Strikeforce Delays Heavyweight Grand Prix, Books Two April Title FightsAfter weeks of speculation, Strikeforce has confirmed the postponement of the remainder of the opening round of its inaugural Heavyweight Grand Prix. The final two quarterfinal bouts, first set for April 9th, will now take place on June 18th at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.

The April card, which will be held at the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego, California, will feature a pair of title fights. Strikeforce Welterweight Champion Nick Diaz clashes with Paul “Semtex” Daley, while Lightweight Champion Gilbert “El Niño” Melendez faces Tatsuya “Crusher” Kawajiri.

Originally planned for Japan, the April 9th event has been shrouded in uncertainty for many weeks as Strikeforce looked for a new venue in the United States after the Japan plans fell through. With the San Diego venue now secured, the promotion will feature a double-bill of title fights. Diaz (24-7-0, 1 ND) will look to make another successful defence of his 170-pound crown when he faces hard-hitting knockout artist Daley (27-9-2), while Melendez (18-2-0) and Kawajiri (27-6-2) rematch for Melendez’s 155-pound title. Melendez narrowly edged Kawajiri in the pair’s first meeting at PRIDE Shockwave 2006.

The HWGP delay, first reported by on Tuesday evening, comes amidst speculation that Strikeforce was facing difficulties in finding a U.S. state that would license tournament participant Josh Barnett. The former UFC Heavyweight Champion was suspended by the California State Athletic Commission in 2009 following a third positive test for steroids, and he has yet to become relicensed in the state. As a result, other states suggested that they may also follow suit and decline to license Barnett until his issues with the CSAC were resolved, and Strikeforce has opted to travel to Texas for the June event.

In the opening round of the tournament, Sergei Kharitonov dispatched of former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski, while Antonio Silva shocked many by upsetting long-time PRIDE king Fedor Emelianenko. The remaining two quarterfinal bouts, which will now be contested on the June card rather than in April, will pit Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem against Fabricio Werdum in a rematch from a May 2006 bout, while the aforementioned Barnett takes on Brett Rogers. With Texas’s lenient policy for fighter licensing, Barnett will likely have few issues in obtaining clearance to compete in the state.

The April 9th event will likely also feature a light heavyweight bout between Gegard Mousasi and Mike Kyle. The 205-pound division is expected to be featured prominently on the June 18th card as well, as former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal is slated to compete.



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