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Category: Strikeforce

L.A. Times September MMA Rankings


Fabforum 1. Cain Velasquez

2. Junior Dos Santos

3. Alistair Overeem

4. Brock Lesnar

5. Fabricio Werdum

6. Daniel Cormier

7. Josh Barnett

8. Frank Mir

9. Antonio Silva

10. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

The two biggest fights in heavyweight MMA will take place at the end of 2011. UFC will premier on Fox with a UFC heavyweight title bout between Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos. It's wise for the company to make its network debut with a first rate main event. Then in December at UFC 141, Brock Lesnar will take on Alistair Overeem in a crucial fight for each man. Lesnar is returning from significant surgery while Overeem is making his long awaited UFC debut. Daniel Cormier surges up the ranks with a breakthrough knockout win over Antonio Silva. With elite wrestling skills and a rapidly developing striking game, Cormier is a future championship level fighter. He will face Josh Barnett in the finals of Strikeforce's heavyweight grand prix. Barnett advanced with a submissive win over Sergei Kharitonov. Finally, in an extremely busy month for heavyweight MMA, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira scored an upset win over Brendan Schaub in Brazil and will next rematch Frank Mir in Toronto.

Light Heavyweight

1. Jon Jones

2. Rashad Evans

3. Quinton Jackson

4. Lyoto Machida

5. Dan Henderson

6. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua

7. Gegard Mousasi

8. Thiago Silva

9. Forrest Griffin

10. Rich Franklin

On September 24, Quinton Jackson will have his chance to regain the UFC light heavyweight title when he takes on Jon Jones. Jones is heavily favored by most. Mauricio Rua scored an impressive win over Forrest Griffin at UFC Rio. Rua dominated the striking and scored a quick TKO victory that sends Griffin down the rankings.


1. Anderson Silva

2. Chael Sonnen

3. Yushin Okami

4. Mark Munoz

5. Vitor Belfort

6. Michael Bisping

7. Nate Marquardt

8. Demian Maia

9. Hector Lombard

10. Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza

Anderson Silva advanced his claim to being the greatest MMA fighter of all time with another masterful performance in a knockout win over Yushin Okami. The division is wide open after Silva. Chael Sonnen and Michael Bisping are probably in the best position to get the next shot at Silva. Jacare plunges down the rankings after a listless performance in a loss to relatively unheralded Luke Rockhold. Jacare was unable to use much of his world class jiu jitsu and faded as the fight progressed.


1. Georges St. Pierre

2. Jon Fitch

3. Nick Diaz

4. Jake Shields

5. Carlos Condit

6. Josh Koscheck

7. B.J. Penn

8. Martin Kampmann

9. Rory MacDonald

10. Jake Ellenberger

Georges St. Pierre was scheduled to face Nick Diaz for the UFC welterweight title in October, but after Nick Diaz no showed a pair of press conferences hyping the event, the UFC decided to yank Diaz from the bout. Carlos Condit will receive the title shot instead. Condit isn't the personality that Diaz is, but he has a similarly exciting style and hopefully will coax an entertaining bout out of St. Pierre. Diaz now looks to face B.J. Penn in the semi-main event at the same show. This weekend, Jake Shields returns to action following his title bout loss to St. Pierre. He will take on rising contender Jake Ellenberger.


1. Frank Edgar

2. Gilbert Melendez

3. Gray Maynard

4. Eddie Alvarez

5. Ben Henderson

6. Melvin Guillard

7. Clay Guida

8. Jim Miller

9. Anthony Pettis

10. Shinya Aoki

Clay Guida and Ben Henderson will fight in Anaheim at the same event as Velasquez vs. Dos Santos. If time permits, UFC would like to show the bout after Velasquez-Dos Santos to give mainstream viewers an exciting bout and the next challenger for the winner of Frank Edgar vs. Gray Maynard III. Melvin Guillard will look to win his sixth straight bout against Joe Lauzon on October 8.


