If Strikeforce wanted to do a Pay-Per-View, their Sept. 10 fight card is certainly worthy, at least on paper. The Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Semifinals will take place at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati and feature Josh Barnett vs. Sergei Kharitonov and Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva vs. Daniel Cormier.
Also on the card is a middleweight title fight between current Strikeforce 185-pound champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs. Luke Rockhold, and former Strikeforce light heavyweight champ Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal makes his return against BJJ ace Roger Gracie.
The Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Semifinals will broadcast LIVE on Showtime on Saturday, Sept. 10, at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on West Coast). Tickets for the event go on sale this Friday, July 29, at 12 p.m. ET.
Heavyweight Tournament Semifinals
Barnett (30-5) has not lost since 2006, when “Big Nog” won a unanimous decision against him in Pride. Since then he has won seven straight bouts, most recently submitting Brett Rogers in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix quarterfinals in June.
Kharitonov (18-4) earned his spot at the semifinal table by knocking out Andrei Arlovski in February. The important thing to note about Kharitonov is that he is a finisher. Nine of his wins have come by knockout, eight by submission. The four people who have defeated him reads like a “who’s who” list of MMA vets.
“Bigfoot” Silva (16-2) did what no fighter had ever done before him in the tournament quarterfinals. He battered and dominated Fedor Emelianenko, ultimately causing a second round doctor stoppage because Fedor’s eye was swollen shut. Only two people have bested the big man. One of them, Fabricio Werdum, has already been eliminated from the tournament, and the other, Eric Pele, beat “Bigfoot” in 2006, and has not competed since 2008.
Cormier (8-0) is the only undefeated fighter in the tournament. He is also the least experienced, having only turned pro in Sept. 2009. Cormier replaced the man many considered the favorite to win the tournament, Alistair Overeem, after he pulled out, saying he would not have enough time to prepare properly for the September date. The 2004 Olympian is coming off a unanimous decision win over grappling ace Jeff Monson last month.
Middleweight Title Fight
“Jacare” (14-2, 1 NC) won the vacant Strikeforce middleweight title, defeating Tim Kennedy via unanimous decision, after former champ Jake Shields left for the UFC. In his first title defense he submitted Robbie Lawler via rear-naked choke, two minutes into the third round, back in January. He has won his last four fights.
Rockhold (7-1) has not lost since his second pro bout back in 2007. All seven of his wins have come via stoppage; six by submission, one by knockout — and oh yeah… they have all come in the first round. At 6-0 he is undefeated in the Strikeforce cage. His most recent bout was a first round TKO (knees to the body) over Paul Bradley in February 2010. One of Rockhold’s biggest challenges could be dealing with ring rust after spending more than a year on the sidelines due to injuries.
Light Heavyweight Featured Bout
“King Mo” (7-1) has been out of action since Aug. 2010 due to injury and at least one surgery. The former champ ran roughshod over his first seven opponents after turning pro in 2008. Originally fighting as an undersized heavyweight, Lawal seems to have found a home at 205. He picked up the Strikeforce light heavyweight title with a unanimous decision over Gegard Mousasi in April of last year, but lost his title to Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante via third round TKO in August. All eyes will be on Lawal to see how he rebounds from his title loss and the long layoff.
Gracie (4-0) has been dominating the BJJ world for a decade now. His transition to MMA has been sparse to say the least. He made his pro MMA debut at heavyweight with Bodog in Dec. 2006 with a first round armbar of Ron Waterman. In May 2008 he scored a first round rear-naked choke win over Yuki Kondo in Sengoku. In his Strikeforce debut in 2010, Gracie moved down to light heavyweight and choked out Kevin Randleman. In Jan. 2011 he choked out Trevo Prangley.
The full preliminary fight card for this event has not yet been announced. Refer to ProMMAnow.com’s Upcoming Events page for the full line-up as it stands and stay tuned as more bouts are added in the coming weeks.