This Saturday, September 10, the semifinal round of the heavyweight grand prix goes down as Strikeforce World Grand Prix: Barnett vs. Kharitonov comes to you live from the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio. In addition to the two big Heavyweight match ups, a fight for the Middleweight Championship is set to take place, as well as a Light Heavyweight bout that could determine who is next in line to challenge for the championship. With the unexpected removal of Alistair Overeem, Daniel Cormier was chosen to replace him and will face his toughest completion yet. Let’s take a look at the five Main Card fights to be shown on Showtime and break them down.
The first bout of the broadcast is a battle between Pat “Bam Bam” Healy (25-16) and Maximo “The Max Murderer” Blanco (8-2-1-1) in the Lightweight division. Bam Bam has done well so far in his Strikeforce career, going 3-1 and becoming the first man to defeat Lyle “Fancypants” Beerbohm. Maximo has been dominating the Sengoku circuit lately and is looking to add to his six-fight win streak. The majority of Healy’s victories have come by way of submission so he is no stranger to the ground game. Consequently, Blanco is more dominant in the striking department and has picked up seven of his eight wins by way of knockout.
Up next on the agenda, is the highly anticipated Light Heavyweight bout between Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal (7-1) and Roger Gracie (4-0). Similar to Maximo Blacno, King Mo dominated during his time with Sengoku, going 4-0 at Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight. His reputation preceded him when he came to Strikeforce and he quickly earned a title shot and eventually went on to successfully capture it. His first taste of defeat came in his first title defense. Following the loss, Mo took some time off to finally take care of a lingering knee injury and will finally be competing at 100%. Gracie, who has been dominating the BJJ scene for nearly ten years, has made a seamless transition to MMA having won all four of his fights by submission before the third round. If Gracie takes your back, it’s only a matter of time before he slaps on a choke and you are begging for mercy. King Mo, however, is a former NCAA D-I wrestler who is no stranger to scrambling on the mat. Every fight starts standing, so Gracie will have to avoid the power shots of King Mo if he wants to get it to the ground. The winner of this fight may be one step closer to a title shot against Dan Henderson if he resigns with Strikeforce.
The third fight of the broadcast will feature Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (14-2-1) as he defends his Middleweight Championship against Luke Rockhold (7-1). On paper, this match up looks like it will be an ADCC-level grappling match as both men are BJJ-based fighters with the majority of their victories coming by way of submission and only three decisions between the two of them. The thing that stands out the most with this fight is that Rockhold has been out of action for more than a year and a half. Neither man has suffered a loss in quite some time, and with their grappling experience possibly canceling each other out, it may come down to the striking that makes the difference.
The Co-Main Event of the evening, and first Heavyweight Grand Prix semifinal bout, is between Antonio “Big Foot” Silva (16-2) and Daniel Cormier (8-0). After his destruction of Fedor Emelianenko, Big Foot patiently waited for Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum to face off to see who his next opponent would be. However, after he won, Overeem stated he needed more time to recuperate and attend to a toe injury but Strikeforce officials refused and removed him from the tournament. This resulted in Cormier being chosen from the list of alternates and stepping up to the plate in his toughest competition yet. The most obvious difference between the two will be Big Foot’s size advantage, coming in at twenty to thirty pounds heavier and nearly a foot taller than Cormier. In addition to the size advantage, Big Foot is also a Black Belt in BJJ, Judo and Karate. The only two men to defeat Big Foot, Eric Pele and Fabricio Werdum, were both a lot closer to his size than Cormier is. However, Cormier is one of the hardest workers and won’t let the size difference intimidate him.
The Main Event of the evening, and second Heavyweight Grand Prix bout, features former UFC Heavyweight Champion Josh “The Warmaster” Barnett (30-5) as he takes on Sergei “The Russian Mercenary” Kharitonov (18-4). In their quarterfinal matches, they dominated their opponent and easily picked up the victory. Barnett’s back ground is Catch Wrestling and Kharitonov’s is predominantly striking-based, but both men are comfortable in all aspects of the fight and have picked up wins by Knockout and submission. Although Barnett will have a definite size advantage coming into the fight, Sergei is a scrappy fighter who isn’t afraid to stand and bang. Whichever fighter advances to the finals, they are sure to make it an exciting one.
With the removal of Alistair Overeem, it was recently announced that the winner of the Heavyweight Grand Prix would also be crowned the new Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion as well.
If you have HDNet, make sure to tune into the five preliminary fights that will be broadcast leading up to the main card on Showtime. Make sure to follow MMA Valor on twitter for all your fight news and updates. Also, be sure to join the Valor Chatroom on fight night!