“Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva” staff picks

Strikeforce’s heavyweight tournament gets under way this Saturday night, Feb. 12, at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, N.J. with “Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva“.

The event will feature two heavyweight tournament quarterfinal bouts including Fedor Emelianenko vs. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in the main event and Andrei “The Pit Bull” Arlovski vs. Sergei Kharitonov in the co-main event.

The card will also feature three heavyweight reserve bouts with Shane del Rosario vs. Lavar “Big” Johnson, Chad “The Grave Digger” Griggs vs. Gian Villante and Valentijn “The Python” Overeem vs. Ray “Sugarfoot” Sefo.

The all-heavyweight fight card will air LIVE on Showtime at 10 p.m. ET. The staff shares their thoughts and predictions on each of the fights below.

Fedor Emelianenko (31-2, 1 NC) vs. Antonio Silva (15-2)

ODDS: Fedor Emelianenko -525 vs. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva +325

BRIAN FURBY: Don’t call it a comeback. OK, do call it that. Fedor returns to his dominant ways. Pick: Fedor Emelinanenko.

DENNY HODGE: It’s the return of Fedor. People can say his “aura of invincibility” is gone, but they are absolutely crazy. I guarantee Silva will be thinking about it, and I guarantee it will affect him, just like it affects most of the fighters that step into a cage or ring with Fedor. Silva may have G&P’d Mike Kyle, but before he turned the tables, he was getting beaten badly in the striking department. Fedor won’t let him escape this time, Fedor by TKO.

JACK BRATCHER: Fedor will be too fast for “Bigfoot” Silva. Silva hits hard but Fedor will know what “Bigfoot” is going to throw before he knows himself. Look for Fedor to land some big punches, Silva goes down and if he’s still awake, he’ll get choked out or arm-barred. I like “Bigfoot” but he won’t win this fight and Fedor is not finished. You can take that to the bank baby!

JOHN BUHL: Silva is a tough style matchup for anyone with his reach and athletic ability, but him almost getting KOd by Mike Kyle is a hard vision to shake. At some point, Fedor will get past his jab and catch him with an overhand right. Fedor by TKO round 2.

KELVIN HUNT: Going with the upset…the years have finally caught up with Emelianenko in my opinion…Silva is huge…can strike and grapple. He does have a huge chin, but I’m going to gamble here and take the upset. Silva via TKO in round 2.

RICHARD MANN: When Fedor fights larger opponents, I always feel like they should be able to bully him into the cage and work there. However, he does his best work in the clinch position. I was shocked that he was able to score a throw on Matt Lindland (of course, he did use the ropes). However, Brett Rogers was able to control Fedor against the cage. If Silva can get that same position he can do more damage. If the fight goes to floor, Silva will need to avoid submissions, but he should be able to take positions against Fedor. After all, Mark Coleman had his back for most of a round, and Mark Hunt nearly had a keylock against him. Silva will need to avoid trouble on the feet and avoid submission on the ground. These are two things he can do. Pick = Silva.

Andrei Arlovski (15-8) vs. Sergei Kharitonov (17-4)

ODDS: Andrei Arlovski even vs. Sergei Kharitonov -130

BRIAN FURBY: Believe in the power of the beard. Pick: Andrei Arlovski.

DENNY HODGE: Most fans have dismissed Arlovski altogether, and his chin has been the subject of may “glass jaw” discussions. Kharitonov amazingly, win or lose, has seen 19 of his 21 fights end in the first round. When something happens in his fights, it usually happens pretty quick. It will happen again. Kharitonov and Arlovski will square up, and when the first big exchange ends, Arlovski will be searching for answers with yet another TKO loss.

JACK BRATCHER: Poor Arlovski. “The Pit Bull” has lost his last three and I’m afraid Kharitonov is going to make it four in a row. Kharitonov knocked out Overeem in 2007. He won a decision over Werdum in 2005 and he’s going to beat Arlovski in 2011. The only question will be how. Probably knockout.

JOHN BUHL: Arlovski might actually need a win more than anyone in this tournament, with three straight losses and a couple of failed chin tests. Kharitonov definitely has the striking power to make Arlovski hesitant, but Kharitonov looked horrible at the K-1 World Grand Prix, getting knocked out by Singh Jaideep. I’ll go with Arlovski by decision.

KELVIN HUNT: Kharitnov via TKO.

RICHARD MANN: In the last two years, Kharitonov has had two MMA fights. He got blitzed by Jeff Monson in 2009 and took out an overmatched and undersized Tatsuya Mizuno. On the K-1 side, he has been even less impressive. He went 1-2 and is coming off a loss to Singh Jaideep. For some reason several books have Kharitonov as a betting favorite. Sure, Arlovski is riding an 0-3 skid, but he is still a quality heavyweight. He should be able to stay on the outside and land strikes on Kharitonov. However, there is always a chance one big shot could put Arlovski away. Pick = Andrei Arlovski.

