Josh Barnett will meet Daniel Cormier in the heavyweight finals. | Photo: Sherdog.com
Former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett backed up his bravado in the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix semifinals.
Barnett submitted fellow Pride Fighting Championships veteran Sergei Kharitonov with a first-round arm-triangle choke in the Strikeforce “Barnett vs. Kharitonov” main event on Saturday at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. Kharitonov (18-5, 1-1 SF), the victim of a takedown and heavy ground-and-pound, asked out of the fight 4:28 into round one.
“Catch as catch can is the violent art,” Barnett (31-5, 2-0 SF) said. “Jiu-jitsu can be the gentle art, and those guys are bad asses, but it’s pro wrestling all the way, baby.”
Barnett walked through some of Kharitonov’s power punches, secured the takedown and moved immediately to mount. From there, the writing was on the proverbial wall. Barnett softened the Russian paratrooper with punches and elbows, cinched the choke, coaxed the tapout and moved into the final of the grand prix. He has won eight consecutive fights.
Cormier Levels Silva, Advances to Final
Two-time Olympian Daniel Cormier secured his spot in the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix final with a dominating performance against the world-ranked Antonio Silva, as he knocked out the enormous former EliteXC champion 3:56 into the first round.
A crackling right hand, perfectly placed on the Brazilian’s chin, turned the tide in Cormier’s favor. Silva (16-3, 3-2 SF) was never the same. Later, Cormier scored with a takedown on the still-wobbly Brazilian, allowed him to return to his feet and waited for another opening to present itself. A right uppercut folded Silva, and two hammerfists brought it to a decisive close.
“It was great. I fought one of the top five heavyweights in the world and knocked him out,” said Cormier (9-0, 6-0 SF). “Give me some respect now. I’m going to the finals, and I’m winning. I’m taking that title.”
Rockhold Dethrones ‘Jacare’ at 185
Luke Rockhold has entered an entirely new dimension in his MMA career.
Rockhold (8-1, 7-0 SF) put on a dazzling performance, as he scrambled out of trouble on the mat and battered Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza with a variety of punches and kicks to capture the Strikeforce middleweight crown with a unanimous decision. Rockhold swept the scorecards: 50-45, 48-47 and 48-47.
The American weathered a handful of takedowns and broke free from Jacare’s notorious grip on the ground, as he repeatedly returned to his feet and went back to outstriking the champion. The lead left hand was his primary weapon, though he mixed in other strikes with beautiful timing and precision. Unable to keep Rockhold on his back, Souza (14-3, 1 NC, 4-1 SF) largely abandoned the takedown and clinch game late in the fight, and though he wobbled the Californian with two overhand rights, he was woefully outgunned on the feet against the American Kickboxing Academy standout.
“I got rocked a couple times. You never want to get hit, but I won the fight,” said Rockhold, who had not competed in nearly two years. “I’ve never been out of the first round, but I train with the best guys in the world. I look forward to defending the belt and keeping this going. Whatever is next, bring it on.”
‘King Mo’ KOs Gracie
Former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, in his first appearance in more than a year, knocked out two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist Roger Gracie with a pair of clubbing right hands in their featured 205-pound matchup. The end came 4:33 into round one.
“I just threw this right hand. I caught him upside the ear,” Lawal said. “I wasn’t sure he was out, so I hit him with some street punches, some club punches, you know what I’m saying?”
Much of the encounter was spent in a standup stalemate, until Lawal (8-1, 3-1 SF) found the mark with the first right hand behind the ear. It sent the 6-foot-4 Gracie (4-1, 2-1 SF) crashing to the canvas. Lawal then circled around his guard and delivered another shot to the same spot that finished it.
Afterward, Lawal called for a rematch with the only man to defeat him -- Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante.
“I really want Feijao again,” he said. “That’s what’s up.”
Healy Choke Submits Blanco
Team Quest veteran Pat Healy waded through heavy artillery -- some of it illegal -- to submit former lightweight King of Pancrase Maximo Blanco with a second-round rear-naked choke in a 155-pound showcase. Blanco struggled to free himself from the choke, ultimately faded and tapped out 4:27 into round two.
Blanco (8-3-1, 1 NC, 0-1 SF) took an aggressive approach from the outset, as he struck from awkward angles and landed liberally with punches. He had Healy reeling in the first round after a front kick capped a string of strikes and put him on the ground. Once there, Healy worked into position for a leg lock, at which point Blanco let loose with a number of illegal head kicks. Blanco was deducted a point, and the foul allowed Healy time to recuperate.
Healy (26-16, 4-1 SF) came out in the second period and secured three takedowns. Blanco seemed to wilt under the pressure, as he twice surrendered his back. The second time, Healy was successful with the choke and snapped the Venezuelan prospect’s six-fight winning streak.
More Strikeforce “Barnett vs. Kharitonov” »
• Strikeforce ‘Barnett vs. Kharitonov’ Prelims: Kyle, ‘Feijao’ Victorious
• Strikeforce Results and Play-by-Play