Fedor Emelianenko’s road back starts in New Jersey against Antonio Silva (right). | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Everybody loves a tournament, and the 2011 Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix harkens back to the old days of MMA, with multiple storylines building and colliding.
There are eight participants: Fedor Emelianenko, current Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum, Antonio Silva, Sergei Kharitonov and Brett Rogers, along with former UFC champs Josh Barnett and Andrei Arlovski. Tournaments bring a special kind of drama, and Strikeforce banks on creating plenty of it this year with this top-notch series of bouts.
The first round kicks off at Strikeforce/M-1 Global “Fedor vs. Silva” this Saturday at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J. The winners of Emelianenko-Silva and Arlovski-Kharitonov will square off with the winners of the Werdum-Overeem and Barnett-Rogers quarter-finals, scheduled for April 9.
A preview follows for the matchups at “Fedor vs. Silva,” including the first two bouts of the grand prix:
Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix
Fedor Emelianenko (No. 4 HW) vs. Antonio Silva (No. 10 HW)
The Matchup: Do not call it a comeback.
Emelianenko lost his last bout in a shocking triangle submission to Werdum, but it is amazing he went unbeaten as long as he did; 10 years, thank you. His participation in the Strikeforce grand prix goes a long way towards helping the promotion boost the tournament’s appeal. Plus, with the winner of Werdum-Overeem lurking for the victor of this bout, there is a dynamite second fight in store for him if he wins. The world’s greatest heavyweight for more than seven years, the incomparable Emelianenko can take a big step toward reclaiming his former status with an impressive tournament performance. By his standards, nothing less than three victories will suffice, but that is how high he set the bar.
Silva poses an intriguing first-round matchup. At 6-foot-4 and cutting weight to make 265-pound limit, the Brazilian is a ground specialist with tremendous strength. He basically mows down people, plants them and works them over from the top, leaving many opponents looking like victims caught in a landslide. Silva has soldiered his way into the tournament with a decision win over Arlovski and a nice rally against journeyman Mike Kyle. Silva came back for a KO victory after getting drilled, showing the resilience one likes to see in high-caliber fighters.
Silva, an aggressive heavyweight who takes a good punch, has his work cut out for him. He cannot win a stand-up battle with the dangerous Emelianenko, and he will have to choose his options carefully if he can manage to get the Russian to the ground. Fedor excels at exploding into small openings, and Silva will have to improve his head movement while coming in.
Against Arlovski and in his decision loss to Werdum, Silva seemed content to close the gap by bulling forward, clinching and working from there. Fedor can and will exploit that approach if he does not add some wrinkles, perhaps by mixing in kicks or improving his stand-up.
It definitely gets interesting if Silva can get Fedor down, which is not an easy task to accomplish. Emelianenko has great hips, balance and a wonderful sense of coming out on top in grappling scrambles. If Silva does plant him there, he will have to ride the top position smartly, picking spots to punch while denying Fedor his quick openings for submissions he can execute seamlessly.
The Pick: Fedor obviously needs a win here, and though he seems secure with his legacy in his own mind, the grand prix could provide a great stretch run to cement it. His numbing stand-up and solid bottom game will serve him well, as he punishes Silva with shots and closes aggressively for the finish. Silva’s has proven himself a tough heavyweight and this match represents the opportunity of a lifetime for him; do not expect him to go easily. However, Fedor simply has too much to lose here, and he will fight with the kind of viciousness that built the legend, battering Silva en route to a second-round knockout.
Continue Reading » Next Fight: Arlovski vs. Kharitonov