Strikeforce Heavyweight Tournament Preview: Fedor Emelianenko vs Antonio Silva


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Strikeforce has given mixed martial arts (MMA) fans a special treat in its 2011 fight campaign. In a division that has often lacked the excitement of the smaller weight classes, the heavyweights will finally have a chance to shine this year in the promotion's upcoming heavyweight grand prix.

Strikeforce will host an eight-man tournament starting with the quarterfinal match-ups on February 12 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The tournament will be the most significant (in terms of rankings and legitimacy) since the days of the Pride Fighting Championship Grand Prix that made the Japanese promotion so popular.

"Fedor vs. Silva" will be the second fight of the tournament and serve as Saturday night's main event.

Earlier in the evening, Andrei Arlovski will square off against Sergei Kharitonov to see who will advance to the semifinals while heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem will have the chance to solidify himself as the promotion's best heavyweight when he rematches Fabricio Werdum in April.

I will be giving an in-depth look into each of the four match-ups. I will be starting in the "champion" bracket that features the top contenders for the title as well as the division kingpin Alistair Overeem. This side of the bracket is regarded as the "stacked" side of the tournament.

Today's breakdown is the fight between Fedor Emelianenko and Antonio Silva.


Fedor Emelianenko

The "Last Emperor" is in a unique situation, one he has only been in once prior in his long MMA career spanning almost eleven years. Fedor is heading into this fight after being defeated for just the second time in his career. How will he react? Will he be hungrier or will he be forced to be conservative in hopes of protecting a legacy already a decade plus in the making?


Fedor is a Sambo expert who packs heavy power in his hands and has very underrated grappling skills. In a MMA world where a lot of fans have short term memories, many will point towards his knuckle head mistake of jumping into a ADCC Jiu-Jitsu World Champion instead of remembering his dismantling of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira who had the most dangerous guard in the sport at the time. Fedor waded through it with ease dealing out two of the most vicious beatings of all time. Many also forget his run in the promotion Rings which was a grappling focused promotion that saw Fedor go up against iconic grappling figures like Ricardo Arona and Babalu Sobral.


Grappling aside, while not always technically sound, Fedor has always been an effective striker. He has blended his Sambo perfectly to his aggressive nature which has found tons of success against guys like Semmy Schilt and Mirko Cro Cop who have K-1 backgrounds and are considered to be two of the most elite strikers in combat sports. And when he fought them they were in their prime while both were much feared strikers. And coming from a grappling-esque background he chose to stand with these guys when he very well could have focused entirely on making it a ground battle.


Fedor just liked to beat you, period.


And almost every time he did it, it was with a dramatic emphasis. Fedor is 3-1 in his latest MMA stretch defeating Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski in the now defunct Affliction promotion and then beating Brett Rogers prior to losing to Fabricio Werdum in Strikeforce.


Fedor has fought three of the tournaments seven participants and holds a 2-1 record against them.


Antonio Silva

"Bigfoot" Silva has been given the best opportunity of his career on a silver platter when he was paired with Fedor Emelianenko in the first round of this tournament. He alone has the best chance of propelling his name up the rankings with a win. He has floated around the top ten in fight fan’s minds for some time now and Silva will be able to cement his spot in the upper echelon of the division with an upset over who many consider to be the greatest fighter in the history of our sport.


Silva as a child was disciplined in the art of Karate but to start his MMA career his background was most Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Not only does he hold a black belt in jiu-jitsu but also holds a black belt in Judo while being part of the prestigious American Top Team camp in Coconut Creek, Florida. Bigfoot, who usually weighs in at the heavyweight limit of 265 pounds, has been fighting for over five years and holds a record of 15-2, beating opponents with notable names such as Andrei Arlovski, Justin Eilers, Ricco Rodriguez and most recently Mike Kyle. He has suffered defeat to Eric Pele and most recently in a three round competitive match with Fabricio Werdum.


Silva is deceptively quick on his feet and very crisp in his boxing. While he is no slouch on the ground most of his fights have taken place on the feet due to his underrated takedown defense. He seemingly feels more comfortable exchanging on the feet and uses his sprawl very well to keep it that way.


The Match Up

This isn’t one of the style clashes that we will see in the tourney, this is just a real straight forward match-up between two guys who have very good ground games but have preferred to deliver the action on the feet. Both fighters have knockout power on their feet: Bigfoot has stopped his opponents in 10 of 15 career victories while Fedor also has 10 career KO/TKO’s on his resume.


This fight will be interesting to watch. We have seen Bigfoot vulnerable on the feet when late replacement Mike Kyle dropped Silva in the opening moments of their fight. However, Bigfoot was able to recover and was able to secure the second round stoppage. Fedor has also been caught in exchanges just not as recent. I think both guys have tough chins and will be able to absorb some punishment from their opponent.


If the fight does hit the ground I expect Fedor will have the advantage either way it ends up. If Bigfoot takes Fedor down I would give the edge to Fedor with his good hip movement and his dangerous arm bars. If Fedor does the taking down I also give him the advantage with very aggressive ground and pound and a knack for arm bars and kimuras.


This is Emelianenko’s fight to lose in my opinion since I will also give him the advantage on the feet. While Bigfoot looks crisp on his feet I still believe that Fedor’s experience will surpass Bigfoot’s if either fighter is faced with adversity.


What about you Maniac’s? Will Fedor move one step closer after taming Bigfoot? Or will Antonio Silva dethrone Fedor making him the "Past" Emperor?

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