1. Jose Aldo

2. Chad Mendes

3. Kenny Florian

4. Hatsu Hioki

5. Mark Hominick

6. Dustin Poirier

7. Diego Nunes

8. Joe Warren

9. Patricio "Pitbull" Freire

10. Erik Koch

Erik Koch moves into the rankings after the former number 10 Marlon Sandro suffered a spectacular knockout loss to Pat Curran in Bellator. Chad Mendes is in line to challenge the winner of Jose Aldo vs. Kenny Florian for the UFC featherweight title, but he didn't generate a lot of interest for that bout with a dull win in his last fight. Hatsu Hioki finally makes his UFC debut in October at UFC 137.


1. Dominick Cruz

2. Joseph Benavidez

3. Demetrious Johnson

4. Brian Bowles

5. Urijah Faber

6. Miguel Torres

7. Scott Jorgensen

8. Wagnney Fabiano

9. Masakatsu Ueda

10. Renan Barao

The "California Kid" Urijah Faber should receive a raucous reception in his home area at UFC 139 in November when he takes on Brian Bowles. Demetrious Johnson and Dominick Cruz will fight for the UFC bantamweight title October 1.

--Todd Martin

Photo: Cain Velasquez. Credit: Ethan Miller / Getty Images.

Dana White fires Strikeforce heavyweight Brett Rogers

Fabforum According to multiple reports, UFC President Dana White has fired Strikeforce heavyweight competitor Brett Rogers after Rogers was arrested Wednesday for allegedly beating up his wife.

Police in Apple Valley, Minn., charged Rogers with four felonies: assault in the third degree; domestic assault by strangulation; pattern of stalking conduct; and endangerment of a child. The Dakota County Sheriff's Dept. on Thursday listed Rogers as still being in jail, with bail currently set at $100,000.

Rogers most recently competed two weeks ago at the second stage of the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix, losing to Josh Barnett.

--Houston Mitchell


UFC 131 results

UFC 130: Rampage Jackson defeats Matt Hamill

Brock Lesnar forced out of UFC 131 because of diverticulitis

Photo: Brett Rogers. Credit: Strikeforce.

Strikeforce live results: Overeem vs. Werdum


The second half of the opening round of Strikeforce's heavyweight grand prix tournament takes place tonight in Dallas. Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem battles Fabricio Werdum while Josh Barnett takes on Brett Rogers in the evening's featured bouts.

Alistair Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum

This is style vs. style in the most marquee fight of the first round of the grand prix. Overeem is a kickboxing menace with devastating power. Werdum is a jiu jitsu ace who submitted Overeem many years ago. The big question is if Werdum can whether the early storm from Overeem and get the fight on his terms.

Round 1. Werdum throws a head kick off the bat. Overeem avoids it and pushes him off. Overeem brushes off a takedown attempt but eats a knee from Werdum in the process. Werdum tumbles down three times looking for a takedown and Overeem has him get up. The fourth time, Werdum stays a bit in the butt scoot position. Overeem blocks two more takedown attempts. Overeem looks supremely confident and Werdum extremely nervous. They trade knees to the body. Werdum pulls guard but Overeem gets back up. Werdum rushes forward with punches. He again pulls guard and Overeem again gets right back up. He motions for Werdum to stand. Overeem blocks two more takedown attempts. Overeem lands a big left hook and Werdum goes down but Overeem won't follow. Overeem throws Werdum down. Werdum motions for Overeem to come down and literally puts his hands together to say please come down with me. Overeem lands a big knee and won't go down with Werdum. He smiles as if to say, "Don't worry, it will be fine!" Werdum again tries to pull guard at the close of the round. 10-9 Overeem. That was different.

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Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley live updates


Strikeforce runs its first major Showtime event since being purchased by UFC parent company Zuffa on Saturday night in San Diego. The show, one of Strikeforce's stronger cards of the past couple years, is headlined by a pair of title fights. Explosive British striker Paul Daley challenges Nick Diaz for the Strikeforce welterweight title while well-rounded Japanese veteran Tatsuya Kawajiri challenges Gilbert Melendez for the Strikeforce lightweight title. Preliminary bouts begin around 4:30PM Pacific.

