–Kenny Rice Inside MMA Anchorman

When your competition has cornered the biggest of the market, you have to find your niche, offer something so viable that even the competitor can appreciate your resolve.

That’s Strikeforce in a nutshell.  Founder and CEO Scott Coker has been competitive with the UFC without trying to take on the UFC as so many failed organizations have.  He has wisely chosen his spots, taken advantage of a strong Northern California base of fighters spotted before the “other guy” could sign them, found there was still fight in discarded UFC former greats.

He’s done it again with the Strikeforce Grand Prix Heavyweight tournament.  A gathering of talent so impressive that no less an authority than my Inside MMA co-host Bas Rutten has dubbed it “The best heavyweight tournament card I have ever seen.”

The heavy duty roster required some heavy persuading I would imagine. No one seems to want to be champion of the division. Fabricio Werdum was more eager to give Fedor Emelianenko a rematch after handing “The Last Emperor” his first defeat in almost a decade. And of course the current champion, the enigmatic Alistair Overeem, who is just as content fighting out his career in Japan as coming back to the U.S. to defend the belt. This high profile triumvirate had to meet, should meet for the sake of the sport, but how and when? Viola’ the perfect Coker and Strikeforce scenario evolved.

Even though it is a belt for the tourney and Overeem remains the Strikeforce champ regardless, at least this offers a gauge for the fans as to who is the number one contender? Or maybe Overeem is so much better he’ll be king of both. At least there is an emphasis that a champion will be crowned that there is meaning in being a heavyweight title holder.

And the gauge doesn’t go to empty after the big three. There is intrigue with Brett Rogers who was a punch away from beating Emelianenko in the first round before losing that fight and then losing to Overeem. But his ability to end it with one swing always makes him formidable. Antonio Silva and Sergei Kharitonov add a Japanese big event feel to it all  with their styles and background. .

Then there are the golden oldies, former UFC champs Andrei Arlovski and Josh Barnett. Arlovski with three straight losses, albeit to top contenders, gives his fans a chance to prove he has one final run of wins left. Barnett has found the only other name organization that will give him an opportunity after the cloud of controversy over a licensing denial in California and failed drug tests. Not that long ago he was universally considered one of the top five heavyweights in the world, now he has a shot to see if he’s still at that level. That he told us on Inside MMA “titles mean nothing” I don’t think he would be in this for a paycheck only.

It’s a heavy assignment to win this thing, and a perfect place for Strikeforce to shine again. The perfect setting for MMA fans to see almost all of the best heavyweights in the world over these next weeks.  The weigh-in can be seen live on Inside MMA at 5 PM ET Friday.

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