Josh Barnett proved tonight why he’s considered to be the favorite to win the Strikeforce World Heavyweight Grand Prix by defeating hard-nosed Russian bruiser Sergei Kharitonov via first-round submission.
Barnett came out looking to trade with Kharitonov, which looked like it might turn out to be a bad idea early on. Barnett landed some good shots, but Kharitonov landed more of his own. The War Master hung tough though and never gave up any ground, eventually grabbing hold of the Russian and fighting very hard to take him for a ride.
Once he had wrestled Kharitonov to the mat, Barnett immediately established full mount. From there, it was just a matter of time. Kharitonov defended himself well, never allowing Barnett to get off a sustained assault. He continually bucked or broke down Barnett’s posture, but the catch wrestling expert took his time and worked away, eventually spending more and more time sitting upright raining down blows on his opponent. Trying to make something happen, Kharitonov gave up his back; he stayed in that position, turtled up, for some time defending against Barnett’s attack, but Barnett eventually established his hooks and flattened Kharitonov out. The ground and pound that followed caused Kharitonov to roll again and when he did, Barnett slid out of mount and slapped on the side choke, coaxing the tap before the first frame had ended.
The victory illustrated why Barnett is being cast as the tournament favorite, but he has a tough fight waiting for him in the finals against Daniel Cormier and he knows that. Barnett brings his record to 31-5; Kharitonov falls to 18-5.
Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov went down tonight from the US Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio.