Fedor Emilianenko faces a literally big challenge on Saturday night in the opening round of Strikeforce’s Heavyweight World Grand Prix. Al Dannity assesses the Russian fighter’s immediate challenge and looks ahead to what he can expect later on in the tournament.
Quick start expected from Fedor Anything less than a quick and dominant victory by Fedor Emilianenko on Saturday night should sound alarm bells for MMA betting fans. While Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva is four inches taller and 34lbs heavier than Fedor, the Brazilian simply isn’t on the same level as his Russian opponent. Silva has shown he is vulnerable in the striking game, going down soft and early against Mike Kyle in his last fight before recovering to win via TKO. Size eventually proved telling for Silva in his victory over Kyle but Fedor has shown he is more than comfortable against bigger opponents. After his shocking loss to Fabricio Werdum last year, it’s unlikely the Russian will enter this fight with any level of complacency. Look for a swift but smart victory from Fedor Emilianenko as -500 favorite with Sports Interaction.
Kharitinov can win with power Fedor’s countryman Sergei Kharitinov takes on Andrei Arlovski of Belarus in the other quarter final on Saturday night. Kharitinov has a victory against Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem on his resume but enters this fight as only a slight favorite. This is despite Arlovski having lost in each of his last three outings. Arlovski is undoubtedly the more nuanced fighter of the two but he simply can’t match Kharitinov for strength. If I trusted Arlovski to play it smart then I could see him sneaking it. After foolishing engaging in what was effectively a Boxing match with Antonio Silva last time out, it’s tough to expect a cerebral approach. Look for Kharitinov to hit hard and often to win at –125 with Sports Interaction.
Bigger nights await The top-heavy Strikeforce tournament will see Fedor, assuming he progresses, take on either Werdum or Overeem in the semi-finals. Overeem enjoyed tremendous success in 2010 as he dominated Brett Rogers in a title defense, claimed the K-1 Heavyweight Grand Prix Championship, and added the interim DREAM Heavyweight title to his trophy cabinet. After all this success he is unsurprisingly the +125 favorite with Sports Interaction for this tournament.
We’ll preview his fight with Werdum later this year. It’s hard to look beyond the Dutchman, Werdum, and Fedor in this competition. It’s no accident that the three favorites have been placed on the same side of the eight man bracket. Strikeforce are taking as few chances as possible in order to lock down a fight between Fedor and either Werdum, his conqueror, or preferably a super-fight with Overeem. Whoever makes it out of this side of the draw will enter the finals as an overwhelming favorite.
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