Strikeforce (Marquardt vs. Saffiedine) – Josh Barnett vs. Nandor Guelmino Breakdown, Prediction and Preview

At first I, like Josh Barnett famously said, thought they pulled a fictional character from a “Lord of the Rings” novel to fight him. Which would be badass, actually, but unfortunately he’s just a massive European looking for a shot.

Fight breakdown – Going into this fight it was always a matter of who Barnett got en route to his final fight in Strikeforce and a presumed chance in the UFC proper. He gets a gigantic European who likes the ground game, which should make for either a really fun fight or a bowling shoe ugly brawl.

Barnett’s game hasn’t changed since he beat Randy Couture for the UFC title … and then got stripped of it because of a failed drug test. He’s a catch wrestler with an underrated striking game. His strategy is to get it to the ground and go for something to get the tapout. He’s the equivalent to a high level blackbelt in BJJ in that regard and on the ground he’s fairly deadly. And it’s how the bulk of his fights go against guys who have an inferior grappling/wrestling game to him: he gets it down by any means necessary and then goes for the submission. It works because a lot of heavyweights have lousy takedown defense and his takedowns are really good. He has a strong chin, as well, and can take some big shots to get in close.

Guelimino is a tae kwon do practitioner of some repute who has some submission wins via choke in his recent past. He looks like Tarzan … now we need to know whether or not he’ll show up and fight like Jane. His key will be staying off the ground with Barnett and turn this into a kickboxing match. He might not have an edge there but he certainly won’t on the ground.

Why it matters – Barnett’s UFC future is on the line here. If he loses it would be easy to not bring him over with the rest of the roster, especially considering his salary requirements necessarily going up because he won’t be able to be a fake fighter on top of being a real one. Barnett’s still the same fighter he was when he washed out of the UFC because of testing positive for steroids, fought in Pride and in various Japanese pro wrestling organizations juiced to the gills, sank Affliction because of some flunked steroid tests and now has somehow managed to get licensed and pass steroid tests.  Barnett doesn’t have baggage in this department like some fighters do: he’s got luggage.

As much as I want to believe that Barnett used bad supplements and had a false positive another time the key is this: Barnett has proved that you can cloud your status as an elite fighter by having considerable issues involving PEDs. If there was a poster child for steroid use in MMA it would be Barnett, which one imagines is the big concern Zuffa has with hiring him on. Can they get him licensed? And can he pass regular drug testing? We can joke all we want but that has to be a concern from them by hiring him.

People may ding Chael Sonnen regularly for TRT but Barnett is the Steve Howe of MMA; he keeps getting chances despite repeated steroid issues. Howe, for those who don’t know or don’t remember, was suspended seven times for cocaine abuse during a lengthy stint as a relief pitcher for the Yankees (amongst others). A win here, especially a big one, followed by another clean drug test and he’s got a much better case for staking his claim into the UFC.

Guelmino is in a no lose situation. A loss here and it’s not a big deal because Barnett is still ranked as a top 10 fighter. If he looks solid in defeat he might get another shot; he’s got a great look and a history of knocking guys out. It might make him the Austrian poor-man’s version of Todd Duffee right now but a good showing could get him an undercard slot sometime in 2013 on a UFC card.

Predictionn – Barnett

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