Last night, one man made a statement. A very big statement. Antonio Silva pulled off the upset and handed the Fedor 'Last Emperor' Emelianenko his first consecutive loss.
After utilising his superior reach to keep the Russian at bay, then smothered him on the ground whilst unleashing brutal ground-and-pound on his opponent. Antonio Silva is definitely a top-10 heavyweight, and a considerable force to be reckoned with.
Sergei Kharitonov also won big last night, knocking out former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski. Kharitonov is considered by many to be the darkhorse of the tournament, with victories over Fabricio Werdum and current Strikeforce champion, Alistair Overeem (although these wins were a long time ago).
I think this has the potential to be an interesting match, and it could definitely happen in the Grand Prix.
In my opinion, Antonio Silva has some decent striking, he's got a background in karate and he uses his height and reach effectively against shorter opponents. His striking isn't great, but it gets the job done; watch his fight against Arlovski, and you'll see Silva use short combinations to frustrate his opponent.
However, another thing that you might notice in that fight is that when Silva moves forward and attacks, he tends to drop his hands. That's where Kharitonov comes in.
In my opinion, Sergei Kharitonov has some very impressive striking. He's pretty well decorated as an amateur boxer, and he even earned the chance to compete in the Olympics at one point (although he opted to participate in the Pride 2004 Heavyweight Grand Prix).
He may have slowed down a bit over the years but back in Pride, Kharitonov displayed some vicious and precise striking combinations.
In my opinion, Antonio Silva's ground game is very good. Combined with his size and strength, his ground game allows him to control and smother opponents.
We saw him use this control to it's full potential last night, using it to sap the endurance from the former heavyweight king whilst unleashing heavy ground-and-pound. On top of this, 'Bigfoot' also has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
In my opinion, Sergei's ground game is quite overlooked. Back in Pride, Kharitonov displayed some good judo throws and submission defense against the likes Fabricio Werdum and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira; neither of whom could submit him. He also has a background in combat Sambo, from when he was in the military.
I think that 'Bigfoot' has the advantage due to his more well-rounded ground game and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu background. It's possible that he could smother the smaller Kharitonov, in the same fashion he did to Fedor.
I think that Antonio Silva has a big power advantage over a lot of guys in the division.
He is an absolute behemoth with dynamite in his hands. He is able to use his physicality in the right way, being able to bully and pummel most of his opponents on the ground and against the cage.
Don't get me wrong, Kharitonov has very good power with his stand-up, but from an overall perspective Antonio Silva is much physically stronger.
Although both men are generally flat footed, Antonio Silva isn't exactly considered to be a fast heavyweight. On the other hand, although he has slowed down, Kharitonov has showed very good hand-speed and movement over the years.
Furthermore, you have to remember that Silva is a huge guy, and most huge guys (with some exceptions) tend not to be so quick.
In his fight against Mike Kyle, Silva was dropped and beaten up in the first round. What amazed me during those 5 minutes was the composure that Silva displayed. Instead of curling up into the fetal position, he tied Kyle up and kept him in half guard for most of the round.
Kharitonov also has a very good chin, although he has been TKO'd by Alistair Overeem and Aleksander Emelianenko.
I think that Kharitonov would have success in the first round, using punches and combinations to score on the big man, whilst Silva tries to put him up against the cage. However, I think from round 2 onwards, Silva would use his size and strength to take the Russian down and methodically ground-and-pound him to a unanimous decision victory.
Outcome: Silva via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)