Gian Villante (top) will need to take his dangerous opponent to the ground. | Photo: Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
Gian Villante (7-2, 0-1 SF) vs. Lorenz Larkin (10-0, 1-0 SF)
The Matchup: This could very well be the best matchup of the card, action-wise, with two solid light heavyweight prospects colliding. Do not be misled by Villante’s loss to heavyweight Chad Griggs. He’s a natural 205-pounder with excellent collegiate wrestling credentials and athleticism, and Griggs is, simply put, as tough as a three-week-old steak. Larkin burst on the scene at Strikeforce Challengers 15 in April, with a clinic put on against Scott Lighty.
Larkin’s performance was outstanding, especially considering he was a late substitution, as he used herky-jerky movement, brilliant timing and slam-bang striking to take out Lighty in two rounds. Now 10-0, the Riverside, Calif., stylist has a boatload of standup ability. The wild card remains how his takedown defense and jiu-jitsu will fare against people who do not want to stand with him, and most opponents will fall into that category.
Villante is not afraid to force exchanges or take one to give one, a trait which backfired against the bigger Griggs, who simply refused to be taken and held down. However, Villante does have the wrestler’s advantage. He will have to stalk intelligently and move back Larkin, denying him the ability to use more of the cage to set up moving attacks.
Larkin was exceptionally sharp in exchanges with Lighty and put the hurt on him early. Villante will probably be bigger at fight time and should be able to score takedowns after figuring out Larkin’s rhythm, though that is no easy task. This is a real opportunity fight for these two and a great stylistic clash.
The Pick: Villante’s wrestling and chin will have to carry him. They will be enough, as he avoids some rough spots from the dynamic Larkin to grind out a late stoppage via ground-and-pound or a close decision.
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