Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Breakdown

This coming February, Strikeforce will look to redeem themselves for a lackluster year involving their heavyweight division. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker recently announced that the promotion would be holding a single-elimination, eight-man heavyweight grand prix.

The first round match-ups look somewhat promising. The first two fights of the tournament will take place February 12. The first of these two bouts features “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko returning to action against Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. Emelianenko is coming off a historical submission loss to Fabricio Werdum back in June 2010. With the submission, Werdum became the first man in history to hold a legitimate victory over the Russian. With his return to the cage, Emelianenko would like nothing more than to prove himself as one of the greatest once again, however Silva will have other plans. Since suffering a loss to Werdum in his Strikeforce debut, Silva has earned a unanimous decision over Andrei Arlovski and most recently, a TKO victory over Mike Kyle. With both fighters possessing heavy hands and legitimate ground skills, this bout isn’t likely to go the distance.

The second bout to take place on the February card is Andrei Arlovski vs. Sergei Kharitonov. Arlovski is a former UFC Heavyweight Champion who is in desperate need of a win to keep his career alive. The last time Arlovski has tasted victory was back in 2008 when he knocked out Roy Nelson before the fallout of Elite XC. Since then he has lost three straight fights, two of which have been knockouts. “The Pitbull” cannot afford another consecutive loss. Kharitonov is coming into the tournament as a relatively unknown fighter to current fight fans, although they will learn his name quickly. The Russian’s appearance in the grand prix will be his debut within Strikeforce, but he is very familiar with the heavyweights he will be up against. Kharitonov has spent most of his career fighting in Pride. During those days in Japan, defeated such fighters as Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum, who are both fighting in the grand prix. Although it has been many years since those victories, they still play a factor if he moves on to face one of them in the future rounds of the tournament.

The other two bouts in the tournament to take place in March at a yet to be determined time and place are Alistair Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum and Josh Barnett vs. Brett Rogers.

Overeem is coming off back to back dominating performance at the 2010 K-1 World Grand Prix and at Dynamite 2010. He has only defended his Strikeforce crown once, though he is currently the most feared heavyweight in Mixed Martial Arts. The skill he possesses on his feet makes even some of the most elite fighters look like amateurs. And to top it off, his ground game is excellent as well. Werdum on the other hand also possesses an excellent ground game and is no joke off his back either. His jiu-jitsu is world-class and he will have no problem taking the fight to the mat. It will be interesting to watch the fight and see which fighter will dominate each aspect of the fight.

Josh Barnett vs. Brett Rogers also serves as an interesting match-up for the tournament. Rogers is in need of a win under the Strikeforce banner after suffering two straight losses to Emelianenko and Overeem. Similar to Arlovski, a loss could mean the end of his time with the promotion. Barnett will finally be making his promotional debut in the tournament. Over the past year or so, he has been in the hot seat for his involvement with steroids and other banned substances during his career. In his first bout on US soil since testing positive for steroids before a bout with Emelianenko in 2009, Barnett will be looking to earn the respect of his country back. Rogers will not be a gimme fight though, but it’s one that will be good to start his career with Strikeforce.

With all eight heavyweights being the exciting fighters that they are, there is not much of a chance that Strikeforce can regret their decision to make the grand prix. Of all the match-ups though, realistically there is only one that fight fans are screaming over, Emelianenko vs. Overeem. Even though most of the hype surrounding this fight was ruined when Werdum did the unthinkable by defeating Emelianenko, it’s still one of those fights fans have always wanted to see. It may not hold the stakes it originally would have, but it would still be one hell of a fight to see.

Click here to see the complete Strikeforce Heavyweight Tournament Bracket

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