Paul Song vs. Casey Ryan

Song sports a 2-0 MMA record while Ryan is 1-0 in his career thus far. Ryan is a much taller man than Song.

Round 1. They trade before closing the distance and clinching. Song gets a takedown. Ryan looks for an armbar from the bottom, but can't get it. He then looks for a triangle choke and secures the submission 1:39 in.

Winner: Casey Ryan, Round 1, submission.

Rolando Perez vs. Edgar Cardenas

Perez is 5-4-1 while Cardenas is 3-0. Referee Cecil Peoples is heavily booed by the crowd, a sign of a discerning audience.

Round 1. The fighters clinch at the start of the bout. Perez secures a takedown and lands some punches from the top. Cardenas eventually gets back up but eats some knees to the body in the process. They exchange punches and kicks to close the round. Perez 10-9.

Round 2. Perez gets the takedown. He looks for submissions, including an arm triangle attempt, but isn't able to get one. Cardenas stands back up and opens up with punches on his feet. Perez looks to establish his jab and leg kicks while Cardenas throws wild hooks and uppercuts. Perez takes him back down and uses ground and pound. Cardenas works his way back to his feet at the end of the round. 10-9 Perez.

Round 3. They exchange punches relatively evenly at the start of the round. Perez gets another takedown two minutes into the round. There isn't a lot of action and they are stood back up. Perez lands a nice pair of hooks and they clinch. Cardenas connects with a hard leg kick and looks for a takedown of his own. Perez uses a kimura to secure top position on the ground. Perez drops punches down from mount as the fight comes to the end. 10-9 Perez, 30-27 Perez.

Winner: Rolando Perez, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).

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UFC buys Strikeforce

Zuffa LLC., the parent company of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, has come to an agreement to purchase rival promotion Strikeforce, a San Jose organization that had been considered a growing competitor behind the industry leader.

UFC President Dana White announced the deal during an exclusive video interview that was posted on on Saturday.

Mike Afromowitz, Director of Communications for Strikeforce, also confirmed the purchase late Saturday. Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker was not initially available for comment.

The acquisition, the sport’s most monumental since Zuffa purchased the Japan-based Pride Fighting Championships in March 2007, brings together a strong majority of the sport’s top talent under one promoter.

White told reporter Ariel Helwani that the two promotions will run separately for now and that all of Strikeforce’s fighter contracts will be honored to term, at least. Strikeforce has 100-150 fighters under contract.

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Fedor Emelianenko skipped voluntary hospital visit after Silva loss

Despite initial reports, Fedor Emelianenko did not visit a hospital or seek additional medical attention before his leaving the U.S. on Monday evening after his second-round defeat against Antonio Silva on Saturday at Strikeforce “Fedor vs. Silva” at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J.

Fabforum The 34-year-old Russian fighting legend, who sustained massive facial trauma and a possible orbital fracture during the quarterfinal bout of the promotion’s heavyweight world grand prix, also turned down requests to voluntarily visit a physician’s office Monday despite requests from Strikeforce officials and others, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation who are not authorized to speak publicly about it. Sources said Emelianenko opted to forgo additional precautions because “he just wanted to go home.” 

In the past, fighters who have incurred orbital fractures have been required by medical personnel not to travel by air for up to a week. Both Randy Couture and Josh Koscheck were grounded for this reason following their UFC championship bouts in September 2002 and December 2010.

The extent of Emelianenko’s eye injury is unknown at this time, though it can be ascertained that the veteran fighter will most likely seek any additional required medical assessment in his home country and submit the necessary follow-up forms to the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board to clear his status for future bouts. Emelianenko and the bulk of his management team landed in Russia on Tuesday. 

Evgeni Kogan, director of operations for M-1 Global, the organization that manages Emelianenko, said that backstage physicians told the fighter late Saturday that they believed there was only a 10% chance that his orbital bone had been broken during the contest.

After spending a majority of the second round underneath the 50-pounds-heavier Silva and withstanding a barrage of his punches, Emelianenko’s right eye swelled shut during the one-minute rest period between the second and third rounds, prompting four in-cage physicians to jointly halt the bout.

