Antwain Britt’s nickname “The Juggernaut” comes straight from the storied pages of “The Uncanny X-Men” comic books. Spend a few minutes in the husky fighter’s presence and it’s easy to see why. Where other light heavyweight fighters’ frames stop, Britt’s wide shoulders seem to stretch out just a little bit farther. And like the fictional Cain Marko, Britt attacks his target with a seemingly unstoppable momentum.
A former Div. I wrestler for Old Dominion University, Britt is one of a handful prospects Strikeforce is looking toward to build it’s expanding 205-pound division in the next few months. Hailing from the Hybrid Training Center in Virginia Beach, Va., Britt will face another rising contender in Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante at Strikeforce “Heavy Artillery” this Saturday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo.
Britt, who turned 32 on Monday, ranked as a Junior All-American in both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling in his high school off-seasons between football. But it’s his heavy hands that gained the engaged father of two attention during his first-round technical knockout victory over seasoned kickboxer Scott Lighty in December. Britt utilized an effective combination of strikes and takedowns that kept Lighty off-balance before the John Hackleman-trained fighter opted not to answer the second-round bell.
Britt’s MMA coach, Buck Grant, said one of the best things people could have done was call Britt an underdog that night.
“He’s a gamer,” said Grant. He has that intangible where when he comes to the cage, he’s ready to perform. There’s a lot of guys who perform really well at the gym, but can’t pull it together in the cage. That’s never been a problem for Antwain. He always rises to the occasion.”
Britt's potential earned him a spot on “The Ultimate Fighter 8,” but a broken hand in his qualifying bout quickly extinguished his run on the Spike TV series. Opportunities knock more than once for those who work for it, and Britt, who's finished seven of his 11 career wins inside the first frame, seems keenly aware that Saturday's bout holds sizable implications for both fighters.
“I want to come in here and set a tone for the next few months as far as how the light heavyweight title picture goes,” said Britt. “Feijao’s a good fighter, a big strong guy, but I can honestly say it’s nothing I haven't seen before. We both have something to prove. We know what’s at stake in this fight, which will translate into a really fast-paced one for the fans to see.”
Cavalcante, a product of the famous Nogueira brothers and their Black House team, became a hot commodity after churning out three consecutive first-round victories in the now-defunct EliteXC. A stunning second-round defeat to Mike Kyle last June derailed the aggressive Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt’s track to a title shot. Cavalcante returned with a second-round TKO over Aaron Rosa at Strikeforce “Challengers 5” in November, though the Brazilian’s tentative performance didn’t live up to his earlier triumphs.
“Anytime you get knocked out or you get dropped, you get a little apprehensive about going into the next one,” said Britt of Cavalcante’s last bout. “I saw a lot of weaknesses before the Kyle fight, though. He hasn’t really fought anyone athletic, anyone as quick, anyone that has the attributes that I have. I think that’s going to be something hard for him to adjust to.”
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said he has high hopes for the bout, which will lead off the live telecast on Showtime.
“We’re keeping a close eye on this fight and a strong performance from either fighter would certainly place them in the contender’s circle one step closer to a shot at champion (Muhammed) ‘King Mo’ Lawal,” said Coker.
And like his namesake, Britt’s eyeline is pointed nowhere but straight forward.
“The 205 pound division -- Strikeforce has done a great job of growing it -- but we’re the frontrunners, the most accomplished and well-rounded guys and either one of us will be a good matchup for Mo,” said Britt. “Of course, I think I’ll be a better matchup. I think Mo has never fought anyone as athletic as I am.”