Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov Analysis and Predictions of Main Card Action
Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix
Semifinal action continues in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix live from Cincinnati, Ohio, at the US Bank Arena on Saturday, September 10.
The winner between Josh Barnett and Sergei Kharitonov will challenge the victor of Antonio Silva and Daniel Cormier in the championship match.
Additional action includes a middleweight championship fight between current champion Ronaldo Souza and challenger Luke Rockhold.
In light heavyweight action, former Strikeforce champion Muhammed Lawal will enter the cage against jiu-jitsu wizard Daniel Gracie, as he drops down from the heavyweight division.
Rounding out the night's main card action, Pat Healy takes on Maximo Blanco in the lightweight division.
Please follow along as I dissect and predict each victor.
Enjoy the fights.
Main Card Fight No. 1: Pat Healy vs. Maximo Blanco
Maximo Blanco rushing in to finish his opponent
Main card action from Cincinnati, Ohio, begins with a lightweight bout between Pat "Bam Bam" Healy and Maximo "The Max Murderer" Blanco.
Healy comes off of a lackluster performance in his last outing against the crafty Eric Wisely. Controlling the fight with his wrestling pedigree, Bam Bam"was not impressive en route to his unanimous decision victory.
Blanco is on a six-fight winning streak, finishing five of his opponents by TKO. With seven knockout victories to his credit, this Jackson Submission Fighting pupil is well versed in the stand-up striking department.
In a contrast of styles, Healy will attempt to take this fight to the ground, whereas Blanco will look to keep it standing.
In the end, the Max Murderer will stifle Healy's take-down attempts and earn the advantage in the stand-up game by utilizing his excellent Muay Thai background.
Blanco will extend his current winning streak to seven by adding Healy to his impressive resume of TKO victims.
Winner: Maximo Blanco via Round 2 TKO
Main Card Fight No. 2: Muhammed Lawal vs. Roger Gracie
Roger Gracie finishing Kevin Randleman via RNC
Light heavyweight action continues with a matchup between former Strikeforce champion Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal and Roger Gracie.
A self-appointed public relations machine, Lawal's confidence and magnanimous belief in his talents are his greatest psychological asset.
Grounded with a solid wrestling pedigree, King Mo possesses a 7-1 overall MMA record with five knockout defeats.
Polar opposite in his personality, the humble Roger Gracie is a descendant of the famed Helio Gracie family and is currently the greatest Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner competing in mixed martial arts.
With a record of 4-0 with four submission victories, Gracie does not hide the fact that he will attempt submission after submission if the opportunity becomes available.
Lawal's greatest asset as a wrestler falls prey to Gracie's greatest asset as a jiu-jitsu wizard. On their feet, however, King Mo has a sizable striking advantage over Gracie.
The true question remains as to whether or not Lawal can keep this fight standing and earn his sixth TKO victory inside the cage.
Gracie's talents as an overall MMA practitioner will provide the jiu-jitsu guru opportunities to take this fight to the ground, where he will secure his fifth-straight submission victory.
Unfortunately for King Mo and his ego, he will succumb to Gracie's talents and be forced to tap out this Saturday in Cincinnati.
Winner: Roger Gracie via Round 3 rear-naked choke
Main Card Fight No. 3: Ronaldo Souza vs. Luke Rockhold
Ronaldo Souza landing a stiff jab on Tim Kennedy
The one championship bout on the card pits current Strikeforce middleweight champ Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza against Luke Rockhold.
Souza, a world-class jiu-jitsu practitioner, has earned 11 submission victories in 14 total wins inside the cage.
Training out of the Black House in Brazil, Jacare has elevated his stand-up game under the tutelage and guidance of fellow teammates Anderson Silva and Jose Aldo.
Similar in his fighting makeup, Rockhold is a brown belt in jiu-jitsu and has earned four submission victories in his six wins while fighting for the Strikeforce banner.
A member of the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California, Rockhold is evolving his stand-up game to complement his ground talents.
Even though both fighters have similar pedigrees, the current champion Souza is just that much better.
Jacare is an excellent striker and can also dominate on the ground with his jiu-jitsu creativity. I believe that Rockhold will challenge the champ, but not defeat Souza.
In the end, Jacare will remain the Strikeforce middleweight champion, potentially fueling the debate of a unified title fight between teammates as the greatest 185-pound fighter on the planet.
Winner: Ronaldo Souza via Round 4 triangle choke
Grand Prix Tournament Semifinal: Antonio Silva vs. Daniel Cormier
Daniel Cormier elated in victory
Antonio "Big Foot" Silva emerged victorious with a two-round mauling of the great Fedor Emelianenko during his quarterfinal matchup in February.
Expecting to challenge Alistair Overeem in the semifinals, "The Reem's" removal by UFC President Dana White has forced the former United States Olympian Daniel Cormier into action.
Cormier, an outstanding freestyle wrestler, has developed a very solid stand-up striking skill set to complement his world-class grappling talents.
Treating "The Snowman" Jeff Monson as a pinata in June, Cormier battered Monson with a variety of strikes, earning a shot at Silva with his eighth successive victory inside the cage, to remain undefeated as a professional.
Silva possesses a dynamic skill set as a fighter. Large in stature, Big Foot has earned 11 TKO victories inside the cage.
Additionally, Silva has a black belt in both jiu-jitsu and judo and is very adept at damaging his opposition with grizzly bear-like mauling, as he did to Emelianenko.
Most likely the favorite remaining in the tournament, Silva will have his hands full with the diverse Cormier.
Cormier's wrestling pedigree will definitely come into play, considering that Silva enjoys taking his opposition to the mat and delivering punishing strikes.
If the Olympian can keep this fight standing, his athleticism, movement and evolution as a mixed martial artist will cause fits for Big Foot.
In the end, I predict an upset and believe that Daniel Cormier will come out victorious against Antonio Silva, earning the Olympian a championship opportunity in the final round of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament.
Winner: Daniel Cormier via unanimous decision
Grand Prix Tournament Semifinal: Josh Barnett vs. Sergei Kharitonov
Sergei Kharitonov hammering Andrei Arlovski
The winner of this semifinal bout between Josh Barnett and Sergei Kharitonov will face either Antonio Silva or Daniel Cormier in the finals of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament.
Barnett easily defeated Brett Rogers during the quarterfinals with a Round 2 arm-triangle choke submission victory.
Meanwhile, Kharitonov obliterated former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski, earning a knockout victory at the 2:49 mark of Round 1.
With 18 submission victories and seven knockout wins, Barnett is a very balanced fighter with excellent wrestling skills and the ability to finish fights on his feet or on the ground.
Kharitonov may be considered the sleeper in this tournament. A lethal striker, the Russian's background in boxing, kickboxing and sambo provides Kharitonov many avenues to secure a victory.
Barnett is extremely talented. However, Kharitonov has only been knocked out twice in 22 professional fights. I do not expect Barnett to provide the Russian with his third TKO defeat.
Additionally, tapping only once, Kharitonov is not easily submitted inside the cage. Therefore, Barnett's abilities to defeat the Russian are minimized.
In the end, the overall skills of Kharitonov will consume Barnett and provide the Russian striking angles to defeat Barnett and earn a place in the championship fight of this tournament.
Winner: Sergei Kharitonov via Round 3 TKO