One of the most highly anticipated cards of the year has come and gone – more quickly than some expected, and in a very different manner than most expected.
In tonight’s premier installment of the two-part Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Quarter-Finals, four men stepped into the six-sided cage with the hopes of advancing to the Semi-Finals of the promotion’s inaugural heavyweight tournament. In the co-main event, the first of the pairings saw PRIDE veteran and dangerous kickboxer “The Russian Mercenary” Sergei Kharitonov (17-4) taking on Sambo master and former UFC Heavyweight Champion “The Pitbull” Andrei Arlovski (14-9). The Belarusian exhibited more than a glimmer of his old self coming out of the gate, instantly putting the pressure on his opponent, and out-striking Kharitonov with precision jabs, uppercuts, and leg kicks. Things were really looking up for the formerly top 10 ranked heavyweight, but unfortunately it didn’t last long. Arlovski allowed himself to be backed toward the cage, where he quickly became at the mercy of Kharitonov’s own brand of stellar striking. It took only a few well-placed punches until Arlovski found himself in the same place as two of his last three fights: on the canvas, out cold. “The Pitbull” is out of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, and Sergei Kharitonov advances to the Semi-Finals.
The main event and the second of the night’s Quarter-Final match-ups pitted one of the most revered heavyweights in the world, Russian Sambo Champion “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko (32-2) against tournament underdog and Brazilian behemoth “Bigfoot” Antonio Silva (15-2). The first round was highly competitive, with clean exchanges and solid ground work, including multiple dominant positions, from both fighters. The second stanza saw a much more dominant Antonio Silva, who blasted Fedor to the mat with a double-leg takedown and remained in complete control for the entire round, including several minutes spent switching between mount and back control. Three-plus minutes of brutal ground-and-pound and several submission attempts later, the round ended and the referee stopped the fight on the doctor’s advice due to Fedor’s right eye being swollen shut. As if suffering a second consecutive loss wasn’t enough of a shock to onlookers, a visibly defeated Fedor Emelianenko in his post-fight interview solemnly announced that he may be hanging up his gloves for good and walking away from MMA. When asked if it were the last time he would be seen in the cage, “The Last Emperor” responded: “Yes, maybe, it’s the last time. Maybe it’s high time. Thanks for everything. I spent a great beautiful long sport life. Maybe it’s God’s will.” Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker allegedly stated after the fight that if Fedor decides against retiring, he could act as a replacement in the heavyweight tournament.
For the full list of Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix results, click here.