Strikeforce’s Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament kicks off with Strikeforce and M-1 Global: Fedor vs Antonio Silva on Feb. 12 in East Rutherford, N.J.
The first two fights of the opening round will be taking place on the main card as well as some other heavyweight bouts to determine possible alternates.
There will also be preliminary fights featuring some local talent. You can catch the main event live on Showtime, while the prelims will be broadcast live on HDNet.
Whether you are a Strikeforce fan who may not know the alternates and prelim fighters, a UFC fan looking to branch out or keep tabs on other organizations, or a newcomer to MMA, this article will give you the rundown on who every fighter is at this week’s event.
Fedor Emelianenko vs Antonio Silva
Fedor Emelianenko is widely considered among the top five heavyweights in the world, if not one of the best in all of MMA, and is a favorite to win this tournament. His record stands at an impressive 31-2.
He began his career in the Japanese promotions RINGS, where he won their Heavyweight and Absolute Class Tournaments. His only defeat was due to a cut within the first 20 seconds of a fight.
He would move on to Pride Fighting Championships, building his win streak to 27 consecutive victories while becoming Pride Heavyweight Champion and winning the 2004 Pride Heavyweight Grand Prix.
Emelianenko’s streak was finally snapped, however, in his last fight when Fabricio Werdum caught him in a triangle choke just over one minute into the fight. He now looks to rebound from that disappointing performance.
Antonio Silva is tasked with trying to defeat the legendary Fedor. His own record is quite good at 15 wins and just 2 losses, with 10 of those victories being knockouts.
His early career was spent in UK organizations like Cage Warriors, where he won the Super Heavyweight Championship, before he wound up in the now-defunct EliteXC promotion.
He won the Heavyweight Championship there before moving to Strikeforce, and in his last two fights he has beaten fellow tournament participant Andrei Arlovski and knocked out Mike Kyle.
He will have to beat Emelianenko to keep his winning streak and tournament hopes alive.
Andrei Arlovski vs Sergei Kharitonov
Andrei Arlovski is a fierce striker with a 15-8 record and 11 knockout victories. He began as a fighter for M-1 Global.
Being from Belarus, he won the M-1 European Heavyweight Championship. He then debuted in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, where he won the Heavyweight Championship.
He eventually left that organization to fight in the former Affliction promotion and for Strikeforce. Interestingly, Arlovski has lost his last three fights and all to opponents who will be participating in the Heavyweight Grand Prix he now hopes to win.
Arlovski was knocked out by Fedor Emelianenko while trying to win the WAMMA Heavyweight Championship, and then beaten by Brett Rogers and Antonio Silva.
Sergei Kharitonov built up most of his 17-4 record as a fighter for Pride Fighting Championships.
He made it to the semifinals of Pride’s 2004 Heavyweight Grand Prix before being eliminated by Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and now hopes to make it all the way in Strikeforce’s tournament.
This will be his debut for the promotion, with his last fight being a knockout victory over Tatsuya Mizuno at K-1’s Dynamite!! New Year’s Eve show.
Shane del Rosario vs Lavar Johnson
Shane del Rosario is an undefeated fighter with 10 wins, eight by knockout. He has fought in both M-1 Global and Strikeforce. His two Strikeforce fights were a submission victory over Brandon Cash and a knockout win over Lolohea Mahe.
He hopes to keep his record unblemished on Feb. 12 and to win a spot as the first alternate for the Heavyweight Grand Prix.
Lavar Johnson is a more experienced fighter with a 15-3 record, but also likes to primarily strike as can be evidenced by his 13 knockouts.
Johnson fought on early World Extreme Cagefighting shows before eventually coming to Strikeforce.
His own winning streak stands at seven wins and he has won all three of his fights for Strikeforce, beating Carl Seumanutafa, Lolohea Mahe, and Virgil Zwicker.
With a win over del Rosario and a spot as an alternate, Johnson could face a big step up in competition.
Chad Griggs vs. Gian Villante
Chad Griggs is a 9-1 fighter best known for his last fight, where in his Strikeforce debut, he handed Bobby Lashley his first and only defeat when the former pro wrestler called it quits after two rounds.