The fighters had each taken a round on the judges’ score sheets up to that point, though Silva led every card on points. Judges Douglas Crosby and Dave Tirelli scored the first round 10-9 in Emelianenko’s favor and awarded Silva a 10-8 tally for his dominant second round. Judge Cardo Orso gave Silva both rounds with 10-9 scores.

On Sunday, the NJSACB suspended the former Pride Fighting Championships titleholder for 90 days for the head strikes, as well as for an unspecified suspension time “pending (a) CT scan of head and facial bones.”

NJSACB counsel Nick Lembo said Tuesday that he couldn’t discuss Emelianenko’s medical status beyond the suspension announcement.

When asked, Lembo said the standard protocol in such a situation entailed the fighter, his manager and an attending physician signing a “recommendation form” after an initial backstage examination.

Lembo said the physician’s recommendation could ask the fighter to seek additional medical attention and/or test results “immediately, in 12-24 hours, within 7 days, within 30 days, or within 10 days prior to his next fight.”

The regulatory rep said he couldn’t disclose what time recommendation Emelianenko had been given.

Lembo said that there have been fighters, under the doctor’s recommendation, who have been required to seek additional medical attention immediately following bouts.

“If do we require a fighter to go to the hospital and they refuse, we can suspend them for a year and have done so in the past,” said Lembo.

Lembo said two physicians examined Emelianenko backstage after the bout before handing the fighter and his management a signed copy with their recommendations for follow-up treatment.

Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker had initially told the media that Emelianenko left for the hospital after the bout, but was informed later of the fighter’s decision to return to his hotel instead, according to media relations director Mike Afromowitz.

On Tuesday, M-1 Global’s Kogan said he had no additional information regarding Emelianenko’s health status, other than that he had landed safely in Russia and was heading back to his hometown.

-- Loretta Hunt

Photo: A battered Fedor Emelianenko after his fight on Saturday. Credit: Gregory Payan, Associated Press.

Strikeforce "Fedor vs. Silva" Live Results: Silva Takes Fedor Out in 2, Kharitonov KOs Arlovski to Advance in World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament

Strikeforce's third event of 2011 hosts the first set of two quarterfinal bouts for its World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament. Fedor Emelianenko returns against Antonio Silva, while Andrei Arlovski meets Sergei Kharitonov in the co-headliner. The Fabulous Forum will have results from the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J.,  for all of the evening's bouts.

Fedor Emelianenko vs. Antonio Silva

The MMA world's heart skipped a beat when Fabricio Werdum submitted Emelianenko with an armbar-triangle choke combination in a scant 69 seconds last June in San Jose. It was the loss no one saw coming for the world's consensus No. 1 heavyweight - his first defeat in a decade and only the second loss of his illustrious 11-year career. Was it a fluke or are we seeing the beginning of the end for the fighter many think is the greatest mixed martial artist to ever set foot in the sport?

Silva, a 6-foot-4 Brazilian behemoth, will weigh 285 pounds when he enters the cage - some 55 pounds heavier than Emelianenko. Riding in on a two-fight win streak, look for Silva to throw early and heavy, and to avoid a ground fight with the tricky Sambo expert.

R1 - Emelinaneko opens with his trademark overhand right and follow-up strikes, but Silva deflects, and tries to return fire. Silva bullies Emelianenko to the fence, but referee Dan Miragliotta doesn't like the lull and re-starts them centercage. Silva begins to pursue Emelianenko and corners him against the fence, hoping his extra weight will tire the Russian out. The pair spills to the canvas. Emelianenko stays standing at first, then meets his opponent on the ground, moving briefly to side control. Silva escapes to his feet and lands a whopping right hand to Emelianenko's chin on the fence, then takes him down. Silva might have eked out that round with this last campaign and is already giving the Russian his toughest fight in ages. Silva 10-9

