The MMA world is buzzing after the opening bouts of Strikeforce's Heavyweight Grand Prix style tournament involving eight top 25 heavyweights. The next round will take place on April 9th somewhere on planet Earth. Japan, Canada and many locations in the United States have been rumored, but the status of Josh Barnett's fight license will likely force Strikeforce's hand.
The opening bouts saw MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko get crushed in the second round by the notably bigger Antonio Silva. In addition, Andrei Arlovski will likely be out of the game for a long time following a dramatic knock-out loss to the hands of Russian slugger Sergei Kharitonov.
The next round will see K-1, Dream and Strikeforce champion Alistair Overeem fighting ADCC champion Fabricio Werdum in a mega fight. In addition, former UFC champ Josh Barnett will face hard hitting Brett Rogers.
Alistair Overeem's Strikeforce HW belt will not be on the line, as the tournament will crown an independent Grand Prix Champion. Look for Werdum to try to force the floor at all times to avoid Alistair's destructive stand-up game.
Round 1 Results:
Antonio Silva def Fedor Emelianenko via TKO, R2, 5:00
Sergei Kharitonov def Andrei Arlovski via KO, R1, 2:49
Reserve Bout Winners:
Shane Del Rosario def Lavar Johnson via Sub(armbar) R1, 4:31
Chad Griggs def Gian Villante via TKO (strikes) R1, 2:49
Valentijn Overeem def Ray Sefo via Sub (neck crank) R1, 1:37
Remaining Round 1 bouts:
Alistair Overeem v. Fabricio Werdum (April 9th)
Brett Rogers v. Josh Barnett (April 9th)
Final Four Qualifiers:
Antonio Silva (16-2)- "Pezao" or "Bigfoot" is a strong heavyweight that meets the top end of the 265 pound limit. A lifelong martial artist, Silva has black belts in Karate, Judo and BJJ. Silva rose to fame by winning the heavyweight title in Elite XC, though he later tested positive for steroids. Silva blamed the test on a testosterone-booster that he uses to counteract the low testosterone levels caused by his acromegaly.
In the opening round of the tournament, Bigfoot had a very close 1st round matching the stand-up skills of Fedor Emelienenko. However in the second round, Bigfoot took advantage of Fedor utilizing his ground skills establishing dominant position, then crushing his foe with his massive fists.
Silva will go as far as his big time power and ground game will take him. Silva has TKO wins over Tom Erikson, Mike Kyle and Wesley Correira. He has decision wins over Andrei Arlovski and Ricco Rodriguez.
Sergei Kharitonov (18-4)- This Russian Airborne soldier gained notierity in the MMA world with his entertaining bouts in the Pride organization. A former training partner with Fedor Emelianenko, Kharitonov emerged in the 2004 Pride HW GP when he KO'd Ninja Rua and kickboxing legend Semmy Schilt.
Expect Kharitonov went toe to toe with Andrei Arlovski in his opening round bout, and despite taking some shots eventually got the better of Arlovski. Kharitonov used nasty uppercuts and punches to the body, eventually sending Arlovski to the canvas and finishing him off with strong ground and pound. Kharitonov has other victories over tournament front runners Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum.
Remaining 1st Round Fighters:
Alistair Overeem (34-11)- Since becoming a full-time heavyweight, Overeem's career has shot off the charts. He is 9-0 since a September 2007 KO loss to fellow tourney competitor Sergei Kharitonov. Even more impressive, Alistair was able to capture the 2010 K-1 Grand Prix World Championship, defeating kickboxing legend Peter Aerts in the final.
Overeem is the defending Strikeforce HW champion, having won the title against Paul Buentello and defending against Brett Rogers. A powerful kickboxer with upper level submission skills, Overeem has other victories against Vitor Belfort, Todd Duffee and Igor Vovchanchyn. Overeem will look to keep the fight standing against Werdum.
Fabricio Werdum (14-4)- Werdum sent shockwaves through the MMA world in his last fight, a one minute long bout with Fedor Emelianenko which saw the Russian tapping. As the bout unfolded, Werdum was punched, went to the canvas, and then baited an aggressive Fedor into the fight ending triangle/armbar choke. The submission won MMA Blaster's submission of the year.
Fabricio Werdum will be looking to get the fight with Overeem to the ground early and often to utilize his world renown jiu-jitsu skills. The task will be difficult, but Werdum has defeated many top fighters, including Brandon Vera, Junior Silva, Gabriel Gonzaga, Aleks Emelianenko and Fedor Emelianenko. Werdum is the 2007 and 2009 ADCC HW champ.
Josh Barnett (26-5)- The submission wizard and pro wrestling fanatic, Josh Barnett is an interesting character in the martial arts world. Barnett is still a wild card in the tournament, still not having cleared up a positive steroid test in California. If troubles persist, look for an alternate to take Barnett's place.
With the positive test looming in the United States, Barnett fought twice in Japan in 2010, winning via TKO over Geronimo dos Santos and submitting Mighty Mo Siliga. Barnett rose to fame in the early UFC, defeating Semmy Schilt and Bobby Hoffman to earn a title shot against Randy Couture. Barnett would defeat Couture via TKO at UFC 36, but tested positive for three banned substances. Barnett would go on to acheive success in Pride, going to the finals of the 2006 HW Grand Prix.
Brett Rogers (11-2)- The hard hitting Rogers rose to fame in the Elite XC when he rattled off four straight wins to earn a fight against Andrei Arlovski. Rogers would go on to knock out Arlovski with a clean shot, catapulting him into a match with Fedor Emelianenko.
Rogers would fight Fedor at Strikeforce, Chicago and battle the Russian to a close first round. In the second, Rogers ate a big shot and his night was finished. Rogers next fought Alistair Overeem to disappointing results. Since, Rogers rebounded with a win over Warpath Villareal.