Having recently reviewed Strikeforce’s recent Challengers show it’s now time to take a look at more recent events, the semi-finals of their Heavyweight World Grand Prix tournament, shown live in the early hours of this past Sunday morning on Primetime here in Britain.
The show began in the lightweight division as Grizzly Redwood tribute act Pat Healy went up against Maximo Blanco.
This proved to be an explosive and at times controversial encounter. The two began by exchanging quick combinations before a leg sweep from Blanco sent Healy down.
But a few moments later when the fight was on the ground and Healy looked like he was going for a heel hook Blanco connected with several kicks to Healy’s head, an illegal move under the unified rules.
Healy was checked over by the doctors and cleared to continue, while Blanco was docked a point for his infraction.
The break seemed to light a fire under Healy. From that moment on he took control of the fight, taking Blanco down and going to work with the ground and pound as the first round came to an end.
He continued his good work into the second, countering Blanco’s superior speed with two more take downs, and after tying up one of Blanco’s arms he locked in a rear naked choke at the second attempt for the submission win.
It was up to light heavyweight for the next fight as King Mo Lawal faced Roger Gracie.
This one featured quite a lengthy feeling out period. In fact it was so lengthy it wasted well into the third minute. They caught each other with the odd punch and kick but apart from that nothing much happened.
That was until King Mo connected with a big right hand that dropped Gracie like the proverbial sack of spuds. Gracie looked out of it before he hit the ground, and the referee wisely stepped in to give Lawal the knockout win.
The only title fight of the show saw Luke Rockhold challenging Jacare Souza for the Middleweight title.
This has to be one of the most competitive fights I’ve seen this year. We were treated to five rounds of non-stop back and forth action, and it was a joy to behold.
Each man had their moments, and there were many of them, and while the majority of the pundits expected this to be a ground battle this was a mainly striking affair. Both men got in their share of kicks and punches, with Rockhold in particular looking very impressive, and not looking like a man who’d been out of the game for nearly two years.
There were a few brief forays to the ground, but most of the grappling came in the form of clinches against the cage, and when the fight came to an end they both looked like they could go another five rounds.
With the fight going the distance it was left to the judges to decide the outcome, with Rockhold taking the unanimous title winning decision. A fantastic fight here.
Then it was on to the Heavyweight World Grand Prix semi-finals, beginning with Antonio Silva against Alistair Overeem’s replacement Daniel Cormier.
To say that Cormier put in a great performance here would be an understatement. While everyone was expecting Bigfoot to take the win it soon began to look like the replacement fighter hadn’t read the script.
As soon as his big right sent Silva down to the mat the fight turned in his direction. The Brazilian was obviously hurt by the blow, and seemed annoyed when Cormier would score with a take down and refuse to follow him down, unwilling to play his game.
Moments later a beautiful combination which was ended with a right uppercut sent Silva down once again. Two hammer fists followed but by then it was all over as the referee stepped in to give Cormier the knockout win.
The second semi-final saw Josh Barnett taking on Sergei Kharitonov.
While the first semi-final was a great striking battle this one saw some dominating ground work from Barnett. After exchanging a few combinations with Kharitonov Barnett took the Russian down to the ground.
The former UFC champ dominated from there. Kharitonov seemed lost as Barnett went to work, and after Kharitonov turned over Barnett took his back, later moving to the side as Kharitonov rolled over so he could apply a head and arm choke for the submission win.
In conclusion - this was another quality show from Scott Coker and his crew. A quality undercard was highlighted by the remarkable Middleweight title fight between Souza and Rockhold, and both of the tournament semi-finals delivered style wise, with Cormier’s knockout win over Silva the highlight of the night for me.
So once again Strikeforce’s recent offering gets the thumbs up. It’s a shame that we’ll have to wait until sometime next year for the tournament finals though!