If Strikeforce officials need an alternate to step in and fill a spot in the promotion’s highly-touted heavyweight grand prix, prospects Shane del Rosario and Chad Griggs and grizzled veteran Valentijn Overeem each made their case on Feb. 12 in East Rutherford, N.J., with each man picking up a first round stoppage victory.
Del Rosario (11-0) stayed undefeated with an impressive showing against Lavar Johnson. The two slugged it out early on, but eventually del Rosario took the fight to the mat, working to the full mount and battering Johnson with ground-and-pound strikes before securing an armbar submission.
After the fight, del Rosario said that he was glad he had the chance to showcase his skills on such a big stage and perhaps earn an opportunity to fight one of the tournament’s big names, but also said that he has more work to do in his young MMA career. Del Rosario only fought once in 2010 and said that he wants to stay more active to continue his progression, perhaps with four or five more fights before the end of this year.
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker indicated that del Rosario and the tournament’s other reserve competitors would stay active rather than waiting on the sidelines as the tournament unfolds.
Griggs also came away victorious in exciting fashion, getting a TKO over Gian Villante halfway through the first period in a fan-friendly slugfest. At the post-fight press conference, Griggs admitted that he was a bit over-anxious at times trying to stop Villante.
“I thought if I catch him a couple times that he’s got a wrestling background and he’d shoot,” Griggs said. “I caught him and buckeld him a few times and just got a little over eager … closing the gap too soon rather than taking more time and picking my shots.”
Griggs surprised onlookers with a come-from-behind TKO win over former pro wrestler Bobby Lashley on Aug. 21. Having that previous experience on the big stage helped against a more nervous Villante, Griggs said.
“This is obviously a much bigger stage,” he said. “Your nerves will definitely play a factor in that. Even at the weigh-ins I could sense his nervousness.”
Although Overeem picked up a quick submission win over decorated K-1 striker Ray Sefo, the attention soon turned to whether he would be willing to fight his brother, Strikeforce champion Alistair, as a way of getting into the tournament.
Both men seemed willing if the tournament unraveled that way, though they answered lightheartedly.
“We fight every day in the gym,” Alistair said. “He’s kicked my ass more than several times.”
“A long time ago,” Valentijn chimed in with a chuckle.