EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Antonio Silva cleared one of his biggest hurdles in the highly publicized eight-man Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix with a Saturday TKO victory over legendary Fedor Emelianenko.
“Bigfoot” now is two victories away from the tournament crown and the possible title of the world’s top heavyweight.
And if the big man has his way, he’ll get an all-Brazilian finale later this year and a fight with fellow countryman and fellow Emelianenko-stopper Fabricio Werdum.
“I don’t pick opponents; I’ll fight anyone,” Silva said through manager and translator Alex Davis. “Werdum is my friend. He’s a Brazilian. I’m rooting for him. That way, the finals would be all Brazilians.”
Silva and Sergei Kharitonov, who scored a first-round knockout of former UFC champ Andrei Arlovski, punched their tickets to the semifinals during Saturday’s Showtime-televised “Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva” event at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, N.J. Silva (16-2 MMA, 3-1 SF) upset Emelianenko (31-3 MMA, 1-2 SF), whose swollen right eye prompted a doctor’s stoppage prior to the third round.
Silva and Kharitonov now await the outcome of the second set of opening-round matchups, which take place April 9 with heavyweight champ Alistair Overeem vs. Werdum and Josh Barnett vs. Brett Rogers.
Werdum has his work cut out for him with Overeem, one of the heavyweight division’s fastest-rising fighters. Overeem is considered a fairly substantial favorite. Then again, Emelianenko also was a big favorite before Werdum upset him this past June.
Silva took pride in his own win over the famed Russian.
“Fedor is the best in the world to me,” said Silva, speaking in English. “I showed the world I come not to play but to fight hard. I want to be the best heavyweight in the world.”
Saturday’s win surely gave the first, last and only EliteXC champion some confidence heading into the semifinals. In fact, after a close first round in which he ate more than a few heavy blows – and then dishing out his own with a dizzying ground-and-pound assault in the second – Silva knew victory was within his grasp.
“A lot of people see this chin, and it’s a punch-absorber,” said Silva, who weighed 264 pounds at Friday’s weigh-ins and hit 285 by fight night. “I trained a lot of jiu jitsu. … I put my game plan together, and I used it.”
So that’s why he’s ready for all-comers, foreign or domestic. Fighting any fellow man, he knows he can win.
“I’ve always said that Superman and Robocop don’t exist,” said Silva, referring to Emelianenko. “Werdum started it, and I finished proving it; Superman doesn’t exist.”