Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva Recap & Results

Jay Tan’s

In his book Adventures in the Screen Trade, William Goldman said “nobody knows anything,” and while he was talking about Hollywood, after the big upset in tonight’s main event, the same rule of thumb can be applied to MMA.

Especially on a night when all the televised matches except the main event ended in the first round, when the longest match would involve the ‘Last Emperor’ Fedor Emelianenko, and when that match would prove to be Emelianenko’s second loss in a row.

“Strikeforce / M-1 Global Present: Fedor vs. Silva” marked the beginning of the Strikeforce World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament. This year-long classic of top heavyweights outside of the UFC is formatted similarly to the famous grand prix tournaments of Japan’s PRIDE Fighting Championships in the early 2000’s, and because of that, is being lauded by the MMA community.

Complemented with an all-heavyweight televised undercard, the first two matches in the opening quarterfinal rounds main evented the show:  Sergei Kharitonov finished (perhaps permanently in the sport) Andrei ‘The Pitbull’ Arlovski via first-round KO and Emelianenko, in his first match since being submitted by Fabricio Werdum mid-last year, succumbed to former EliteXC heavyweight champion Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva via TKO due to a doctor’s stoppage.

Strikeforce World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament Results (after night one)

Hindsight is 20/20, but in retrospect, perhaps we should have predicted the quick finishes, as well as the challenge that Bigfoot Silva would present. After all, of the televised match winners tonight, only Silva and Chad Griggs had gone to the second round since 2008. Griggs’ only match to go past five minutes was his TKO win last year against Bobby Lashley, but beyond that he, Kharitonov, Del Rosario, and Overeem share over 30 consecutive first-round finishes (wins and losses) between them.

And though Emelianenko lost tonight, his only other second-round match was his TKO win against Brett Rogers in 2009. As such, clearly the odds of any of these men having a long night were slim to none.

Likewise, on New Year’s Eve in 2007, Emelianenko fought ‘Techno Goliath’ Hong Man Choi, a 7’2”, 350 lb. Korean boxer and ssireum (Korean folkstyle) wrestler who, like Silva, lives with acromegaly. Emelianenko made short work of Choi that night, baiting a ground fight and working from bottom position for an armbar. Of course, Choi was nowhere near the skill level of Silva, who is a black belt in judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and karate. Moreover, Emelianenko fought a much different fight against Silva, choosing to stand and bang, When Emelianenko was stuck on bottom, he had no answers for Silva’s challenges, proving that at a certain point, skill AND size will beat skill alone.

And we probably should have known that all along. After all, to paraphrase, any given man can beat any other man on any given day. Especially in MMA.

The other big surprise of the night was the announcement of former Strikeforce women’s middleweight champion Gina Carano returning to action in 2011. Carano’s camp, Xtreme Couture, announced (via Twitter) over a week ago that the top female MMA star of 2007 and 2009 had returned to the gym for some light training. Although the reluctant superstar had little more to offer tonight than a pretty smile and a few gushes of embarrassment, that should be enough anticipation for the internet and MMA fans to buzz about until she gets back into fight shape and a match can be signed.

Here’s how my predictions and reality turned out for “Strikeforce / M-1 Global Present: Fedor vs. Silva”:

155 lbs. – John Cholish x Marc Stevens
Prediction:
Cholish via submission (round three)
Result: Cholish via submission (round two)

170 lbs. – John Salgado x Igor Gracie
Prediction:
Gracie via submission (round one)
Result: Gracie via submission (round two)

265 lbs. – Chad Griggs x Gian Villante:
Prediction: Villante via TKO (round one)
Result: Griggs via TKO (round one)

265 lbs. – Valantijn Overeem vs. Ray Sefo:
Prediction: Overeem via TKO (round one)
Result: Overeem via submission (round one)

265 lbs. – Shane Del Rosario x Lavar Johnson:
Prediction: Del Rosario via TKO or submission (round two)
Result: Del Rosario via submission (round one)

265 lbs. – Andrei Arlovski x Sergei Kharitonov
Prediction: Kharitonov via unanimous decision
Result: Kharitonov via KO (round one)

265 lbs. – Fedor Emelianenko x Antonio Silva:
Result: Silva via TKO / doctor’s stoppage (round two)

The Finish

I would think that one of Strikeforce’s bigger goals tonight was to provide at least one exciting, irresistible answer to the casual MMA fan’s question “why should I watch or care about this tournament?”

Within the cage, Coker & Co. gave several answers: hard-hitting heavyweight action with blink-of-an-eye finishes in a setting where, clearly, anything can happen. Josh Barnett made me believe he was serious about getting into a dogfight, and Alistair Overeem actually gave me a reason to care a bit more about his fight (against whom I’m still afraid casual fans are going to refer to as ‘the other guy’). This was Strikeforce’s first venture into the New Jersey market, and to their credit, the audience came across on TV as one of their hotter non-San Jose crowds in a long time.

On the other hand, promoting can be a delicate balance, and for all the good they gave us tonight, Strikeforce’s next big event, set for March 5th in Columbus, OH, came up on the short end. This is especially sad when tonight’s show was booked for 150 to 180 minutes and only ran 127 minutes (including end credits). There was still plenty of time to cut after the Emelianenko fight to one of the earlier untelevised matches, or even promo pieces on Henderson, Feijao, Marloes Coenen, or Miesha Tate (who are all scheduled for March 5th). To Zuffa’s credit, the UFC is not afraid to air lesser-known undercard matches to complete a three-hour PPV window, and I’ve even see them air an undercard Spike TV match as filler.

If I didn’t already have Dan Henderson x Rafael ‘Feijao’ on my calendar, I’m not sure that I would care to be aware of it at all. And as frustrating as I found Carano’s airheaded interview (peace to Heidi Androl’s best intentions), her return to the cage and the April tournament matches are going to be on my radar a lot more than Showtime’s next big MMA event (which, by the way, is scheduled for two title fights, for those keeping score).

With no official Showtime videos for March 5th yet, at least Karen Bryant has something to offer:

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