King Mo, during the UFC application process post-fight interview. Props: Showtime Sports
Last night, the real story behind “Barnet vs. Kharitonov had nothing to do with the heavyweight grand prix. It had nothing to do with the middleweight championship of a sinking organization. Last night, as with every other Strikeforce show since the promotion was purchased by Zuffa, was little more than an audition. It was about who will get a UFC contract when Strikeforce goes under, and who will have to go through TUF. The fans knew it, the announcers knew it, going as far as confirming the Belfort vs. Le rumor, and the fighters definitely knew it.
Despite Strikeforce’s best efforts to hype Josh Barnett vs. Sergei Kharitonov as a potentially close fight, we all knew what to expect: A repeat of Kharitonov vs. Monson, except with a far superior version of Jeff Monson. Because of this, it’s hard to be impressed with anything that Josh Barnett does at this point. The tournament’s biggest names and most intriguing matchups for Barnett- Fedor, Werdum and Overeem- were all removed well before last night. Barnett has become such an overwhelming favorite to win that when he wins, he’s simply living up to expectations. He was paired up against an opponent with weak grappling credentials, knew he would dominate the fight once Kharitonov was on the ground, and fought accordingly. At least the tournament was set up so that he would get to face a competent grappler in the finals.
(Dan Cormier does a dead-on impression of how his face is going to look after he gets hit with one of those fists. / Photo via MMAFighting.com)
Tonight, four big-ass dudes become two, and we mean that in the straightest way possible. Strikeforce’s lovably meaningless heavyweight tournament reaches its semi-final phase tonight at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cicinnati, Ohio, supported by a middleweight title fight and a compelling light-heavyweight feature between Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal and Roger Gracie.
Round-by-round results for the “Barnett vs. Kharitonov” Showtime main card will be piling up after the jump starting at 10:30 p.m. ET. CagePotato liveblog-mercenary Matt Kaplan will be handling business tonight, so please make him feel welcome, and refresh the page every few minutes for all the latest.
Strikeforce is forging ahead with this crazy “Grand Prix” gimmick — no telling how they came up with a concept like that, but props to them — and the semifinals could go down in September. If everything goes according to plan, the event should be packed with good matchups. Let’s take a look.
The heavyweight GP will continue with Alistair Overeem squaring off with Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, and “War Master” Josh Barnett against “The Russian Concussion” Sergei Kharitonov. Those two fights alone would be enough to carry a card, but Coker and company want to make it worth your while to watch, so they’ve continued to put together bouts with an eye on producing a blockbuster.
Every other bout currently rumored for the show features a current or former champion for the Strikeforce banner, including a title match for current middleweight champ “Jacare” Souza.
(Best finish of the night: Luke Rockhold vs. Paul Bradley)
Takayo Hashi may have been touted as the second-best 135-pound female fighter in the world coming into her title fight against Sarah Kaufman at last night’s Strikeforce Challengers event in San Jose, but for most of the five-round contest she looked woefully outmatched. Kaufman’s superior standup ruled the night, as the undefeated Canadian — and new "welterweight" women’s champion of Strikeforce — dropped Hashi twice in the first round, and spent the rest of the fight chasing the Japanese grappling specialist around the cage, landing punches whenever she was in range.
Kaufman successfully avoided the occasional takedown and submission attempts from her opponent, and outside of a teep kick that found its mark on her face in the final frame, she made it through all 25 minutes relatively untouched. After the fight’s conclusion — a 50-45 decision on all three judges’ scorecards — Kaufman apologized to the fans for her inability to finish Hashi, and generously credited Hashi’s constant movement: "It was really hard to get a lot of clean shots on her consecutively,” Kaufman said. “I would have loved to have finished the fight, but I couldn’t have done any more than I did.”