Strikeforce’s most ambitious move to date, holding a heavyweight tournament filled with big name stars spread out over four events throughout 2011, gets underway tomorrow with the first two quarter-final pairings.
See below for our predictions for this major night of MMA action.
Fedor Emelianenko Vs Antonio Silva: (HW GP Quarter-Final)
The headline fight sees a Russian superstar, Fedor, taking on a Brazilian giant, ‘Big Foot’ Silva.
It’s certainly not an easy fight for Fedor. he’ll be at a significant size disadvantage, and Silva is also durable, has decent striking and a good ground game. Brett Rogers had some success roughing up Fedor from on top, and that’s probably Silva’s best strategy here too, using his size to make life difficult for his opponent.
The Russian won’t be easy to take down though and is comfortable fighting off his back. He’s also a submission specialist and will provide an offensive threat wherever the fight goes.
Striking wise, ‘Big Foot’ has decent hands and a good chin, but Fedor is faster, better technically, and has KO power that defies his smaller stature.
Like Rogers before him, I think Silva can give Fedor some problems early, but I don’t think he’s got enough in his locker to finish the fight. On the other hand Fedor only needs one opportunity to end an opponent’s night, and I think he’ll find a way to do so here as he’s done so often in the past.
Fedor Emelianenko to win by TKO in Rd2
Andrei Arlovski Vs Sergei Kharitonov: (HW GP Quarter-Final)
The second quarter-final features two men who are seeking to reassert themselves after failing to set the heavyweight ranks on fire with their recent performances.
At his best Arlovski is a dangerous opponent for anyone, with sound striking and a genuine killer instinct that’s strengthened by the fact he’s also no slouch on the mat. The trouble is that he’s not currently fighting at his full potential, with both his mental game and his chin now being questioned following a three fight losing streak.
Meanwhile Kharitonov has similar skills – a good technical striker with heavy hands, and offers a threat from submissions on the ground. Having shifted his attentions towards the K-1 scene recently it’s likely he’ll be looking to keep this one standing though.
This is a fight that could go either way, and it really depends on which version of each fighter shows up. Arlovski seems to be in a good frame of mind in his pre-fight interviews, but there’s a lot of pressure on him here to get a win here, and I question how he’s going to react mentally when Kharitonov starts off aggressively. If he looks to take him down I believe that would work in his favor, but instead It’s more likely he’ll keep it standing and get caught with a fight-ending punch from the Russian.
Sergei Kharitonov to win by KO in Rd2
Shane Del Rosario Vs Lavar Johnson (Strikeforce HW GP Reserve Bout)
Certainly the most enticing of the three reserve bouts, Del Rosario and Johnson have both proven themselves to be worthy contenders after a stint in the Challengers series.
In all likelihood this is going to be a striking battle, and both men provide a serious offensive threat in that regard. Johnson is the harder hitting of the two, having finished seven of his 15 career wins by clean KO. He’s also going to have a notable 5.5 inch reach advantage here, with his reach spanning an impressive 82 inches.
Del Rosario is more likely to finish his fights by TKO rather than KO, but he is an excellent Muay Thai striker who makes good use of leg kicks, knees along with his punches, and is light on his feet for a heavyweight. He’s also the better of the two on the ground and considering the reach disadvantage he’s facing a trip to the mat may prove to be part of his gameplan here.
In 28 combined fights neither of these two has ever went the full three rounds, and I don’t expect that to change tomorrow night. It’s a fairly even fight but I’ve been particularly impressed by Del Rosario in his previous fights, and think he has more ways to win here. I see him getting a ground and pound win here.
Shane Del Rosario to win by TKO in Rd2.
Valentijn Overeem Vs Ray Sefo (Strikeforce HW GP Reserve Bout)
The Overeem Vs Sefo fight is all about ensuring that Strikeforce have at least one experienced veteran in reserve as the tournament progresses, with both men having been involved in combat sports since the mid ’90’s.
In actual fact Sefo only has two prior MMA bouts, both victories, having spent the vast majority of his career competing as a kickboxer. Therefore he’ll be hoping to keep this fight standing and use his technical striking to overcome the lesser known Overeem brother.
Overeem on the other hand has been a long time MMA campaigner but has never enjoyed the level of success of his brother, going 28-25 during his career to date. Erratic at times, he has re-focused recently and had a good 2010, enjoying two KO victories.
Despite that his best chance of victory is likely to take this fight to the ground as he has good offensive BJJ, and his poor submission defense is unlikely to be tested by Sefo.
I think Sefo’s lack of MMA experience is going to cost him here as Overeem takes him down and claims an early submission victory.
Valentijn Overeem to win by submission in Rd1
Gian Vallante Vs Chad Griggs (Strikeforce HW GP Reserve Bout)
Chad Griggs gets a second outing in Strikeforce after defeating Bobby Lashley last time out.
Despite that win I didn’t see anything particularly impressive about Griggs in that fight. He’s a decent all-rounder, but nothing more than that. He’s also not been fighting regularly, only recording two fights in the last three years prior to Saturday night’s match-up.
Vallante is another fighter plucked from the Ring Of Combat promotion, and he’s the younger of the two men here, and has better wrestling than Griggs. He’s also been far more active, with all eight of his pro-fights coming in the past two years.
I feel Vallente has more up-side here, and I see him using his wrestling to produce a ground and pound victory.
Gian Vallante to win by TKO in Rd2