If he wins and unfortunate circumstances would require a third alternate for the Heavyweight Grand Prix, Griggs would get the chance to play spoiler again.
Gian Villante’s 7-1 record was entirely amassed in Ring of Combat, an MMA promotion out of Atlantic City, N.J.
Which fighter(s) are you most excited to see compete on Feb. 12?
Five of his seven wins have been by knockout, and his only loss was when he received an arm injury in the first round and had to quit against Demetrius Richards.
He came back in his last fight with a knockout of Joseph Reyes in just one minute. He now fights for a third alternate spot in the tournament.
Valentijn Overeem vs Ray Sefo
Valentijn Overeem is the older brother of Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion and Grand Prix participant Alistair Overeem.
Valentijn himself has a large but spotty 28-25 record. A well-rounded fighter, he has nearly equal submission and knockout victories.
His most recent loss came in Polish organization Beast of the East, where he was punched into submission just over one minute into the fight by Rafal Dabrowski.
He rebounded with two wins last year, beating Tengiz Tedoradze for French promotion Pancrase Fighting Championships and Catalin Zmarandescu at a K-1 show. He now will make his Strikeforce debut as a possible tournament alternate.
Ray Sefo has only fought in two MMA fights, yet if he wins and a second alternate is needed he would likely find himself facing some of the best heavyweight fighters in the world.
Sefo had a successful kickboxing career before trying a MMA fight for K-1. He later would cross over again into mixed martial arts for Strikeforce, where he beat Kevin Jordan in 2009.
He now returns to compete for the second alternate slot of Strikeforce’s Heavyweight Grand Prix.
John Cholish vs Marc Stevens
John Cholish (5-1) last beat Rich Moskowitz in a Ring of Combat fight. He makes his debut in the Strikeforce lightweight division, riding a five-fight winning streak. He is the current Lightweight Champion for New Jersey promotion Urban Conflict Championships.
Marc Stevens (12-5) fought several fights for Ring of Combat before appearing on season 12 of the Ultimate Fighter, fighting for Team Koscheck against Team GSP; he has not fought since losing on the show via guillotine choke to Aaron Wilkinson. This is his first fight for Strikeforce.
Igor Gracie vs John Salgado
Igor Gracie (2-2) last fought in 2009 for Canadian organization Wreck MMA, where he beat Chris Vorano by rear-naked choke in the first round.
John Salgado (4-4-1) has several fights for Ring of Combat and comes into his first Strikeforce bout having lost two fights in a row, most recently on the debut card of New Jersey promotion DaMMAge Fight League.
He was on the wrong side of a unanimous decision against Chris Liguori at that event. Salgado previously fought at lightweight but will be moving up to welterweight for this fight.
Sam Oropeza vs Don Carlo-Clauss
Sam Oropeza (4-1) suffered his first loss in his last fight at King of the Cage where Myles Jury submitted him via neck crank. He is making his Strikeforce debut.
Don Carlo-Clauss (6-3) most recently fought for local New England organization Combat Zone, where he lost by guillotine choke to John Benoit. He also makes his Strikeforce debut and is moving up from lightweight to welterweight.
Anthony Leone vs Josh LaBerge
Anthony Leone’s (8-2) last two fights were his two losses. The most recent one was to Georgi Karakhanyan for Bellator Fighting Championships. Leone is a fighter in the featherweight division.
Josh LaBerge (7-4) has won his last five fights in a row. LaBerge began his career in the Massachusetts MMA scene fighting for International Combat Entertainment, and now makes his Strikeforce debut. His last fight was also for Bellator, where he beat Dan Bonnell.
Kevin Roddy vs Jason McLean
Kevin Roddy (9-11) fought many of his early fights in the local New England MMA scene for promotions like Reality Fighting and Battle Cage Xtreme.
His most recent fight was a victory over Rafaello Oliveira at DaMMAge Fight League. This featherweight fighter will now have his first fight for Strikeforce.
Jason McLean (5-3) is coming off a loss to Felipe Arantes in Urban Conflict Championships. This will be his first fight for Strikeforce.