CageJunkies Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix: The Breakdown
This Saturday September 10th, Strikeforce descends upon Cincinnati, Ohio with two Semi-Final matchups that will declare the finalists in it’s much talked about Heavyweight Grand Prix Tournament. In the Co-Main Events, former EliteXC Champion Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva will fight undefeated prospect and 2-time Olympian Daniel Cormier, and Josh Barnett will collide with Russian striker Sergei Kharitonov. There are also some very good undercard fights, (which I’ll get to later). Let’s face it, this tournament has lost some of it’s appeal due to several unexpected incidents since it was announced in February. Most people were clamoring for Alistair Overeem Vs Fedor Emelianenko to have their epic “Clash Of The Titans” throwdown in the Finals, but an interesting course of events changed both of their paths along the way. Fedor was wrecked by Bigfoot Silva in the first round of the 8-Man tournament, and after a lackluster victory over Brazllian Jiu-Jitsu master Fabricio Werdum, Overeem was pulled from the tournament siting an injury and disagreements with the company.
However, whether or not MMA fans are still excited about this “tournament” or not, it’s hard to deny that these are still some pretty damn good fights, with some very good fighters who have the potential to make waves in the UFC’s Heavyweight division. Here’s my breakdown of the two semi-final fights, followed by analysis of the other fights on the main card.
Dan Cormier Vs Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva:
Many people think Silva’s size advantage is going to be the determining factor in this fight. A former Super Heavyweight fighter, Silva towers over Cormier, standing 6’4 and is often well above 265 lbs by the time he steps into the cage, while his opponent on Saturday stands at 5″10 and weighs a sturdy 240 lbs. Silva’s modus operandi is getting his opponents to the ground and making them bear his weight and massive frame, while he batters them with bungalows. But Silva has yet to face an opponent with the wrestling pedigree of Cormier, and I see Cormier taking him down early and often. If Werdum was able to take Silva down as often as he did in their battle, (which Werdum won) then the former Olympic team-captain should have a serious advantage when it comes to grappling. Silva’s advantage in the striking department may always be a factor, but Cormier works out and spars with UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez everyday in training camp, which shows Cormier is a very capable striker in his own right. Cormier’s wrestling, speed, and agility will help him secure the victory, grinding it out to continue his undefeated streak. That’s right, I’m going with the upset.
Pick: Daniel Cormier via Decision
Josh Barnett Vs Sergei Kharitonov:
Former UFC Heavyweight Champion Josh Barnett made easy work of Brett Rogers in the quarter-finals, abrogating Roger’s heavy striking by taking him down and submitting him with an arm triangle choke in the 2nd round. Equally, former Pride and K-1 veteran Sergei Kharitonov, who many consider the dark horse of the GP, also had a short night, knocking out MMA planking champion Andrei Arlovski in the 1st round. I’ve heard a lot of people describe this fight as the classic striker vs wrestler matchup, which I think is a bit cliché, mostly due to the fact that Barnett is well rounded in a lot of areas, not just wrestling. 94% of Kharitonov’s wins have come via stoppage, mostly TKO due to strikes, but if Barnett can avoid his punches and kicks and get inside for the takedown, it’s pretty much going to be a wrap for Kharitonov.
Pick: Josh Barnett via Submission
Ronaldo Jacare DeSouza Vs Luke Rockhold- Middleweight Championship Fight:
Jacare has beaten most of Strikerforce’s top middleweights including Matt Lindland, Tim Kennedy, Joey Villaseñor, and Robbie Lawler. Luke Rockhold has also found great success in Strikeforce. The AKA trained fighter is undefeated in the organization, with all six of wins coming via stoppage, but the competition he faced were not on the same level of DeSouza’s opponents. He graduates from the “Strikeforce Challengers” cards to the big show and a title fight, and he’s a very game opponent, but I give Jacare the nod in this one, plus it’s just hard to bet against a Blackhouse fighter these days.
Pick: Ronaldo “Jacare” DeSouza via Decision
Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal Vs Roger Gracie- Light Heavyweight Fight
King Mo, or “Blackuraba” as he’s been calling himself leading up to this fight, looks to get back in the win column after coming off a 3rd TKO loss to Rafael Cavalcante. He faces the BJJ Jedi Knight, Roger Gracie, who is undefeated in his four MMA fights. Word out of Lawal’s training camp is that he has been working harder than ever, and is in extremely good shape for this fight. He’s going to need to be, because Roger Gracie will be Lawal’s biggest (both figuratively and literally) grappling challenge to date. And yes, this is a Mixed Martial Arts fight not a grappling match, so Gracie will have to find a way to to avoid Lawal’s heavy hands. In spite of King Mo’s world class wrestling, his path of least resistance in this fight is to keep it standing.
Pick: Roger Gracie via Submission
Pat “Bam Bam” Healy Vs Maximo Blanco- Lightweight Fight
Did you know Pat Healy holds wins over Dan Hardy, Paul Daley, and Carlos Condit? All by submission? True story. Granted, it was 6 years ago, but those are still some impressive wins to have on your resume. He’s had 41 pro fights and the dude is only 28 years old. He’s a savvy veteran with a well rounded game. Maximo Blanco might have the coolest name in MMA since Caol Uno and Ryo Chonan, but he’s making his debut in the United States, which doesn’t usually bode well for fighters who have fought in Japan their whole careers. He’s a decorated freestyle wrestler, but it won’t be enough against the experienced Healy.
Pick: Pat Healy via TKO
And there you have it, fight fans! I’ll be in attendance at the event in Cincinnati, to see all of my awesome predictions come to fruition. Make sure you stay updated with CageJunkies.com for live play by play, results, and more! Also check be sure to follow us on twitter at @TheCageJunkies and @SteveSolar, and check out our Facebook page. Fight on!