Event: Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov
Date: Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 10:30 p.m. ET on Showtime
Location: U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio
Mike Fagan - Kharitonov is Barnett's toughest opponent since fighting "Minotauro" Nogueira back in 2006. That's sort of nuts to me. Barnett showed in the Rogers fight that he won't waste time standing if it doesn't suit him. I expect Josh will use his strikes to close the distance, take Kharitonov down, and do his work on the floor. Josh Barnett by submission, round two.
Leland Roling - My deep affection for the ominous Russian demeanor and power of Sergei Kharitonov can't bring me to pick him against a savvy submission specialist like Josh Barnett. While there is some concern that he'll succumb to Kharitonov's heavy hands early, he possesses the abilities to bring Kharitonov down and run right through his defenses. Josh Barnett via submission
KJ Gould - I think this is another match up that stylistically favors Barnett. His knock out loss to Pedro Rizzo is ancient history and avenged and not relevant, and his losses to Cro Cop can't be held against him when 2 out of 3 happened because of freak injuries or occurrences like shoulder dislocations and eye pokes. His striking is solid enough to get inside Sergei, take him down and submit him. I don't think Sergei is having a career resurrection with his win over the now chin-less Andrei Arlovski, and I keep thinking about how easily Jeff Monson was able to ground him and beat him a few years ago. It's really Barnett's fight to lose. Barnett by Submission.
Fraser Coffeen - Sergei has shown improved striking over the past few years thanks to his stint in K-1, but it's not at that upper K-1 level of, say, Alistair Overeem. Meanwhile, Barnett has a really underrated stand-up game that will keep him safe enough on the feet, and the superior and more varied ground game to win it there. Though I actually think he'll surprise us a bit and use his strikes to get the victory. Josh Barnett by TKO.
Staff picking Barnett: KJ, Fraser, Fagan, Leland
Staff picking Kharitonov: none
Mike Fagan - The sting of losing Alistair Overeem from this tournament is mitigated by getting this scrap in its place. (And the whole Overeem fighting Brock Lesnar on New Year's Eve eve thing.) This is a step up in competition for Cormier, but at 32, he doesn't have a ton of time to build his career incrementally. This fight will hinge on which Antonio Silva we see. If it's the guy who fought Fabricio Werdum and Ricco Rodriguez or the first round against Mike Kyle, Cormier dominates. If it's the dude that splattered Fedor Emelianenko, we got a good scrap on our hands. Daniel Cormier by decision.
Leland Roling - Silva's size is an obvious factor in this tilt, but I'm conflicted with regards to factoring in his grappling skills against Cormier's world class wrestling ability. Cormier has faced bigger men in the past, although not with the skills that Silva possesses. He has the balance and experience to thwart Silva's attempt at a ground campaign. The question is whether Cormier's improved striking can beat Silva on the feet. Silva isn't exactly the epitome of impeccable defense on the feet, and Cormier will be going for broke. Daniel Cormier via decision.
KJ Gould - Tough fight to pick. I'd think Cormier would be faster and his striking is ever improving at AKA, the team that helped shape Cain Velasquez into a well rounded killer. But Silva is just so damn big and a nightmare if he gets on top of you. He may be able to get Cormier down on size alone and we'll see Silva's top game versus Cormier's bottom. Otherwise I see Cormier keeping distance and striking like he did with Monson. I can't see Cormier taking Silva down or even wanting to, but he might late round if he thinks it'll edge him on the scorecards. I'll have to go with Silva as he's more proven at this level. Silva by decision.
Staff picking Silva: KJ, Fraser
Staff picking Cormier: Leland
Mike Fagan - "Jacare" wipes the floor with Rockhold. Ronaldo Souza by submission, round one.
Leland Roling - Rockhold is extremely undervalued as a prospect, but Souza's gator grip and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu prowess create a difficult environment for Luke to navigate. Souza's stand-up game has improved considerably as well. Ronaldo Souza via submission.
KJ Gould - Normally Souza would be an easy pick but I wonder the wisdom in being in a title fight and then 2 weeks later taking a super ‘fight' at ADCC against Braulio Estima. I'm not sure if both events have equal priority or one more than the other but it's hard not to think his focus will be divided. Rockhold's on a roll and while most of his wins come by submission, his TKO over Jesse Taylor was also impressive. He can't hang with Jacare on the ground and I'm not honestly not sure who has the advantage on the feet though with Rockhold training out of AKA again you'd think he'd be prepared. I don't think it'll be enough to get an upset though. Souza by Submission.
Staff picking Souza: KJ, Fraser, Fagan, Leland
Staff picking Rockhold: none
Mike Fagan - The betting lines have this far closer than I would have expected. (Hint, hint.) Gracie needs to take this fight to floor, and Lawal won't allow that to happen. This fight will quickly devolve into Lawal making Gracie pay for bad takedowns shots from the outside. Muhammed Lawal by decision.
Leland Roling - Normally, wrestlers of Lawal's caliber should be able to stifle the submission attempts from a savvy Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu fighter. In this case, Gracie is such a dominant grappler on the ground that I think it would be ill-advised for Lawal to try to smother him from the top. Lawal will more than likely keep this fight standing, shrugging off any attempts by Gracie to bring the fight into his world. From there, Lawal eventually lands something brutal to finish. Muhammed Lawal via TKO.
KJ Gould - I'm not picking Lawal because he's a wrestler. I'm picking Lawal because he can keep it standing and has shown he can KO or TKO his opponents. It starts on the feet and while Gracie is godly on the ground, he has to get it there. Yes he beat Randleman by submission, but King Mo is in his prime and already shows more promise than Randleman ever did. Gracie also only has 4 MMA fights tops and I think it'll be this one that gives him a rude awakening. Gracie has to finish early and fast to stand a chance. King Mo by TKO.
Fraser Coffeen - I generally don't pick guys who are returning after a loss, injury, and year plus lay off, and that's Mo. The Feijao fight reminded me that Mo likes his stand-up, but that stand up is just not so great. Gracie's not going to outstrike him, but he's not going to get lit up on the feet either. On the ground, it's the return of Gracie Jiu Jitsu vs. American Wrestling, and ever since Royce vs. Severn, I prefer the Gracie. Roger Gracie by submission.
Staff picking Lawal: KJ, Fagan, Leland
Staff picking Gracie: Fraser
Leland Roling - Maximo Blanco has legit world class wrestling credentials, and his striking has improved to a point in which he can uncork epic combinations that completely sap the life from his opponents. Healy has no idea what he got himself into when he campaigned to get this fight. Maximo Blanco by TKO.
Fraser Coffeen - Maxi is a glorious whirlwind of destruction, and I love him. Just so long as he doesn't go berserk and get himself DQ'd, he's probably good. Maximo Blanco by TKO.
KJ Gould - Maximo Blanco is my favourite fighter name in MMA. I mean seriously, what an awesome name. It helps that he's a pretty good fighter too. Healy's a solid journeyman but I can't see him winning a decision over Blanco as he tends to when he does win. This is a showcase fight for Blanco and I can't see him disappointing us yet. Blanco by TKO.
Staff picking Healy: none
Staff picking Blanco: Fraser, KJ, Fagan, Leland