The Strikeforce world heavyweight grand prix begins tomorrow night, and in preparation for the first round of the tournament, we're breaking it down fighter by fighter. We'll begin with the first four participants from tomorrow's Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva event.
Fedor comes into the tournament looking to return to form after suffering a first round submission loss to fellow grand prix participant, Fabricio Werdum. The last Pride heavyweight champion, he was considered the best fighter on the planet by many, and furthered his case by coming to North America, and crushing Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski, both former UFC heavyweight champions. Fedor also knocked out Brett Rogers in his Strikeforce debut, a man who is also taking part in the tournament.
Known for heavy hands, his active style while on top of opponents, and submissions, Emelianenko can win wherever the fight goes. Against Antonio Silva, he'll look to tee off on Silva's massive, and typically stationary skull. Being such a small heavyweight allows for Fedor's speed to frustrate and finish larger opponents, but leaves him vulnerable being overpowered. Fedor will look to out maneuver and blast Silva at every opportunity, and secure an impressive finish to begin his climb back to the top. Should Fedor defeat Silva, he'll move to the semifinals to face the winner of Alistair Overeem vs. Fabrico Werdum.
After the jump, we breakdown Antonio Silva, as well as the fight between Andrei Arlovski and Sergei Kharitonov.
The massive Antonio Silva has an extensive history with Strikeforce/EliteXC, and was even EliteXC's first (and last) heavyweight champion. With a record of 17-2, his most recent loss came in his Strikeforce debut against Fabricio Werdum, where he dropped a unanimous decision. Silva holds a black belt in BJJ, but only three of his wins have came by submission. As big as Silva is (6'4"), it's only logical that the man hits hard, with ten wins by knock out. He also holds a victory over grand prix participant Andrei Arlovski, who he beat via unanimous decision.
Although well rounded, Silva's not "world class" at any particular realm of fighting. This means he has to use all the tools available to him, including his natural size, to frustrate and beat his opponents. Against Fedor Emelianenko, Silva will have to strike first, and attempt to catch Fedor while he's cold. If Silva can get in close and not allow Fedor to dip in and out of range, he'll look to do some damage, and possibly clinch against the fence. Fedor certainly will not want to have the big man leaning on him and winning points by simply controlling him, so Silva will have to cut corners and use good foot work to allow himself the chance to close the gap and get in tight. No doubt Silva is hoping that age has caught up with the former champion, anything to slow Fedor down just a bit would help him here. Should Silva move on to the semifinals, he'll face the winner of Alistair Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum.
Former UFC heavyweight champion, Andrei Arlovski, is looking to turn around his career with the heavyweight grand prix. Since leaving the UFC he's gone 2-3, losing all three of his most recent fights to Fedor Emelianenko, Brett Rogers, and Antonio Silva. All three of those fighters who gave him those losses are participating in the heavyweight grand prix. Against Fedor, he showed good striking and footwork, but an overzealous flying knee saw him blasted with an overhand right, and knocked unconscious. His game hasn't looked that sharp since, backing straight into the cage and being knocked out by Brett Rogers, then looking "off" in a full three round bout against Antonio Silva.
For Arlovski, he's got to go into this fight with Kharitonov prepared mentally, and physically. Working with Greg Jackson during this training camp, and not getting knocked out in his last fight, may have boosted his confidence and lit the fire for him once again. Kharitonov as an opponent for Arlovski is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, Kharitonov is slow, aging, and susceptible to various attacks. On the other, Kharitonov hits incredibly hard, and has a knack for finding people's chins. Arlovski needs to keep a jab in his face, and work inside leg kicks to tire out Kharitonov, all while avoiding an early blitz. If things go his way early, Arlovski can NOT overextend and leave himself open. Should he be able to be content with battering Kharitonov for the majority of the fight, he may get back into the win column, as well as move on to the semi finals, to fight the winner over Josh Barnett vs. Brett Rogers.
Fight starts at 5:15.
Sergei Kharitonov is a veteran mixed martial artist, and also a K-1 kick boxer. He's been rather inactive in MMA as of late, the above video of his fight against Tatsuya Mizuno being his only MMA fight in 2010, taking place on new years eve. Earlier that month, he had faced Singh Jaideep in K-1, where he lost via TKO. Interesting to note, Kharitonov holds wins over both Fabricio Werdum, and Alistair Overeem. Against Werdum, he won a split decision in 2005. Against Overeem, he avenged a prior TKO loss to Overeem by knocking him out in 2007. Of course, as Kharitonov well knows, that was a long time ago.
Kharitonov has to rely his greatest strength in his quarter final bout against Andrei Arlovski, and that is his power. Arlovski has been knocked out by hard hitters before, and Kharitonov is most definitely a hard hitter. Kharitonov needs to avoid taking significant damage while trying to land on his opponent's chin, something he had trouble doing early on in his fight against Mizuno. Arlovski has definitely watched tape with Greg Jackson, and has devised a plan to break him down, and it's up to Kharitonov to catch Arlovski going back to old habits. If Kharitonov can counter leg kicks with punches, he may catch Arlovski even if he plays it safe. Should Arlovski get anxious and look to finish, Kharitonov will need to swing for the fences, and look to end the fight while the door is open. A win against Arlovski will see him move on to the semi finals, to face the winner of Josh Barnett vs. Brett Rogers.
The first round of the Strikeforce world heavyweight grand prix goes down this Saturday, 10 PM ET, on Showtime.