Strikeforce: "Fedor vs. Silva" from the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey, is all set to kick off the promotion's heavyweight grand prix tournament tomorrow night (Feb. 12) live on Showtime.
MMAmania.com will provide live results and blow-by-blow commentary of the main card action beginning with the Showtime telecast at 10 p.m. ET on fight night. In addition, we'll be updating all the undercard results from the non-televised portion of the card much earlier in the evening.
With a title like "Fedor vs. Silva," it's pretty clear what the talk of the town has been as we inch closer to Saturday night. Will famed Russian heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko be able to reclaim his position as one of the world's top heavyweights? Or will Antonio Silva drop the iron current on the former PRIDE champion and send him to his second consecutive loss?
Also featured on the main card is former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovski, who may be one loss away from taking Brett Roger's old job at Sam's Club. Does "The Pitbull" have enough bite to overcome the much-ballyhooed hands of Sergei Kharitonov?
Don't blink -- it could be over that quickly.
I've also included the latest odds and betting lines from our comrades at BetUS.com to give you an indication of where the bookmakers stand in each contest.
See you on the other side.
265 lbs.: "The Last Emperor" Fedor Emelianenko (31-2) vs. Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva (15-2)
Nostradumbass predicts: The great thing about having Emelianenko on your roster is you can pretty much book him against anyone and fans will turn out. Add that to the fact he recently suffered his first defeat in ten years and it provides a very compelling storyline.
The obvious question when any fighter comes off a high-profile loss is who shows up in their next fight. Normally I'd be boarding that bus to Doubtsville, but like any Fedor mark, I didn't really see anything in his June 2010 loss to fellow quarterfinalist Fabricio Werdum that would be grounds for concern.
Was the Russian knocked stupid? Did "Vai Cavalo" beat him up, control him on the ground and choke him out? No, he outsmarted him. The Brazilian was grazed, oversold the impact and waited for the "Emperor's" textbook ground and pound. You don't even need to watch tape to have predicted Fedor's next move.
And Werdum was ready and waiting.
I know the loss stung, because no competitor in any sport (especially combat sports) can lose a big fight and be like "Meh, God's will." Conversely I don't think he's that broken up about it either. Remember this is the same emotionless fighter who plays cards before his fights and bumps bibles with a guy who looks like Billy Gibbons in my grandmother's bathrobe.
Hey, whatever works for you.
Fedor, by his own admission, hasn't changed much in his training camp and why should he? If it was good enough to win 27 straight fights it's kind of hard to make an argument for a complete overhaul.
It's even harder to make an argument for "Bigfoot."
Antonio Silva is a big, tough guy with decent hands and above average grappling. Unfortunately "decent" and "above average" don't really cut the caviar when you're locked in a cage with what many fans consider the finest heavyweight our sport has ever produced.
Did "Pezao" look all that impressive in the Mike Kyle fight? He was nearly finished by a guy who competes at light heavyweight. And I wouldn't consider his performances against Andrei Arlovski and Fabricio Werdum anything to write home about.
And last but not least, he has a giant head.
It's impossible to say that without sounding flippant because Silva has a bona fide medical condition, but Emelianenko's made a career of chucking that wild right hand and now you've increased his target twofold.
I know there's a "broad side of a barn" joke in here somewhere but I'm trying not to piss off the "Bigfoot" fans.
In the end, I just don't see a scenario where Fedor doesn't connect and topple his foe. He probably won't land a one-hitter quitter, but when Silva goes down I can see Emelianenko following him to the ground (albeit a bit more carefully this time) and sinking in the rear naked choke.