R2- Silva takes Emelianenko down at the bell and has side mount. Emelianenko looks tired and clings to his aggressor. Silva has mount shortly after and Emelianenko flips to his stomach, then to his back to fend off mounting punches. Emelianenko can only defend at this point and it feels like time is running out. In another stunning move, Silva lines up an arm-triangle choke, moves to side control and begins to squeeze. The crowd erupts as Emelianenko escapes. Emelianenko is where we never see him - in total survival mode with a minute left. Silva then springs across Emelianenko's body and goes for his leg, but the battered Russian grabs the Brazilian's foot for a toehold just as the bell sounds. Silva 10-8

Between rounds, Emelianenko's right eye has swelled completely shut. The fight is stopped by the attending physician, with Silva delivering the best performance of his career against one of the sport's all-time greats. Silva faces either Alistair Overeem or Fabricio Werdum in the semifinal round of what is already turning out to be a gripping tournament.

"Maybe this is the last time," says Emelianenko afterward, hinting at his retirement plans. "Maybe this is God's will."

Silva def. Emelianenko - TKO (Doctor's Stoppage) 5:00 R2

Andrei Arlovski vs. Sergei Kharitonov

Arlovski (15-8) is a former UFC heavyweight champion, but has suffered brutal knockouts in two of his last three straight losses. Look for the Belarusian bomber to use his fast footwork and hand combinations to either catch or outwork his opponent.

Kharitonov (17-4) made his name in Japan's Pride Fighting Championships, but injuries have hampered his activity of late. A training partner to Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem at the Golden Glory gym in Holland, the former airborne trooper is known for his iron chin and plodding, headhunter style. Don't expect anything different here. 

R1 - Kharitonov measures Arlovski with a pair of jabs, but Arlovski answers with high and low kicks to back him off. Arlovski looks jittery and allows Kharitonov to corner him, but lands knees and uppercuts when they clinch. Arlovski is connecting with single shots, but doesn't seem to have his timing down. Kharitonov corners the former UFC champion again and unloads with body shots, uppercuts, and hooks. Arlovski is in big trouble, and falls to his back from a big Kharitonov right hook. Kharitonov follows up with ground punches and knocks Arlovski out cold.

"I don't care what the experts say. I'm going to win this tournament," says Kharitonov, who advances to the World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament semifinals.

Kharitonov def. Arlovksi - KO 2:39 R1

Lavar Johnson vs. Shane Del Rosario

R1 - Johnson knocks Del Rosario off balance with his first push forward, but Del Rosario regains his composure, ties Johnson up, and takes him down. Eating  a few punches into his guard, Johnson then escapes to his feet. Johnson is trying to land jabs and straights, but Del Rosario gets the better of the exchanges with high kicks and jabs of his own, before he grounds Johnson again. Del Rosario moves to a high mount, as Johnson tries to tie up his hands and ride out the round. Inching his way up Johnson's body, Del Rosario then pitches off the side for the armbar finish. Del Rosario preserves his pristine 11-0 record.

Del Rosario def. Johnson - Submission (Armbar) 4:31 R1


Chad Griggs vs. Gian Villante

R1 - Griggs crowds Villante from the bell, but the Ring of Combat champion stands his ground - this looks like a brawl early on. Villante tries to trap Griggs on the fence, but man who stopped Bobby Lashley last August has other plans. Griggs continues attacking the local fighter with inside hooks and drops him twice, convincing referee Yves Lavigne to intervene shortly after.

Griggs def. Villante - TKO (Referee Stoppage - Strikes) 2:49 R1

Valentijn Overeem vs. Ray Sefo

R1 - Overeem opens up with two left high kicks, which Sefo blocks before pushing the Strikeforce heavyweight champion's older brother to the fence with wild swings. After a few brief trades, Overeem grounds Sefo to side control and latches onto the Xtreme Couture fighter's neck for the finish.

