When Josh Barnett finally lost the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight Championship, he didn't do so after getting knocked out by a challenger. It wasn't after an opponent wrapped his arms around Barnett's neck, forcing the American to tap.
He lost it after the lights in the arena had gone out, after the roar of the crowd had dissipated. He lost the title after a drug test he took following his victory over Randy Couture at UFC 36 came back positive for steroids.
He's maintained his innocence, a position taken with a grain of salt by most fans considering positive tests both prior and after his title bout with "The Natural." One came during an exploratory test by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, the other derailed his fight with Fedor Emelianenko on the ill-fated third Affliction card.
Still, Barnett remains one of the highest ranked heavyweights, more than a decade after his initial title win. With wins over Aleksander Emelianenko, Mark Hunt and "Big Nog" Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, his resume speaks for itself.
He collected another skull, as Barnett himself colorfully puts it, by defeating Sergei Kharitonov in the semifinals of Strikeforce's heavyweight grand prix, pitting him against Daniel Cormier in tonight's final.
Before Strikeforce: "Barnett vs. Cormier" goes down, let's take a look at the catch wrestler's impressive submission win over the stoic Russian.
Kharitonov nearly jumps to the center of the hexagonal cage, immediately pressuring Barnett against the chain-link fencing. But Barnett is a long-time veteran and has seen just about everything that can be seen. He remains calm and collected, snapping out two quick jabs which connect cleanly on his opponent's chin.
Barnett, for as much as he espouses catch wrestling, is looking remarkably apt with his striking in the early going. His boxing is crisp and his movement keeps him from absorbing too much damage from the heavy-handed Russian.
"The Warmaster" is again pressured towards the cage but manages to fight his way off, shooting in for a takedown but instead opting for a bodylock when the attempt is stuffed by Kharitonov. Arms wrapped firmly around his opponent, Barnett drags Kharitonov to the mat and immediately transitions into full mount.
For many opponents who have tangled with Barnett in the past, this was the last position they were in before they lost the fight.
Kharitonov knows this and instantly tries to buck his opponent off to no avail. Barnett is beginning to drop elbows across the Russian's skull coupled with simply grinding his forearm across Kharitonov's face. Another attempt to get the American off is met with failure after some punches land from above.
Barnett continues to chip away at his opponent, landing short punches and elbows and even ramming his forearm into Kharitonov's neck. It won't submit the tough as nails Russian but it doesn't feel very good either. "The Warmaster" is slowly but surely wearing his opponent down with a constant barrage of offense.
Another attempt to shrug his American opponent off fails and it seems to be Kharitonov's last grasp at turning the fight around. Barnett raises up and starts to land a flurry of ground and pound which the Russian responds to by turning onto his belly, turtling up and offering the submission expert his back.
Barnett begins landing punches to the side of his opponent's skull and then short punches from underneath Kharitonov's armpit. The fight -- and I use the term loosely -- has been a one-sided beating. At this point, it becomes apparent it's only a matter of time before Barnett finishes Kharitonov.
The American flattens the Russian out on the mat and begins to waylay on his skull with punches, almost daring him to try to return to his back. When Kharitonov finally does take the bait, Barnett is waiting there with an arm triangle choke.
"The Warmaster" locks his arms around his opponent's head and arm, shifts his body to the side of Kharitonov's and secures the submission victory.
It seemed like a remarkably easy day at the office for Barnett. He accumulated almost no damage and walked out of the cage with his babyface still intact.
Will he be as lucky against Cormier tonight?