketable fight against Fabricio Werdum that had enough selling points to headline a major show.

Then the fight happened.

Werdum decided to make a mockery of the proceedings while "The Reem" looked like anything but the killer he was billed as coming in. If there was a worst case scenario for how the contest would ultimately play out, this was it.

Either way, "Demolition Man" was on to the second round with a match-up awaiting him against the man who just completely obliterated the remaining myth surrounding the greatest heavyweight who ever lived.

All good, right? Wrong.

Overeem made an appearance on "The MMA Hour" in which he claimed he was threatened with removal from the tournament if he didn't acquiesce to demands that he fight Silva at an event to be held on Sept. 10.

Never one to back down easy, the deadly Dutchman simply told his employers to pound sand and they could kick rocks if they thought they could strong-arm him into doing something he wasn't ready to do.

So what happens? He gets booted out of the grand prix and promptly replaced by rising prospect Daniel Cormier.

What a disaster.

The reason given by UFC President Dana White was that Overeem has a toe injury that will not be healed in time for him to have a full training camp in order to be ready to compete on Sept. 10. The earliest he wanted to be back was in October.

The problem with that is Showtime is apparently dead set on holding the second round of the tournament on that very date. So the decision was essentially made for them and "The Reem" was out.

The two biggest stars of the tournament, Fedor and Overeem, are both out after the very first round. So tell me again why anyone is supposed to care about how this thing plays out now?

Another extremely important factor has made itself evident now that those two are gone. Look at the fighters left in the tourney -- anyone stand out to you? Is there any real star power left?

The answer is a resounding no. That's not a knock against the considerable skill of the four remaining members. Silva, Cormier, Kharitonov and Barnett are all extremely talented martial artists and the match-ups between them are all decent enough.

Decent doesn't cut it.

All those names were given a tremendous boost by their very association with Overeem and Fedor. Now that the two most important cogs in the wheel have been removed, this train has all but run out of steam.

You can do your best to justify a continued interest in the remainder of the grand prix but the effort would far outweigh the eventual result. Just face it -- you don't really care anymore and no one is going to blame you for it because they don't care either.

It's a damn shame, really. This could have been great. Now? Not so much.

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