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Fedor vs Silva Kicks Off Strikeforce Tourney in NJ

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010_Fedor_Emelianenko_and_Antonio_SilvaPublicity for the Strikeforce eight-man heavyweight tournament kicked into high gear with a presser at Chelsea Piers in New York City on Wednesday to promote this Saturday’s night of fights at the Izod Center in New Jersey.

Set against a beautiful view overlooking the Hudson River, all eight participants including Fedor Emelianenko, Fabricio Werdum, Josh Barnett, Antonio “Big Foot” Silva, Andre Arlovski, Alistair Overeem, Sergei Kharitonov and Brett Rogers, were present to demonstrate the magnitude of the event, which airs on Showtime.

“When I look at them, I think, ‘What a fine group of young men here. What fine, upstanding citizens,’” said former UFC heavyweight champion and PRIDE veteran Josh Barnett of his fellow tournament participants, “Quite attractive, well-dressed. I should think that when they get up in the morning, they should spend a little extra time thinking about what they’ve created for this world.”

Jokes aside, there is no debating that the Strikeforce tournament houses some of the most accomplished names in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts: Dutch fighter Alistair Overeem currently holds three different titles as champion in Strikeforce, DREAM, and K-1; Fedor Emelianenko was the undisputed pound-for-pound king at heavyweight; Arlovski and Barnett both held the UFC heavyweight title at one point in their careers; and Fabricio Werdum was two-time champion at the ADCC world submission wrestling competition, as well as a two-time world jiu-jitsu champion.

“Sergei has titles from 32-man tournaments in Russia. That’s a pretty impressive accomplishment in my book,” explained Barnett.

Judging by the mood of the press conference, there will be no ear-biting or weigh-in scuffles between these combatants. There is genuine respect and admiration among them, simply because it will be extremely difficult for any of the fighters just to make it out of the first round. Injuries, licensing issues or other unforeseen circumstances could also knock the odd participant out of action, just as Jermaine Taylor and Andre Dirrell found themselves out of Showtime’s Super-Six tournament. The contingency is for the winner of the Shane Del Rosario-Lavar Johnson bout this Saturday to become the first alternate should a replacement be needed.

Barnett also voiced criticism of the public perception that the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) stands alone as the only representative of top-tier MMA, saying, “At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where we fight, where we put this thing together…it’s about the fighters themselves.”

Fedor’s loss to Werdum last June hung heavy over all of the proceedings. It was assumed that the title of world’s best heavyweight had passed with Fedor’s loss to the winner of the Brock Lesnar -Shane Carwin clash. But as a nearly defenseless Lesnar cowered in the fetal position during the first round against Carwin, his capability as a well-rounded martial artist was put in doubt, even in victory in that fight. Lesnar’s reign was then cut short last October when American Kickboxing Academy standout Cain Velasquez demolished him at UFC 121.

At the moment, Cain Velasquez is out-of-action with a torn rotator cuff, and Junior dos Santos is set to face the already-beaten Brock Lesnar for the interim UFC heavyweight title. Due to these circumstances, all bets on the rightful heir to the heavyweight throne are off until someone strings together more than a handful of good wins.

This all brings us back to the pivotal question: who among the eight tournament participants has what it takes to come out on top? With Fedor facing Silva and Arlovski matched with Kharitonov, this Saturday we’ll get a small hint of the shape of things to come. Audiences will be just as concerned with how victory is attained as they are with the results. The favorites could return to form, or be supplanted by fresh blood—and the underdogs could aim for upsets, or crumble as expected.

Beyond the hype, there is the potential for a compelling set of matches. Every man involved in the tournament will have the opportunity to make their case for themselves.

“Over here, we have the seven best fighters in the world,” said Alistair Overeem, motioning across the stage. “The winner of this tournament is going to be the number one in the planet.”

Brian J. D’Souza is a Canadian writer who has covered Mixed Martial Arts for ESPN.com, FoxSports.com, CagePotato.com, Heavy.com and FIGHT! magazine.

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2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura

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The WBC World Super Featherweight title bout between Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura came on one of the biggest boxing stages of 2015, as the bout served as the HBO pay-per-view’s co-main event on November 21st, in support of Miguel Cotto vs Saul Alvarez.

Miura entered the fight with a (29-2-2) record and he was making the fifth defense of his world title, while Vargas entered the fight with an undefeated mark of (22-0-1) in what was his first world title fight. Both men had a reputation for all-out fighting, with Miura especially earning high praise for his title defense in Mexico where he defeated Sergio Thompson in a fiercely contested battle.