Overeem def. Sefo - Submission (Neck Crank) 1:37 R1


Preliminary Results:

John Cholish def. Marc Stevens - Submission (Kneebar) 3:57 R2

Igor Gracie def. John Salgado - Submission (Arm-Triangle Choke from side control) 3:04 R2

Sam Oropeza def. Don Carlo-Clauss - Verbal Tapout (Strikes) 4:10 R1

Josh Laberge def. Anthony Leone - TKO (Doctor's Stoppage) 5:00 R1

Jason McLean def. Kevin Roddy - Split Decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)


-- Loretta Hunt, reporting from New Jersey

Fedor, Strikeforce heavyweights submit to Olympic-caliber drug testing

As a week full of promotional events rolled out in New York prior to tonight’s Strikeforce/M-1 Global event at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board quietly worked behind the scenes to collect the requisite medical data necessary to license all participating 20 fighters.

Fedor Emelianenko, Antonio Silva, Andrei Arlovski and Sergei Kharitonov all submitted blood samples as part of the state agency’s random testing program for performance enhancing drugs; masking agents; prescription, over-the-counter and street drugs, NJSACB counsel Nick Lembo confirmed Friday. The Olympic-level tests will also document testosterone levels and ratios, said Lembo.

In addition to these four heavyweights, who are competing in the first two quarterfinal bouts of Strikeforce’s World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament, the NJSACB also collected blood samples from reserve bout contestants Shane Del Rosario, Lavar Johnson, Gian Villante, and Chad Griggs.

All 20 fighters will undergo urinalysis testing this evening prior to their bouts, said Lembo.

Emelianenko’s manager, Vadim Finkelstein, urged for more stringent testing during a press conference held in Moscow last month. Two of the eight fighters participating in the heavyweight tournament have previously tested positive for steroids under other state commissions, including Emelianenko’s opponent Silva.

Lembo said Finkelstein and his M-1 Global organization inquired about the state’s drug testing procedure prior to Strikeforce filing its permit application, but didn’t make any formal requests regarding it. 

Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said the promotion would also implement its own drug testing during all tournament legs in any jurisdictions where it isn’t already employed. Strikeforce conducted its own urinalysis testing at an event in St. Louis last May, as the state’s regulatory body doesn’t do it on its own. 

The NJSACB should receive test results in the next few weeks, though it will not release its findings to the public, per statutes under the Administrative Procedures Act. Lembo said past drug infractions have led to suspensions of 90 days up to two years.

New Jersey is the only state that conducts blood testing as part of its mixed martial arts’ regulation program, where it offers discounted rates to promoters through a local medical facility. The NJSACB began blood testing at UFC 78 in 2006 to supplement the urinalysis testing its been conducting since 1995.

-- Loretta Hunt, reporting from New Jersey




Strikeforce heavyweight Antonio Silva using Fedor fight Saturday to help mudslide victims

Antonio Silva (15-2) will use the biggest fight of his career to bring attention to the victims of a series of floods and mudslides that wiped out the town of Nova Friburgo and killed hundreds last month in Brazil.

The 31-year-old Brasilia native has set aside a spot for the “Combat Athletes for Nova Friburgo” Web site ( on the sponsorship banner that will hang behind him just before he locks horns with Russian legend Fedor Emelianenko (32-2, 1 NC) Saturday for Strikeforce at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J.

Silva, whose manager Alex Davis hails from the small, mostly impoverished town, said it’s the least he can do to bring to light the relief efforts that are continuing to try and bring the hillside community back from catastrophe. 

“I don’t want for my family what has happened here,” Silva said. “A lot of them are suffering.”

Davis, still shaken by what he's seen over the last month, said he was one of the first on the scene as a torrential rain brought on a series of mudslides – some two miles long – over a six-hour period in mid January.  Davis said houses, businesses and cars were washed away in minutes, while villagers were buried alive as they tried to flee or dig out their family and friends from the earth.

“It was the biggest calamity in Brazilian history,” said Davis, who dove into rescue efforts alongside his 17-year-old son by pulling survivors from the mud, delivering clean water by motorcycle up and down the mountain and donating blood.

Davis, who’s managed Silva for the last five years, lost communication with his fighter - then training at the Imperial Athletics gym in Boca Raton, Fla. - for two days in the aftermath. When he reached Silva again by phone, Davis said he tried not to upset him with the news.

“I promised him we’d make this camp as stress-free as possible,” said Davis, “but he was starting to see it on TV, so I had to tell him.”

