Despite the wishful thinking from some fans that the Strikeforce heavyweight Grand Prix will go off without a snag, more knowledgeable fans understand that the demands of a tournament schedule. Injuries normally throw a curveball into any planned event, and while Scott Coker has assured fans that he is willing to wait up to two months for fighters to recover from injuries -- it will be a miraculous feat to see this tournament unfold as it was intended.
Serving as a contention bout of sorts, WBC Heavyweight Muay Thai champion turned mixed martial arts fighter Shane del Rosario (10-0, 2-0 SF) meets American Kickboxing Academy team member Lavar Johnson (15-3, 3-0 SF) in a battle to determine who gets first crack at a spot in the Grand Prix bracket in the unfortunate case of an injury. Rosario remains undefeated in ten career bouts with victories over Brandon Cash and Lolohea Mahe under the Strikeforce banner. Johnson also holds a win over Mahe along with knockout wins over Carl Seumanutafa and Virgil Zwicker in three appearances with the promotion.
As you may recall, Johnson was shot in the abdomen during a Fourth of July party in 2009. The incident put doubt into whether he would ever return to the sport of mixed martial arts as he was listed in critical condition after the attack. Amazingly, Johnson returned to the cage eight months later at Strikeforce Challengers 7 as the top attraction.
Quite the incredible story, one that lends credence to the notion that successful mixed martial artists are inclined to survive and recover quickly. While Shane del Rosario may not have a clue as to the hurdles that being shot entail, he knows a little something about recovering quickly. Brandon Cash, a fairly unknown undefeated fighter, created quite the scare in Rosario's debut with the promotion. After Rosario was blasted with strikes early in the fight, the 27-year-old held his own on the ground and submitted Cash with a rare omoplata only seconds later.
Both men are considered to be Strikeforce's top heavyweight prospects. Rosario is the more seasoned striker with supporting Muay Thai credentials and an impressive streak of knockout victories. Johnson isn't as technical on the feet as Rosario, and he relies a bit more on persevering through the blast zone before landing his own salvos to end fights.
Rosario's fight history proves he has more weapons in his arsenal in this match-up. A strong clinch fighter, Rosario can be devastating with his use of knees and body blows to stun and even knock out opponents. From distance, he's a proficient power puncher, and he can crush his opponent's will to continue with brutal leg and body kicks. From all indications, he should be able to overwhelm Johnson on the feet and take home the knowledge that he'll be next in line for a crack at some of the biggest names in the sport's heavyweight division.