Shane del Rosario (10-0) vs. Lavar Johnson  (15-3)

ODDS: Shane del Rosario -215 vs. Lavar Johnson +175

BRIAN FURBY: Shane del Rosario.

DENNY HODGE: Lavar Johnson is a survivor. He came back from near fatal gunshot wounds to continue his winning streak and extend it to 7 straight. Del Rosario is undefeated at 10-0, but will be facing a stiff test against Johnson. This fight will be one of momentum swings, but will go the distance. I’m taking Johnson by decision.

JACK BRATCHER: This is a very interesting fight. It’s hard to pick against a man who even a gun can’t kill, especially when he’s knocked out his last seven opponents. However, Shane del Rosario is on such an impressive win streak at 10-0 and he’s got submissions as well as a strong stand up game. This could be very close but I’m taking Shane del Rosario via TKO.

JOHN BUHL: A fight between two talented, big heavyweight prospects that will come down to who can handle the pressure of the big stage better. I’m going with del Rosario but this one is a toss up.

KELVIN HUNT: Del Rosario via TKO.

RICHARD MANN: Del Rosario has to be the favorite here. Johnson comes forward and he likes to swing, but he is not a polish striker or on Del Rosario’s level in the stand up game. Johnson’s only real hope is to drag the fight to the ground and try to work from the top. Pick = Shane Del Rosario.

Valentijn Overeem (28-25) vs. Ray Sefo (2-0)

ODDS: Valentijn Overeem -150 vs. Ray Sefo +120

BRIAN FURBY: I’m really tempted to take Sefo for this one, but if the fight goes anywhere near the ground, Overeem wins. Pick: Overeem.

DENNY HODGE: Talk about an experience advantage…. Overeem has over 50 fights in his MMA career, while Sefo has only 2. I want to go out on a limb and say Sefo will win by first round KO via a head kick, but it’s not going to happen. Overeem will finish Sefo on the ground by submission, very quickly.

JACK BRATCHER: Wow, everyone is picking Overeem in this one. With only two pro fights Sefo seems to have an extreme disadvantage on the ground. Has he learned enough on the ground to keep from getting submitted by Overeem who has won 16 of his 28 victories by submission. Overeem’s most impressive statistic is that he’s finished 27 of his 28 wins – that’s a 97% finishing ratio. Amazing!! He’s also lost 25 fights though – 15 by submission. Still, out of over 50 fights, he’s only been to a decision twice, once as a loss, once as a win. If he chooses to stand with Sefo, he’s probably going to lose and something tells me that’s what’s going to happen (probably the fact he is riding a two fight win streak and he hasn’t won three fights in a row since 2004). Look for 40-year-old Ray Sefo to knock him out. Sefo was working with Vitor Belfort for his fight against Anderson Silva.

JOHN BUHL: Although Sefo could pull this off if he’s fired up and really pushes V. Overeem from the start, Valentijn is the more well-rounded fighter. Sefo has only two pro MMA fights to his credit and his last four K-1 bouts include a loss to Tyrone Spong, a decision over a Romanian kickboxer I’ve never heard of, and decision wins over Hong Man Choi (freak show) and Nishijima (pro boxer/freak show). V. Overeem by second round submission.

KELVIN HUNT: Overeem via Submission.

RICHARD MANN: Is Strikeforce trying to play this off as some sort of grudge match? They should. Remember when Sefo and the HDNet crew went wild after Badr Hari finished Valentijn’s brother Alistair? Normally it is smart to pick against the other Overeem. He does not handle adversity well in fights. If it does not go his way early, he is normally done. However, Sefo has exactly two MMA fights and looked terrible against Kevin Jordan. A submission victory by Overeem is not out of the question. Pick = Valentijn Overeem.

Gian Villante (7-1) vs. Chad Griggs (9-1)

ODDS: Gian Villante -300 vs. Chad Griggs +240

BRIAN FURBY: Even though Griggs beat Lashley, and even though Griggs will have some size on Villante, I don’t see Griggs being able to hang on long enough to pick up another surprising win. Pick: Gian Villante.

JACK BRATCHER: How can you pick against the man who derailed the Bobby Lashley hype train? Even though Griggs is the underdog on the odds, I’m going with him. Gian Villante is a wrestler but so was Mr. Lashley. Look for these guys to slug it out and Griggs to add to his four fight knockout win streak.

JOHN BUHL: Griggs vs. Villante is actually a pretty interesting contest, though I wonder if both men belong in the 205 division rather than a heavyweight tournament reserve bout. This one won’t go the distance and I think Griggs will find a way to win having been under the bright lights of Strikeforce before against Bobby Lashley. Griggs by third round TKO.

KELVIN HUNT: Villante via TKO.

RICHARD MANN: You might be wondering, “Who is Chad Griggs?” Well, he was the guy who handed Bobby Lashley his first MMA defeat, and he will once again be the underdog. Gian Villante is a former Hofstra football player who has built an impressive record under the Ring of Combat banner. He should be able to clinch up with Griggs and score on the inside. Villante might even have a little more in the tank than Lashley. Pick = Gian Villante.


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