‘War Master’ Barnett Expects Tougher Fight with Kharitonov

By Mike Whitman Jun 18, 2011
Josh Barnett has apparently taken a new nickname, one more befitting of his larger-than-life persona in the cage.

“You’re now looking at ‘The War Master,’ as dubbed by the band Bolt Thrower. I am he,” said Barnett (Pictured; file photo) Saturday in a post-fight video interview with Showtime Sports. “This is what happens when you get a name like ‘Babyface’ and you turn 33. That stuff has to take a backseat at some point.”

Also taking a backseat at Saturday’s Strikeforce “Overeem vs. Werdum” was Barnett’s opponent, Brett Rogers, who was dominated by the catch-wrestling specialist inside the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

Barnett controlled the bout from start to finish, shooting early for a double-leg takedown and planting “The Grim” on the canvas with a spinebuster-like slam. Barnett then mounted Rogers, electing to take his time and wear his opponent down, a strategy which some fans in attendance did not appreciate.

“I know there were some boos out there, and I don’t blame you guys. I played it relatively soft as far as opening up for strikes,” admitted Barnett, returned from an 11 month layoff for the bout. “I knew [Rogers] had a good gas tank for a big guy and that he would explode in all of his actions. There wasn’t going to be anything subtle about what he did. [Fighting] a guy that big and that active and that agile, I wanted to pin him out. In my mount, the drive from my hips was really killing his wind. So while it wasn’t super exciting to watch, it was ultimate very beneficial to me.”

According to Barnett, his strategy to control Rogers in the mount not only neutralized his foe’s explosiveness on the mat, but also opened opportunities to attack in the standup. This was evidenced in the beginning of round two, as Barnett landed a clean combination before once again taking Rogers for a ride.

“I wasn’t going to open up too much. I’d look for a short elbow or whatever, but there was a lot of pressure. [I wanted to] take his gas tank away and really get him thinking about drowning on the ground,” said Barnett. “Then, if we ended back up on the feet, I knew I’d have a very easy setup into my strikes, and it turned out I did. [I landed] a nice left hook and uppercut. He went for double underhooks, but I finished out with a double overhooks salto. Don’t try to step in on me like that.”

After the bout, Showtime Sports commentator Gus Johnson attempted to conduct an interview with the fighter formerly known as “The Babyfaced Assassin.” Instead, Barnett snatched the mic and decided to take matters into his own hands.

“I love Gus. He’s my boy. I’ve supported him since his induction into MMA. He’s a professional and he’s very funny, actually,” said Barnett, “but I’m out here to cut promos. I make Gus’ job easy. Just hand me the mic and I’ll take care of it.”

Up next for Barnett in the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix semifinals is hard-punching Russian Sergei Kharitonov, the sambo practitioner who violently dispatched former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski to earn his spot in the round of four.

“It’s going to be a tougher fight,” said Barnett. “He’s got more experience, and he’s a better all-around fighter [than Rogers]. Sharp boxing, good kickboxing, very tough, granite chin and a better ground game, but I know I’ve got the tools to beat him as well. It’s just going to be a different look.”
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