Betting lines (as of Feb. 11):
Emelianenko: -500 ((Bet Now))
Silva: +350 ((Bet Now))
Prediction: Emelianenko via submission
265 lbs.: Andrei "The Pitbull" Arlovski (15-8) vs. Sergei Kharitonov (17-4)
Nostradumbass predicts: I'm not sure this bout will be as exciting as it looks on paper. A lot of the talk heading into tomorrow's fight has to do with Andrei Arlovski's chin. It's not a new debate but it's been known to rear its ugly head whenever he competes. You want to make the argument "The Pitbull" suffers from poor mechanics and not poor genetics? You can make that argument. I'm quite certain that any heavyweight in the game today would go to sleep if they let a guy the size of Brett Rogers hit them square in the jaw.
The same can be said for his knockout loss to Fedor Emelianenko.
Par de cha + overhand right = canvas coma. But in reality his chin is not what concerns me against Kharitonov. It's his motivation and overall gameplan. I believe that Arlovski suffers from BJ Penn syndrome, or Penndrome if you will, because he wants to make it to Mt. Olympus but won't follow the map to get there.
Tell me, what camp is Arlovski with? "Uh, well I've seen him at Jackson's MMA." Yeah, I've seen him there too, acting out a spartan skit that was funny in 2007. It reminds me of the Brett Rogers fight in St. Louis. After the weigh-ins, do you know how many fighters I saw hanging around the hotel lobby? Just one. Every other competitor on the "Lawler vs. Shields" card was sequestered to solitary confinement while the Belarusian was holding court for most of the day, shaking hands and kissing babies.
I'm trying to think of a way to make a case for him in this fight but realistically, when the biggest compliment I can give him is "Well, he didn't get knocked out in the 'Bigfoot' fight," it doesn't really leave me feeling confident about his chances.
The numbers don't back him up either. He's lost three straight and is 5-5 over his last 10. There's a reason the UFC wouldn't re-sign him: He can dazzle you with his offense and embarrass himself with his defense.
One thing he's got in his favor is Kharitonov's inactivity.
The Russian paratrooper owns a wealth of International experience but has only competed twice in the past two-and-a-half years and one of those bouts was a lopsided submission loss to Jeff Monson. You can tout his wins over fellow tournament hopefuls Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum, but MMA years are like dog years. This sport (and its fighters) evolve so quickly that three years may as well be 30.
I give Kharitonov, who boasts an impressive boxing resume, a slight edge in striking and durability, but I have major concerns about his conditioning and recklessness. He needs to finish Arlovski early (which is what I'm predicting) because if he doesn't, he may very well lose a decision.
Betting lines (as of Feb. 11):
Arlovski: -110 ((Bet Now))
Kharitonov: -120 ((Bet Now))
Prediction: Kharitonov via knockout
265 lbs.: Shane Del Rosario (10-0) vs. "Big" Lavar Johnson (15-3)
Nostradumbass predicts: This is without question the tournament reserve bout I'm looking forward to the most and my second favorite fight on the "Fedor vs. Silva" card because you have two of the division's brightest prospects facing off to determine who's ready for the big leagues.
I try to make it a habit to not bet against guys who can eat a bullet and knock somebody out just eight months later, which is why I was on the fence for such a long time with this fight. For Shane Del Rosario, I can't shake the sight of him being rocked by Brandon Cash in his "Challengers" debut back in November 2009.
I know the ensuing recovery and Omoplata are a bigger testament to the kind of fighter he is but man, you let a guy like Lavar Johnson have that window of opportunity, no matter how small, and it's queer street. Still, I have to lean towards the Irvine native because I think he's the more refined fighter.
If Del Rosario comes out and works the leg kick and turns it into a (mostly) technical fight, I can see him cruising to a decision or securing a late stoppage. What he doesn't want is to let this thing dissolve into a street fight or fall in love with his Thai Plum because that's the kill zone for "Big."
Johnson is coming off seven straight (T)KO wins and Del Rosario has finished all ten of his fights. Neither fighter spends much time out of the first round but I believe with everything that's at stake, namely a shot to fill in for Fedor Emelianenko after he re-injures his hand on Silva's skull (you heard it here first), I can see a tentative round one followed by fireworks in the second frame.
