Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

Strikeforce Grand Prix Preview: Josh Barnett vs. Sergei Kharitonov

The second semifinal fight of the Strikeforce heavyweight Grand Prix will take place between two former PRIDE veterans in Josh Barnett and Sergei Kharitonov. While each man fought for a while near the top of the PRIDE heavyweight division, somehow they never ran into each other until now. But perhaps it’s for the better, because I’m not sure that this is going to be a very good fight.

Let me explain. Sergei Kharitonov is a very good boxer; in fact, he’s competed in a professional boxing match between Strikeforce fights. He used his boxing to knock out Andrei Arlovski in the first round of the tournament, and he used his boxing to become the last man to beat Alistair Overeem. Mix in some good knees, and what you have is a pretty formidable striking package.

Kharitonov has a fairly good top position ground game as well. Watch his fight against Semmy Schilt, and you’ll see Kharitonov turn Schilt’s face into hamburger. Now, Kharitonov isn’t often in that position, because he usually wants to stand and strike with his opponents, but he was very wise to opt to take Schilt to the ground. And let’s face it, Semmy Schilt isn’t exactly a shining example of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at work.

Where Kharitonov struggles is the bottom position. Alistair Overeem took him there in their first fight, and pretty much made Kharitonov’s life miserable until scoring a TKO victory at 5:13 of round 1. Jeff Monson took him there, and then needed only 1:42 to force Kharitonov to tap out to a north-south choke. Now, Kharitonov was able to beat a 4-0 Mike Russow by armbar from the bottom, but historically, if you want to beat Kharitonov, you’re going to do it by taking him down and working the ground game.

Now let’s talk about Josh Barnett, a guy who’s won a fight or two that way. Barnett has 18 submission wins on his record, including a submission of Brett Rogers in his last fight. Barnett thrives on the ground, as he actively engaged Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in a submission battle in their first fight, and while the fight went to decision, Barnett arguably was the more effective man on the ground.

Barnett has shown striking skills as well. He has a KO of Pedro Rizzo (for what that’s worth) and has been willing to engage with fighters like Aleksander Emelianenko in the past. I wouldn’t favor Barnett in a striking battle with Sergei Kharitonov, but if Barnett has to do it for a little while, he at least has the skill to keep himself in the fight for as long as he needs to.


The difference here is that I strongly feel that Barnett is a better wrestler as well. I think he’ll be able to take Kharitonov to the ground, and once there, the difference in ground skills should become apparent. If Kharitonov can defend Barnett’s takedown, then he has a decent chance of winning, as he would likely be the better striker. Even with that said, it’s no guarantee, as Kharitonov doesn’t have the world’s best striking defense. Add it all up, and mix in each man’s SILVA score, and it all comes out to Josh Barnett being the strong favorite to win the fight.


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