Strikeforce GP Fighters on Target for Saturday Night Semifinals

By Brian Knapp Sep 9, 2011
Josh Barnett looks to get to the final of another grand prix Saturday night in Cincinnati. | Photo:

Four men will enter the cage in the Queen City, and two finalists will emerge in the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix.

Former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett tipped the scales at 261 pounds for his semifinal matchup with Sergei Kharitonov (256.5) in the Strikeforce “Barnett vs. Kharitonov” main event on Saturday at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. Antonio Silva (264.5) and Daniel Cormier (247), the two participants in the other grand prix semifinal, also met their mandated weight requirements without incident at Friday’s official weigh-in.

Barnett will carry a seven-fight winning streak into the bout. The 33-year-old Seattle native advanced to the semifinals with his second-round arm-triangle choke submission over Brett Rogers at Strikeforce “Overeem vs. Werdum” in June. Barnett, a finalist in the 2006 Pride Fighting Championships open weight grand prix, has secured more than half (18) of his 30 professional victories by submission. Wins over three-time UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture, 1992 Olympic gold medalist Hidehiko Yoshida, former Pride heavyweight titleholder Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, UFC hall of famer Dan Severn and four-time K-1 World Grand Prix winner Semmy Schilt (twice) anchor his resume.

A 31-year-old Russian paratrooper, Kharitonov punches his semifinal ticket with his first-round knockout over former UFC heavyweight titleholder Andrei Arlovski at Strikeforce “Fedor vs. Silva” in February. The Golden Glory representative has won back-to-back bouts and five of his past six. Only two of Kharitonov’s 22 career fights have advanced beyond one round. He has delivered 17 of his 18 victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission.

On the other side of what is now a four-man bracket, Silva will enter the cage with momentum to burn, having won three in a row and nine of his last 10. The 31-year-old former EliteXC champion advanced to the semifinals with his second-round technical knockout Russian legend Fedor Emelianenko in February. A black belt in judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Silva has secured 11 of his 16 career wins by KO or TKO and, at 6-foot-4, 265 pounds, often overwhelms foes with his blend of size and skill.

A two-time Olympian, Cormier transitioned to MMA on the strength of world-class wrestling credentials. He won two junior college national championships and later went on to earn All-American status at Oklahoma State University. Undefeated in eight professional MMA outings, Cormier last appeared at Strikeforce “Overeem vs. Werdum” in June, when he outpointed two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist Jeff Monson at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. The 32-year-old American Kickboxing Academy standout was thrust into the grand prix when Alistair Overeem withdrew from the tournament with an injury.

Strikeforce “Barnett vs. Kharitonov” -- which airs at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Showtime -- will also feature a five-round middleweight title bout pairing champion Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza (185) with American Kickboxing Academy prospect Luke Rockhold (185), a light heavyweight tilt pitting former titleholder Muhammed Lawal (205) against Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Roger Gracie (205) and a lightweight duel matching onetime King of Pancrase Maximo Blanco (155) with Pat Healy (155).

Meanwhile, HDNet will carry the five remaining preliminary matchups at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT: Yoel Romero Palacio (205) vs. Rafael Cavalcante (205), Marcos Rogerio de Lima (205) vs. Mike Kyle (205), Evangelista Santos (170) vs. Jordan Mein (170), Amanda Nunes (134.5) vs. Alexis Davis (135) and Chris David Mierzwiak (185) vs. Dominique Steele (184.5).

Strikeforce “Barnett vs. Kharitonov”
Saturday, Sept. 10
U.S. Bank Arena

Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Semifinals
Josh Barnett (261) vs. Sergei Kharitonov (256.6)
Antonio Silva (264.5) vs. Daniel Cormier (247)

Strikeforce Middleweight Championship
Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza (185) vs. Luke Rockhold (185)

Muhammed Lawal (205) vs. Roger Gracie (205)
Maximo Blanco (155) vs. Pat Healy (155)
Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante (205) vs. Yoel Romero Palacio (205)
Marcos Rogerio de Lima (205) vs. Mike Kyle (205)
Evangelista Santos (170) vs. Jordan Mein (170)
Amanda Nunes (134.5) vs. Alexis Davis (135)
Chris David Mierzwiak (185) vs. Dominique Steele (184.5)


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