ANTONIO SILVA BEATS, PERHAPS RETIRES FEDOR EMELIANENKO TO ADVANCE IN STRIKEFORCE WORLD GRAND PRIX HEAVYWEIGHT TOURNAMENT

ANTONIO SILVA BEATS, PERHAPS RETIRES FEDOR EMELIANENKO TO ADVANCE IN STRIKEFORCE WORLD GRAND PRIX HEAVYWEIGHT TOURNAMENT

Photos: Esther Lin/STRIKEFORCE

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – At the finish, even before the official announcement was rendered, Antonio “Big Foot’’ Silva walked across the cage, got down on his knees and bowed at the feet of Fedor Emelianenko.

“I told him he was No. 1, that he is still No. 1 and that he would  always be No. 1,’’ Brazil’s Silva (16-2) said. “There will never be a fighter like him.’’

Silva, a near 5-1 underdog, turned the STRIKEFORCE World Grand Prix – Heavyweight Tournament and the Mixed Martial Arts world upside down Saturday by scoring a second-round TKO (doctor’s stoppage) over the legendary Russian to advance to the next round of the tournament.

Also proceeding in the three-stage, single-elimination tournament was Russian Sergei Kharitonov (18-4), of Pattaya,Thailand, who won his United States debut with a brutal, 2:49, first-round knockout over former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski (15-9), of Chicago in their quarterfinal before 11,287 at IZOD Center live on SHOWTIME®.

After a close first round in a STRIKEFORCE and M-1 Global main event, Silva dominated the second. At the conclusion of the round, Fedor’s face was swollen, badly bruised and he could not see out of his right eye. Moments later, the doctor halted the fight.

“I want to thank for you for your support,’’ said Fedor (31-3, 1 NC), a class act and sportsman win or lose. “Something was wrong from the beginning. I didn’t adjust. Maybe it is time to leave.’’

When pressed in the cage afterward by SHOWTIME announcer Gus Johnson whether this was indeed the last time he would fight, the revered Fedor said, “Yes, maybe this is last time, maybe it’s high time (to retire). I had a great, beautiful sporting life. Yes, maybe it’s time. Thank you very much for the support. Thank God for everything.’’

Silva showed little respect for the six-foot, 34-year-old Fedor during the fight, but he had nothing but praise afterward for a fighter once universally recognized as the baddest man on the planet, the biggest living legend in MMA and perhaps the greatest and most feared martial artist in history.

“He was a great, great champion. I hope he doesn’t retire,’’ said the 6-foot-4, 31-year-old Silva. “I got some great advice from Fabricio Werdum, who forced Fedor to tap out last year. “The game plan was to take him down and ground and pound.’’

The Grand Prix will continue with two more two quarterfinal matchups on Saturday, April 9, when STRIKEFORCE Heavyweight World Champion Alistair “The Demolition Man” Overeem (34-11, 1 NC) faces the only man to tap out Fedor, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist Fabricio Werdum (14-4-1), and hard-hitting Brett “The Grim” Rogers (11-2) meets former UFC champion Josh Barnett (29-5).

An exciting evening that included  an announcement by Gina Carano that she was returning to MMA began with ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. introducing all the tournament fighters, one by one, to the crowd. The fans roared as each came out, the cheers reaching a near-deafening crescendo when Fedor, the last of the eight, came out. But this would not be his night.

In other results on Saturday’s all-heavyweight televised portion of an event presented by Rockstar Energy Drink, undefeated Shane Del Rosario (11-0) of Irvine, Calif., submitted (arm-bar) Lavar “Big’’ Johnson (15-4) of Madera, Calif., at 4:31 in the first, Chad “The Grave Digger’’ Griggs (10-1) of Tucson, Ariz., won his fifth consecutive start, stopping Gian Villante (7-2) of Bellmore, N.Y., at 2:49 in the opening round and Valentijn Overeem (29-25) of Amsterdam, Holland, won his STRIKEFORCE debut via submission (neck crank) over  Ray “Sugarfoot’’ Sefo (2-1) at 1:37 in the first.

