Fedor Emelianenko at Pride 26 in 2003. | Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com
The Strikeforce “Fedor vs. Silva” card, which airs live on HDNet (prelims, 8 p.m. ET) and Showtime (heavyweight tournament, 10 p.m. ET) is examined by Sherdog.com staff:
Fedor Emelianenko vs. Antonio Silva
Todd Martin: Silva has a chance to catch Fedor with a punch, but I don't see him being able to submit Fedor or control him with wrestling. Fedor has more knockout power, better ground-and-pound and the more dangerous submissions. Fedor's losing streak won't reach two.
Tony Loiseleur: Call me sentimental, but I think “The Last Emperor” returns to true form and bests Bigfoot. That's not a knock on Silva either, since I'm still taken with Silva's speed for his size, as well as his resilience in coming back from adversity, like in his last fight against Mike Kyle. Admittedly, Kyle is a light-heavyweight, but that doesn't mean the man doesn't hit really, really hard. Seeing Silva's instinctive jiujitsu while dazed was impressive, and provided Emelianenko does (and likely will) get through with similarly ringing punches, it will be interesting to see whether Bigfoot's jiu-jitsu instincts help him survive this time around. I'm leaning toward the notion that Fedor still gets through and punishes him, but after the Werdum submission loss, can anyone be certain of that? I'm siding with Emelianenko by decision for now, but I'm looking very forward to see how this fight unfolds.
Tomasz Marciniak: Much has been said about Fedor finally losing a fight but the way in which he was defeated simply does not resonate with Silva's skillset. Mike Kyle has shown that a quick, fleet striker can get to Silva's chin and I expect Fedor to do just that. After all, his footwork and head-movement haven't been choked out of him and I just don't believe, with his gigantic size, Silva will be as dangerous on the ground as Werdum. The Last Emperor gets back on the horse with a TKO victory.
Brian Knapp: You have to favor Emelianenko, even more now that he's coming off a loss. I think he has too much power and athleticism for Silva. Expect a second-round KO.
Jordan Breen: Emelianenko has quietly become an even more effective standing striker over the last two years or so. In his Pride Fighting Championships heyday, his standup was always strong, but he typically didn't blow through opponents with punches the way he did to Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski and Brett Rogers. Better for him, Silva has a history of not being able to get his mammoth chin out of the way of big right hands, as we saw against both Kyle and Eric Pele. Emelianenko's overhand right will likely find its mark, and he'll be able to either follow up as he did against Sylvia with the submission, or with strikes,like the Rogers fight. The real question is whether or not the notoriously brittle hands of Emelianenko will hold up to the massive skull of "Bigfoot."
Andrei Arlovski vs. Sergei Kharitonov
Guilherme Pinheiro: I really want to pick Arlovski here. It’s just that whenever I’m close to rationally convincing myself to pick him, I’m reminded about his chin. While Arlovski has the ability to win this fight, I believe Kharitonov will eventually test his chin and I’m not sure Arlovski can take his power. The pick here is Kharitonov by TKO.
Freddie DeFreitas: While Arlovski has not seen his hand raised in victory since 2008, I find it difficult to look past Kharitonov's knockout loss to the pillow-fisted Singh Jaideep at the K-1 World GP in December.Â I may be in the minority, but I like Arlovski by decision in this one.
Tristen Critchfield: The Arlovski that has shown up for his last three bouts is a far cry from the fearsome former UFC heavyweight champion. Perhaps it’s been a lack of focus, as the “Pit Bull” has been distracted by potential boxing and K-1 ventures outside of the cage. In his last loss to Silva, the Belarusian survived some heavy shots in the first round, a positive considering his chin had looked questionable in prior setbacks to Emelianenko and Rogers. Kharitonov is the very type of fighter that can land the killshot if given the opportunity, but his fight schedule hasn’t been all that ambitious over the past four years. Arlovksi will have the edge in quickness but will have to be more aggressive than he was against Silva to win on the judges’ scorecards.Â Kharitonov by decision.
Rob King: I’m really torn on this fight.Â We all know that Arlovski has a glass chin, and it has been years since we've seen an Arlovski bout where you said to your self afterwards, "Wow, that Arlovski guy is really something."Â Then again, when was the last time you said that after a Kharitonov fight?Â The recent long layoffs I feel have really hurt Kharitonov, as evidenced in his dreadful K-1 performance against Jaideep and his less than impressive performance against Tatsuya Mizuno.Â Still though, I see Kharitonov landing a shot on Arlovski's jaw and ending the fight.
Lutfi Sariahmed: There are a long line of people who will point to the holes in Arlovski's game and criticize his chin. Three straight losses to Emelianenko, Rogers and Silva and people look at Arlovski wondering whether a stern look will cause him to hit the canvas. But take a look at Kharitonov's record: his last fight of any significant note was in September 2007. Picking Arlovski is a tenuous prospect at best, especially given Kharitonov's power, but I'll take Arlovski by decision here.
Shane del Rosario vs. Lavar Johnson
Breen: Del Rosario is a more precise, diverse and technical striker than the bombs-away brawler Johnson. Del Rosario can box, he can dig in with low kicks, or get a collar tie and really freak it in the clinch. It's hard to pick against the striker with more tools and technique in a battle that will largely be contested on the feet, especially when you consider Johnson's cardio issues and the fact del Rosario probably has an advantage on the ground, to boot. However, the pick is not without some trepidation: when a guy nearly gets brained by Brandon Cash, it's hard to erase it from your memory entirely.