Flooding and landslides also hit neighboring towns like Teresopolis and Petropolis. Brazilian news services have reported over 800 fatalities so far, with 20,000 or more people evacuated from their homes. Hundreds more are still missing; Davis believes many will never be found.

After nearly a month of volunteer work, Davis joined Silva this week in New York for the pre-fight rituals leading up to Saturday’s fight. Davis said Silva was saddened by the loss his country has felt, but focused and determined to face the former No. 1 world-ranked heavyweight.

Should Silva top Emelianenko, he’ll advance to the semifinal round of Strikeforce’s World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament this summer and meet champion Alistair Overeem or Fabricio Werdum.

“I’ve wanted this fight since my last 10 fights,” said Silva. “It’s my time.”

-- Loretta Hunt, reporting from New Jersey

Strikeforce still gunning for April event in Japan

Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker has given himself one more week to secure a venue in Japan for a planned April event.

Coker announced two weeks ago that the San Jose-based promotion was aiming to hold its April 9 show in the country that has hosted the most attended MMA events in the sport’s history. However, the promotion’s venue of choice - the 35,000-seat Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo – is unavailable on April 9 and its surrounding dates.

Should the event be held stateside, Coker said he is considering Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas, states whose athletic commissions have apparently agreed to license Josh Barnett. Slated to face Brett Rogers on April 9 in a quarterfinal bout for Strikeforce’s World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament, Barnett was denied licensure in California in 2009 after allegedly coming up positive for steroids in a required pre-fight test. Barnett has yet to resolve his issues with the California State Athletic Commission, though Coker said the former UFC champion plans to do so in the future.

Coker said the event date could also be pushed back a week or two to cement other necessary details.

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Fedor, Strikeforce heavyweights go for history Saturday

If it goes off as planned, Strikeforce’s World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament, which kicks off Saturday in East Rutherford, N.J., has all the makings to be the most significant U.S. MMA event to take place yet outside of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

The tournament will unfold over four shows this year with an experienced eight-man field that includes four former world champions (two from the UFC), a Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion, and a triple titleholder in K-1, Dream and Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem. The group’s combined pro record is 164-35-1 with two no contests -– only one competitor has losses in the double digits.

Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said ticket sales for Saturday’s event, which hosts two tournament quarterfinal matches airing live on Showtime, are on track for 13,000 spectators or more in attendance at the Izod Center. UFC pay-per-view events regularly match or surpass this number, though few promotions outside the industry leader have hit this attendance mark, let alone been able to sustain it over multiple events.   

Coker is banking on the single-elimination affair -- which was announced only six weeks ago -- to widen its industry imprint this year and show fans that there is high-level competition to be had outside the UFC’s Octagon. 

“To build our own house, we have to place the blocks on blocks to make a solid foundation, which I think we’ve done over the last two years,” said Coker at a press conference in New York on Wednesday. “But with this tournament, I think we just moved up to the eighth floor and it’s a nice view from here, believe me.”

For Coker, this wasn’t a shot-in-the-dark decision either. The San Jose businessman worked eight years for Fighting and Entertainment Group, the Japanese organization that runs K-1, which promotes a kickboxing tournament series throughout the world each year.

Tournaments also have deep roots in mixed martial arts. The UFC found its earliest audiences using the eight- and four-man format during its first 20 shows (excluding UFC 9), and even experimented with a 16-man tournament at UFC 2 in 1994 before moving to single bouts at UFC 18 in 1999.

From 2000 to 2006, Pride Fighting Championships brought the tournament-style event to an art form level in Japan, endearing hardcore fans globally with extravagant shows stocked with some of the most dynamic fighters of that day.

Tournaments tend to create and sustain many storylines at once, while fans often feel a greater connection to fighters they get to see compete more frequently.  

There will be plenty of storylines to follow beginning Saturday, as many of the fighters have faced off before, trained together and even had falling outs with one another during their rich careers.

