Strikeforce returned to the Showtime airwaves last night (Sept. 10, 2011) with the semifinals of its 2011 heavyweight grand prix tournament, emanating from the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. Ohio.
In the main event of the evening, Pride FC veterans Josh Barnett and Sergei Kharitonov mixed up their mitts in a classic showdown between two old school sluggers. It was clear heading into the heavyweight fight that Barnett held the clear advantage on the ground over the Russian striker.
And he quickly exploited that advantage.
Barnett executed a beautiful trip of the "Paratrooper" midway through the first round shortly after the pair exchanged punches on their feet. Kharitonov, a dangerous and powerful puncher, was able to get some of his leather on the chin of the "Baby-Faced Assassin," which likely served as his motivation to get the fight horizontal.
From that point forward it was all academic.
Barnett, who actually landed in Kharitonov's full guard after the takedown, began to unleash his fury with a mix of hurtful strikes and elbows that forced Kharitonov to turtle and spin to avoid the punishment. That was all the savvy submission specialist needed to angle for a side triangle choke and squeeze his way toward a spot in the finals.
On the other side of the bracket, Daniel Cormier, who took the spot of Alistair Overeem, collided with Antonio Silva, the man responsible for ousting pre-tournament favorite, Fedor Emelianenko, in opening round action.
It was a surprise and unlikely match up, which makes the final result completely fitting.
Cormier, perhaps the best -- and probably the most accomplished -- wrestler in mixed martial arts (MMA) today, once again refused to rely on his strength to carry him to victory. On the contrary, the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) standout worked his stand up and battered "Bigfoot" with big shots in the opening frame.
Silva, who was wobbled at least twice, attempted to take the fight to the floor where he could recover and perhaps work a little jiu-jitsu, but Cormier wasn't having it. He was eventually pressed up against the cage and dropped with a huge uppercut. Cormier followed the wounded Sasquatch to the mat and delivered coup de grâce, a fight-ending hammer fist.
Mr. Cormier, let me introduce you to Mr. Barnett. Good luck.
Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Ronaldo Souza put his 185 strap on the line against Luke Rockhold, a very bright, hungry prospect who had been sidelined with injuries for the better part of 18 months.
Rockhold looked completely healed last night.
He took the fight to the Brazilian for five full rounds and "Jacare" kept up the pace, returning fire and seemingly abandoning his superior jiu-jitsu game when he was unable to takedown the AKA super prospect. Rockhold was rocked at one point in the bout, but was able to recover and continue to give Souza fits.
It was an extremely close fight, but in the end, the judges awarded it to Rockhold. Pretty good timing, considering his rash of injuries and a potential new home in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) looming on the horizon.
No good deed goes unpunished.
Gracie is a submission savant, meaning that he lacks the striking skills to compete against more well-rounded, and powerful, fighters for very long. He needs to survive just long enough to get to get the fight to the floor where he can twist up his opponents like pretzels.
Last night he failed to do that. And, as a result, "King Mo" made him pay, putting him down for an early nap thanks to a right hook that landed right behind his ear. Lawal landed another blow while Gracie was staring at the lights, which made him stiff as a board and sent the referee diving in to save him from additional damage.
Welcome to MMA, Roger. That's as real as it gets.
That's enough from us -- now it's your turn to discuss Strikeforce: "Barnett vs. Kharitonov" in the comments section below.
For complete Strikeforce: "Barnett vs. Kharitonov" results and detailed blow-by-blow commentary of the televised main card fights click here.