Going in, Kharitonov, a 6-foot-4, 30-year-old native of Moscow, Russia, was perhaps best known for being the last fighter to defeat current STRIKEFORCE Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem. Not so, anymore.

“Russia is the best,’’ Kharitonov said. “I know I’m going to win this tournament.’’

The promising 6-foot-4, 27-year-old Del Rosario has now won 10 of his 11 fights in the initial five minutes.

“I thought Lavar was going to come out and just try to bang,’’ said Del Rosario. “But he left his arm out and I went for it. This was my first time on the main STRIKEFORCE series so I had to look good.’’

The loss ended a seven-fight winning streak for the hard-hitting Johnson, who’d won all seven of the fights by TKO.

Griggs and Villante came out banging. The more-experienced Griggs, despite a cut on his left ear, scored two knockdowns. Villante survived the first knockdown, but Griggs dropped him again with a right hand, quickly followed with five consecutive punches and the fight was stopped. It was the seventh time Griggs has been victorious in the first round, and his ninth knockout in 10 wins.

A fulltime Tucson firefighter and paramedic, the 6-foot-1, 32-year-old Griggs was coming off a bloody, upset second-round TKO (retirement) over former pro wrestling superstar Bobby Lashley on Aug. 21, 2010, on SHOWTIME.

“Give me some credit, I try to be an exciting fighter,’’ Griggs said. “Fans want to see people stand up and bang. It’s the power of the sideburns.”

The older brother of Alistair Overeem, Valentijn Overeem took down Sefo who seemed to land hard on his left shoulder. Shortly thereafter, Sefo tapped out from a neck crank. It was the third victory in a row for the 6-foot-3, 34-year-old Dutch Destroyer and member of Team Golden Glory, who won his last two fights in a combined time of 47 seconds.

“I had to go out there and have some fun, but be careful and fight my game,’’ Overeem said. “I knew Sefo didn’t want to go to the ground but I could have stood up with him, too.’’

Saturday’s thrilling event will re-air as follows:

DAY                                                                             CHANNEL

Wednesday, Feb. 16, at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT                SHO EXTREME

The telecast also will be available On Demand beginning Tuesday, Feb. 15, and running through Feb. 28.

Gus Johnson called the action on SHOWTIME with Mauro Ranallo and MMA legend Frank Shamrock serving as expert analysts.

Upcoming STRIKEFORCE Events on SHOWTIME: Friday, Feb. 18 — Undefeated lightweight Lyle “Fancy Pants” Beerbohm (15-0) will face dangerous veteran Pat “Bam Bam’’ Healy (25-17) in the main event on STRIKEFORCE Challengers at Cedar Park Center in the Austin, Tex. suburb of Cedar Park at 11 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast). Other televised bouts: Ryan Couture vs. Lee Higgins (2-0), lightweights; Bryan Travers (14-2) vs. Carlo “Neo’’ Prater (25-10-1), at a catch weight of 160 pounds and Erik “Bad’’ Apple (10-2) vs. Ryan Larson (5-2), welterweights.

Saturday, March 5, World Championship DoubleheaderDan Henderson (26-8) challenges defending champion Rafael “Feijao’’ Cavalcante (10-2) for the STRIKEFORCE World Light Heavyweight (205 pounds) Championship at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, at 10 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast). In a second world title fight, Marloes “Rumina’’ Coenen (18-4) risks her STRIKEFORCE  lightweight title for a first time against No. 1 135-pound contender, Miesha “Takedown’’ Tate (11-2), of Tacoma, Wash. Also, American military hero Tim Kennedy (12-3) vs. Melvin “No Mercy’’ Manhoef (24-8-1), middleweights; and undefeated Billy Evangelista (11-0) vs.  Jorge Masvidal (20-6), lightweights. The event, STRIKEFORCE’s first in the state of Ohio, will take place in conjunction with The Arnold Sports Festival, the nation’s largest health and fitness exposition founded by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

For more information on SHOWTIME Sports, including exclusive video, photos and news links on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING and STRIKEFORCE mixed martial arts telecasts, along with access to the SHOWTIME Sports Facebook® and Twitter® pages, please go to http://Sports.Sho.com.

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