Sergei Kharitonov (17-4), a former Russian airborne trooper who trains with Overeem, is a competent boxer who gained notoriety on the Japanese circuit, though injuries have hampered his career over the last couple of years. And despite his swift dispatching of Japan’s Tatsuya Mizuno on New Year’s Eve overseas, Kharitonov’s general inactivity makes him the hardest fighter to assess of the entire eight-man pool.

Ready or not, Kharitonov will find a good test in Andrei Arlovski (15-8), a former Sambo champion and Belarusian immigrant who rose to titleholder status in the UFC before he left in mid 2008 for a more lucrative contract with the now-defunct Affliction promotion.  The 32-year-old Chicago resident’s love for boxing is evident in his polished footwork and punching combinations, though two of his last three straight defeats (all from fellow participants) have ended with him face down on the canvas.

“I have to win and I will,” said Arlovski, who fights Saturday to resurrect his career and recapture the mental confidence he rode to stardom in 2005. 

Probably most intriguing to fans Saturday will be the return of Fedor Emelianenko (32-2, 1 NC), widely considered the world’s No. 1 heavyweight until Fabricio Werdum (14-4-1) caught him in a combination armbar-triangle choke submission last June in San Jose.

Quiet and reserved until he explodes on his opponents with dizzying speed and accuracy whether they are standing or on the ground, the heavyweight legend has had little to say about his loss eight months ago which snapped an undefeated streak that lasted a decade. He did, however, provide a robust answer regarding his eventual retirement at Wednesday’s press conference, which should make Emelianenko’s tournament run that much more precious to his legions of fans.

“To tell you the truth, yes, I do feel my age and it’s more and more I think about retiring, but I’d like to fight as long as it’s possible, and definitely I’ll finish this contract,” said the former Pride champion, who signed a four-fight extension with Strikeforce and its promotional partner, M-1 Global, in January.

With time seemingly running out, a few of the competitors have said that getting the opportunity to face and possibly beat Emelianenko could be as valuable as winning the entire tournament.  Antonio Silva (15-2), a 6-foot-4, 265-pound Brazilian aptly nicknamed “Big Foot,” gets the first crack.

“This fight is very important for me, very important for my life. Fedor is the best in the world,” said Silva (15-2), a former EliteXC titleholder who has won eight of his last nine bouts.

Werdum, who meets Overeem next in the other quarterfinal bracket sometime in April, hopes to rematch the vaunted Russian in the semifinal round.

“If I get the opportunity for Fedor again, I like the idea because everybody will like to watch the rematch,” said Werdum. “Just in my heart, I think Big Foot will win, [but] for just business, Fedor is good for me.”

Josh Barnett (29-5), who occupies the final quarterfinal match against Brett Rogers (11-2) in April, said the tournament will have historic implications for the sport, just for the sheer depth of talent it boasts.

“There are a lot of factors that are going to play into this if injuries come about or anything like that,” said Barnett, “but if this tournament comes through as expected and planned, this is going to be a total earth-shaker in the world of MMA, which is predominantly seen through only one lens by most of the public.”

Overeem (34-11, 1 NC), whose Strikeforce title won’t be on the line during the series, has emerged as the early favorite and is predicted to advance past Werdum in their rematch this April and meet Emelianenko in the semifinal round en route to the finals.

The 30-year-old Dutch striker had a banner year in 2010 with back-to-back title wins in Japan’s K-1 and Dream promotions, but said topping the eight-man field will be the sweetest victory of all.

“This is my next goal. Undoubtedly, the winner of this tournament is going to be the No. 1 [heavyweight] on the planet,” said Overeem. “It’s going to be the biggest thing happening in MMA.”

Overeem, Coker and others have repeatedly stated that Strikeforce possesses the world’s superior heavyweight division, and Barnett directly addressed the inevitable comparisons that will be made with the UFC’s own ranks in the coming months.

“If everyone’s going to say, ‘Well, it’s not the UFC so it’s not as good,' then you’re really sort of [denigrating] all that we’re doing here,” said the former UFC champion, who parted ways with the successful promotion in 2003. “I just want everybody to look at it from a completely objective standpoint for what it is, for what we bring to the table, for what we’re going to accomplish.”

-- Loretta Hunt, reporting from New York


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