I'm cautiously taking Del Rosario by second round technical knockout.
Betting lines (as of Feb. 11):
Del Rosario: -185 ((Bet Now))
Johnson: +155 ((Bet Now))
Prediction: Del Rosario via technical knockout
265 lbs.: Valentijn "The Python" Overeem (28-25) vs. Ray "Sugarfoot" Sefo (2-0)
Nostradumbass predicts: The fact that Alistair's brother was inserted into a tournament that gives the winner a chance to face "Demolition Man" for the title should be an indication of what Strikeforce thinks his chances are to win this thing. Not only does he need to lay waste to the other reserve entries, someone in the elite eight needs to bow out and well, you get the point.
If that doesn't convince you he has zero chance of going all the way then may I direct your attention to Valentijn's 28-25 record. I'm not trying to shit on the guy but what you see is what you get. He's coming off back-to-back wins over two guys you've never heard of after losing a pair to two guys they've never heard of.
His most notable victory over the past five years was a knockout of Ross "TUF 3" Pointon.
Overeem does hold submission wins over Randy "The Natural" Couture and Renato "Babalu" Sobral but those have expired after ten years. If I were to give him an advantage in this fight, it's that Ray Sefo turns 40 on Tuesday and has been a K-1 punching bag for the past decade.
"Sugarfoot" is a terrific striker but after nearly 80 fights as a kickboxer, and I mean some real wars, you have to wonder how much gas is left in the tank. Despite failing to advance in the 2010 K-1 World Grand Prix, he didn't look terrible and I think the old dog still has a few tricks come Saturday night.
If Overeem can play it smart and get this thing to the ground he wins it easily. I don't know if that happens because if he was the kind of fighter that followed a rigorous gameplan he might not be 28-25. I think "The Python" tries to prove he belongs and gets knocked out for his efforts.
Sorry Charlie, but there's only room for one "Reem" in this tournament.
Betting lines (as of Feb. 11):
Overeem: -150 ((Bet Now))
Sefo: +120 ((Bet Now))
Prediction: Sefo via technical knockout
265 lbs.: Chad "The Grave Digger" Griggs (9-1) vs. Gian Villante (7-1)
Nostradumbass predicts: U Chad? Mr. Griggs made a name for himself as cannon fodder for Bobby Lashley in his Strikeforce debut last August. Unfortunately for "The Dominator," he who digs graves had Lashley's career in a pine box by the end of round two, thus catapulting himself into the promotion's 2011 grand prix.
Not that I believe for one second that Lashley would be here if he won, but that's a post for another day.
Putting the punchlines aside, Griggs is actually a pretty talented fighter. As with most competitors who mix it up on the local scene, you're only as good as the names you beat. That said, he's 9-1 and has finished all nine of his victims by (T)KO save for one, but his 2006 submission win resulted from punches.
My biggest issue with "The Grave Digger" is his size. Having stood in his presence I can comfortably say he belongs at light heavyweight.
I could probably make that same argument for Villante, but it's hard to tell a guy to drop down a class when he's been steamrolling the competition is his current division.
The Bellmore native has competed exclusively for Ring of Combat (ROC) and I've been lucky enough to see him fight a couple of times in 2009. He's the real deal. His one loss was due to injury and he came right back later in the year to secure another first round technical knockout win.
Anything can happen but I think Villante overwhelms Griggs with his wrestling and athleticism. He's younger, faster and if he's jitter-free, he should be able to do what Bobby Lashley couldn't: Take Griggs down and pound him out.
Betting lines (as of Feb. 11):
Villante: -240 ((Bet Now))
Griggs: +190 ((Bet Now))
Prediction: Villante via technical knockout
That's a wrap, folks.
Remember to come check us out after the show for all the latest results, recaps and coverage of Strikeforce: "Fedor vs. Silva."
What do you think? Now it's your turn ... let us have it in the comments section and share your thoughts and picks for tomorrow night's event.