The fight started out hotly contested, and the intensity never let up. Vargas seemed to win the first two rounds, but by the fourth round, Miura seemed to pull ahead, scoring a knock-down and fighting with a lot of confidence. After brawling the first four rounds, Miura appeared to settle into a more technical approach. Rounds 5 and 6 saw the pendulum swing back towards Vargas, as he withstood Miura’s rush to open the fifth round and the sixth round saw both men exchanging hard punches.

The big swinging continued, and though Vargas likely edged Miura in rounds 5 and 6, Vargas’ face was cut in at least two spots and Miura started to assert himself again in rounds 7 and 8. Miura was beginning to grow in confidence while it appeared that Vargas was beginning to slow down, and Miura appeared to hurt Vargas at the end of the 8th round.

Vargas turned the tide again at the start of the ninth round, scoring a knock down with an uppercut and a straight right hand that took Miura’s legs and sent him to the canvas. Purely on instinct, Miura got back up and continued to fight, but Vargas was landing frequently and with force. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the fight at the halfway point of round 9 as Miura was sustaining a barrage of punches.

Miura still had a minute and a half to survive if he was going to get out of the round, and it was clear that he was not going to stop fighting.

A back and forth battle of wills between two world championship level fighters, Takashi Miura versus “El Bandido” Vargas wins the 2015 Fight of the Year.

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Jan 9 in Germany – Feigenbutz and De Carolis To Settle Score

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This coming Saturday, January 9th, the stage is set at the Baden Arena in Offenburg, Germany for a re-match between Vincent Feigenbutz and Giovanni De Carolis. The highly anticipated re-match is set to air on SAT.1 in Germany, and Feigenbutz will once again be defending his GBU and interim WBA World titles at Super Middleweight.

The first meeting between the two was less than three months ago, on October 17th and that meeting saw Feigenbutz controversially edge De Carolis on the judge’s cards by scores of (115-113, 114-113 and 115-113). De Carolis scored a flash knock down in the opening round, and he appeared to outbox Feigenbutz in the early going, but the 20 year old German champion came on in the later rounds.

The first bout is described as one of the most crowd-pleasing bouts of the year in Germany, and De Carolis and many observers felt that the Italian had done enough to win.

De Carolis told German language website RAN.DE that he was more prepared for the re-match, and that due to the arrogance Feigenbutz displayed in the aftermath of the first fight, he was confident that he had won over some of the audience. Though De Carolis fell short of predicting victory, he promised a re-vamped strategy tailored to what he has learned about Feigenbutz, whom he termed immature and inexperienced.

The stage is set for Feigenbutz vs De Carolis 2, this Saturday January 9th in Offenburg, Germany. If you can get to the live event do it, if not you have SAT.1 in Germany airing the fights, and The Boxing Channel right back here for full results.

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2015 Knock Out of the Year – Saul Alvarez KO’s James Kirkland

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On May 9th of 2015, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez delivered a resonant knock-out of James Kirkland on HBO that wins the 2015 KO of the Year.

The knock-out itself came in the third round, after slightly more than two minutes of action. The end came when Alvarez delivered a single, big right hand that caught Kirkland on the jaw and left him flat on his back after spinning to the canvas.Alvarez was clearly the big star heading into the fight. The fight was telecast by HBO for free just one week after the controversial and disappointing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fight, and Alvarez was under pressure to deliver the type of finish that people were going to talk about. Kirkland was happy to oblige Alvarez, taking it right to Alvarez from the start. Kirkland’s aggression saw him appear to land blows that troubled the young Mexican in the early going. Alvarez played good defense, and he floored Kirkland in the first round, displaying his power and his technique in knocking down an aggressive opponent.

However, Kirkland kept coming at Alvarez and the fight entered the third round with both men working hard and the feeling that the fight would not go the distance. Kirkland continued to move forward, keeping “Canelo” against the ropes and scoring points with a barrage of punches while looking for an opening.

At around the two minute mark, Alvarez landed an uppercut that sent Kirkland to the canvas again. Kirkland got up, but it was clear that he did not have his legs under him. Kirkland was going to try to survive the round, but Alvarez had an opportunity to close out the fight. The question was would he take it?

Alvarez closed in on Kirkland, putting his opponent’s back to the ropes. Kirkland was hurt, but he was still dangerous, pawing with punches and loading up for one big shot.

But it was the big shot “Canelo” threw that ended the night. Kirkland never saw it coming, as he was loading up with a huge right hand of his own. The right Alvarez threw cracked Kirkland in the jaw, and his eyes went blank. His big right hand whizzed harmlessly over the head of a ducking Alvarez, providing the momentum for the spin that left Kirkland prone on the canvas.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez went on to defeat Miguel Cotto in his second fight of 2015 and he is clearly one of boxing’s biggest stars heading into 2016. On May 9th Alvarez added another reel to his highlight film when he knocked out James Kirkland with the 2015 “Knock Out of the Year”.

Photo by naoki fukuda

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