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Strikeforce World Grand Prix semifinals betting odds and picks

Barnett vs. Kharitonov and Silva vs. Cormier finish off busy week in MMA

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Antonio Silva smiles after upsetting Fedor Emelianenko in the first round of the Strikeforce Heavyweight World Grand Prix on Feb. 12 2011, in East Rutherford, N.J.,

Reports out of Strikeforce media events this week in Cincinnati indicate the fighters on Saturday’s card are upset with the lack of attention they’re receiving.

They can blame their old colleagues. Former Strikeforce champions Nick Diaz and Alistair Overeem have dominated mixed martial arts news this week.

Overeem’s deal with the UFC and Diaz’s failure to show up for a press tour have overshadowed the major Strikeforce card, which airs on Showtime via tape delay on the west coast at 10:30.

It’s the semifinal round of the Heavyweight World Grand Prix, a tournament that has undoubtedly lost some of its luster from the beginning of the year to everyone except the remaining participants.

Especially Daniel Cormier, who replaced the departed Overeem in the competition. Cormier, a former Olympic wrestler, looks to use the opportunity to break into the elite among MMA heavyweights with a bout against 265-pound Antonio Silva.

“It’s a great tournament,” Cormier said. “I’ve always looked at it with wide eyes since it started. And when the opportunity presented itself, I thought, ‘you know what? This is a chance for me to do something special.’”

In the other semifinal, grappling star Josh Barnett meets heavy-handed Sergei Kharitonov. With the two pre-fight tournament favorites out, Overeem and Fedor Emelinanenko, the semifinalists are an unlikely group.

Kharitonov was also an underdog in his first round matchup against Andrei Arlovski, meaning Barnett is the only remaining fighter who most expected to make it this far.

The Grand Prix took another hit before the semifinals when Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker announced the winner would not be awarded with Overeem’s vacated championship belt. Some were disappointed with the announcement, but once again, the fighters were undeterred.

“Titles and things like that are spoils of war,” Barnett said. “You have to go out there and win battles before you can raze the dead of all their belongings.”

Check below for a breakdown with betting odds and picks of the televised main card.

 

Heavyweight Bout: Josh Barnett (30-5 MMA, 1-0 SF) vs. Sergei Kharitonov (18-4 MMA, 1-0 SF)

Line: Barnett -350, Kharitonov +275

Matchup: Josh Barnett is the favorite to win the tournament now with Overeem out of the way. He’s a veteran of the sport, whose only career losses have come against top-level names. Barnett has finished his last five fights, three by submission and two by knockout. Brazilian jiu-jitsu and wrestling are his specialty, while Kharitonov is a boxer first and foremost.

Pick: Barnett by submission

 

Heavyweight Bout: Antonio Silva (16-2 MMA, 3-1 SF) vs. Daniel Cormier (8-0 MMA, 5-0 SF)

Line: Silva -165, Cormier +135

Matchup: Silva is going to swing away and try to knock Cormier out. Cormier is going to look to take down Silva and turn the bout into a wrestling match. Cormier also has an ever-improving stand-up game, as evidenced by his decision win against veteran Jeff Monson in June.

Pick: Cormier by decision

 

Middleweight Championship Bout: Ronaldo Souza (14-2 MMA, 4-0 SF) vs. Luke Rockhold (7-1 MMA, 6-0 SF)

Line: Souza -400, Rockhold +300

Matchup: This matchup illuminates a major issue for Strikeforce in its current form. The organization doesn’t have depth in some weight classes. While the 26-year old Rockhold is a bright prospect, it’s hard to sell him as deserving for a title shot against Souza. “Jacare” is a submission guru, but has no career wins by knockout, while Rockhold’s strongest point is his wrestling.

Pick: Souza by submission

 

Light Heavyweight Bout: Muhammed Lawal (7-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) vs. Roger Gracie (4-0 MMA, 2-0 SF)

Line: Lawal -150, Grace +120

Matchup: This is by far the most intriguing bout on the docket. Gracie is probably the world’s best Brazilian jiu-jitsu fighter. But he just started dedicating himself to MMA full time and has not faced an opponent on the level of former Strikeforce champion “King Mo”. Gracie, however, has finished all four of his fights via submission.

Pick: Lawal by TKO

 

Lightweight Bout: Pat Healy (25-16 MMA, 3-1 SF) vs. Maximo Blanco(8-2-1 MMA, 0-0 SF)

Line: Healy +105, Blanco -125

Matchup: Healy is a late-replacement for Josh Thomson, who will miss the bout because of injury. He’s had a long, winding career, while Blanco is relatively new to the sport but shined in Japanese promotion Sengoku. Judges scores could play a prominent factor in a fight that forecasts to be close with Blanco possessing a strike advantage, but Healy having an advantage in takedown ability.

Pick: Blanco by decision

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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