The Strikeforce World Grand Prix heavyweight tournament begins February 12, 2011 from the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
First round of quarterfinal action kicks off with the former undisputed king of mixed martial arts, Fedor "The Last Emperor" Emelianenko taking on the Brazilian behemoth, Antonio "Big Foot" Silva.
Rounding out the first quaterfinal bracket this evening will be two excellent strikers and sambo standouts, "The Pitbull" Andrei Arlovski taking on Sergei Kharitonov.
Additional pairings feature remaining tournament competitors Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum, Josh Barnett and Brett Rogers.
The hype surrounding this unique Strikeforce year-long event has been epic. Weeks of analysis,"bracketology," fight predictions and outcomes have already been undergone.
One final dissection of ability is provided here, in which I analyze the ground games of the eight participants.
Please follow along as I provide you with the power rankings of all eight fighter's talents on the mat.
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The No. 8 fighter, Brett "The Grim" Rogers, was an easy choice to finish last.
With an overall MMA record of 11-2 with nine knockout victories, there is no surprise as to Roger's fight plan in the cage—KO his opponent or be KO'd himself.
With limited wrestling abilities and zero notable Brazilian jiu-jitsu victories or accolades, Brett Rogers has no intention of taking any fight to the mat.
For Rogers' sake, he needs his fights to stay on their feet.
Otherwise, "The Grim" will be bounced in the quarterfinals of this tournament and will be watching the remainder of this monumental event from the comfort of his couch.
Some may find my No. 7 pick of Andrei Arlovski as a debatable choice.
With three submission victories in 15 wins inside the cage, Arlovski's sambo background and excellent submission skills—including a variety of ankle and leg locks—should warrant a higher placement.
However, as fans who have watched "The Pitbull" over the years realize, Andrei enjoys standing and trading in the center of the cage. He is definitely looking for a (T)KO victory and not a submission win.
With his last submission victory dating all the way back to February 5, 2005, when he defeated Tim Sylvia with an ankle lock winning the interim UFC heavyweight championship, Andrei's approach to his fights is knockout first, submission victory second.
Even though Andrei Arlovski possesses excellent submissions and a very solid ground game, his pick as my No. 7 choice was solely made on the fact that "The Pitbull" prefers his stand-up skills over his abilities on the mat.
Power ranking the No. 6 and No. 5 fighters on this list of top ground games in the Strikeforce Grand Prix heavyweight tournament was a very difficult task.
A sambo specialist with an overall ultimate fighting record of 17-4 with eight submission victories, Sergei Kharitonov is a very dynamic fighter balancing out his sound ground skills with extremely technical and powerful strikes.
Not only can Kharitonov finish fights off of his back, he also has the defensive skill-set to survive with some of the best jiu-jitsu practitioners in the world.
With only one loss by submission during his career, Kharitonov additionally earned a split-decision victory against this tournament's top submission specialist, Fabricio Werdum.
Surviving three rounds with the submission wizardry of Werdum is an extremely impressive achievement.
With Sergei's tremendous abilities on the offensive and defensive sides of submission grappling, one may wonder why is he is the No. 6 choice on my list?
The answer to that question is simple. Like Arlovski, Kharitonov prefers to utilize his stand-up skills first and then rely on his submission game second.
Antonio "Big Foot" Silva stands 6'4" and cuts weight to achieve the 265-pound ceiling necessary to compete as a heavyweight.
With an impressive 15-2 overall MMA record, Silva, like most fighters in this tournament, prefers to stand on his feet and win by knockout. Of his 15 victories, 10 are by KO and only three by submission.
Even though Antonio Silva possesses three submission victories, he is more than capable of battling off of his back on the mat.
With a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Silva utilizes his tremendous grappling background to dominate opponents from their guard.
Additionally, "Big Foot's" strength, combined with tremendous stability for such a big man, makes it challenging for his opponent to catch him off balance and gain a superior position.
Silva possesses a unique skill-set—including his lethal striking ability and a dominant ground-and-pound, achieved through his jiu-jitsu training.
The current Strikeforce heavyweight champion, Alistair "The Demolition Man" Overeem, has been on a terror since 2007 winning nine straight contests with one no decision.
With an overall MMA record of 34-11-1 with 19 submission victories, Alistair possesses tremendous submission grappling skills.
Earlier in his career, Overeem would look to finish fights either by knockout or by submission.
Possessing submission victories over top competitors—including Mark Hunt, Gary Goodridge and Vitor Belfort—Overeem's grappling skills are very sound.
Even though Overeem is solid on the mat, he was defeated in 2006 by fellow Strikeforce tournament challenger, Fabricio Werdum, via kimura.
However, since adding a tremendous amount of muscle to his frame, Overeem has been earning victories by relying on his world-class Muay-Thai skills.
Dominating opponents on their feet with a variety of punches, kicks, elbows and brutalizing knees, "The Demolition Man" has more than lived up to his nickname.
I am confident that Alistair Overeem's game plan is to stay on his feet and attack with his devastating punches and knees. If taken down, however, he has the skill-set necessary to defend from submissions and possibly earn a tap-out victory.
Rumored to be the dark horse in this tournament, Josh Barnett is a tremendously gifted ground practitioner.
Holding a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Barnett has 16 submission victories to his credit with no defeats by tapout.
Outside of the Octagon, "The Baby Faced Assassin" earned 1st place in the advanced no-gi Gracie U.S. Nationals jiu-jitsu tournament in 2010 and won the ultra heavyweight world jiu-jitsu no-gi title in 2009.
One of the more balanced fighters in the tournament, Barnett has the skills necessary to win on his feet or to earn a submission victory off of his back.
Additionally, like Antonio Silva, Barnett's amazing balance and tremendous use of his hips makes him a destructive force in the guard and passing for more dominant positions.
Without a doubt, Barnett's overall skill-set makes him a contender for the championship no matter whether his fights are stand-up or ground competitions.
The No. 2 fighter on my list needs no introduction.
With an overall MMA record of 32-2-1 and more championships than I can list, Fedor Emelianenko was considered the best fighter on the planet until his recent loss to fellow Strikeforce tournament competitor, Fabricio Werdum.
A master at exploding his hips and achieving dominant positions, Fedor has a knack at coming out on top in his grappling scrambles as well.
Utilizing tremendous balance and amazing power shots from the guard to inflict serious damage to his opponent, Emelianenko implores a devastating ground-and-pound assault.
With 16 submission victories to his credit, "The Last Emperor" is a very accomplished submission grappling specialist with the ability of earning victories through a wide variety of chokes, arm bars and shoulder locks.
A very solid ground practitioner, Fedor Emelianenko has rightfully earned the No. 2 spot on my list.
Clearly the dominant Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist in this tournament, Fabricio "Vai Cavalo" Werdum's mastery off of his back is second to none.
Coming off the biggest upset victory of 2010 over Fedor Emelianenko by triangle arm bar, Werdum is riding a wave of confidence and security with his ground skills.
At 14-4-1 with eight submission victories, Werdum not only holds a tap-out win over Emelianenko, but he also forced a tap-out of current Strikeforce heavyweight champion, Alistair Overeem, in 2006.
A second degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Werdum is a two-time BJJ world champion and a two-time ADCC world heavyweight champion as well as the European jiu-jitsu champion.
Considering "Vai Cavalo's" skills on the ground, his opponents should keep their match ups with Werdum on their feet.
Otherwise, we could be watching as Werdum is crowned the 2011 Strikeforce Grand Prix world champion.