Loiseleur: Del Rosario is going to be the smaller athlete in this fight, but he's also going to be the faster and more-skilled striker. I'll be interested to see if he can navigate his way around Johnson's reach. If he does, he'll rack up punches and low kicks since Johnson's head movement is minimal, and he doesn't check kicks as often as he should. Add to that the potential for lots of clinch knees, and I'm thinking the southpaw del Rosario just has more avenues to win than Johnson. Both fighters’ records say that they're finishers, but unless del Rosario gets in a perfect shot, I'm confident that Johsnon's beard will take him to the final bell. Regardless, del Rosario by decision.
Martin: This has all the makings of a very fun standup war between two guys who are rarely ever on the losing end of a striking exchange. Del Rosario may have a little better technical muay Thai, but Johnson is the bigger man and packs the harder punch. Johnson will pick up the victory and put himself in line to step into the tournament as a reserve.
Knapp: It's hard not to root for Johnson considering what he's been through. Having said that, I think he gets submitted here.
Marciniak: Yet another fight on the card pitting a heavy hitting, yet slower fighter against a faster rival who needs to avoid the big punches and find space for counters. Once again I favor the quicker man. Johnson actually like to use his 82-inch reach to throw many jabs, but in general is still too hittable. Del Rosario can tear his leg up with leg kicks and cut through his guard. I like del Rosario by a stoppage by the midway point of the fight.
Valentijn Overeem vs. Ray Sefo
Sariahmed: I'm not really sure why this fight was dubbed as a "reserve bout" in the tournament. Rank the six fighters in the reserve bouts based on who's most likely to get in:
1) Del Rosario/Johnson Winner
2) Del Rosario/Johnson Loser
4) Griggs, if he wins
What other combination could you have? On the off chance that there are three injuries in the tournament this is going to be horrendous. As for the bout itself, lets go with Sefo.Â
Critchfield: Sefo is a five-time muay Thai world champion, but he hasÂ just two professional MMA bouts, giving Overeem a massive edge when it comes to experience. Sefo’s K-1 striking credentials should make for an entertaining battle on the feet, but Overeem should have enough of a well-rounded game to take this fight to the ground and get the win. Overeem by submission in round two.
Pinheiro: I thought long and hard about this one. As much as I want to go with Sefo, I just think Overeem has too much experience on him to lose this fight. Also, I remember that Sefo lost the first round of his fight against Kevin Jordan. I’m definitely not confident about the pick, but I’ll go with Overeem by submission.
DeFreitas: "Sugarfoot" has a puncher’s chance in this one, but that's about it.Â Provided Overeem doesn't let his last few knockout wins go to his head and decide to engage in a boxing match, he'll go home the winner by submission.
Gian Villante vs. Chad Griggs
Knapp: Villante is an excellent prospect with major upside. I think the former collegiate wrestler gets it to the ground with relative ease and finishes what Bobby Lashley could not. Villante by ground-and-pound TKO.
Loiseleur: Since debuting two years ago, Villante has been very active, taking fights at almost two to three month intervals -- most of which never get past of the first round, and I think that momentum can only help him here. Griggs sports a similar record of finishing fights, but I think Villante hits harder and has better ground-and-pound. I'll be interested to see if they can take this fight to the third round; but regardless, I see Villante putting Griggs on his back to drop bombs until finishing sometime by or before then.
Breen: Villante is really more of a 205-pound prospect, and his ground game is still developing. Fortunately for him, Griggs isn't a mammoth heavyweight -- he's toyed with the idea of heading down to light heavyweight himself -- and prefers to duke it out anyhow. Villante is yet another fighter in the mold of Brendan Schaub and Matt Mitrione -- former high-level football players who turned their attention to MMA. He's by far the superior athlete, and should be able to put his clean, hard strikes together on Griggs en route to a stoppage.
Critchfield: Griggs moves from one heralded athlete to another in this grand prix reserve bout. Villante combines wrestling chops with a college football background and could potentially fight at light heavyweight as well. Griggs was fortunate that Lashley gassed while in full mount at Strikeforce: Houston. As a smaller fighter, Villante’s conditioning should surpass that of Lashley’s and allow him to get a TKO in the second or third round.
Sariahmed: Congratulations to Griggs for his win over Lashley. No one really expected him to make any noise but he did and now finds his way into the heavyweight tournament as a result of it. But he finds himself in the same exact situation here: he's on board to serve as a launching-off point for the latest Ring of Combat prospect. Griggs was successful keeping Lashley at bay, but to do that against Villante here would be a far more impressive feat. The I-AA All-American linebacker out of Hofstra will look to overpower Griggs in his Strikeforce debut. I question how he'll handle bigger-name heavyweights if called upon to enter the tournament but it should be a successful debut.
Tomasz Marciniak 27-12
Brian Knapp 24-15
Todd Martin 24-15
Guilherme Pinheiro 24-15
Lutfi Sariahmed 24-15
Tristen Critchfield 23-16
Rob King 22-17
Jordan Breen 22-17
Tony Loiseleur 23-16
Freddie DeFreitas 19-20