Emelianenko ready to take on Silva

By Bob Emanuel

The highly anticipated Strikeforce World Grand Prix heavyweight tournament begins on Saturday with two quarterfinal matches and three reserve matches to be aired live on Showtime at 7 p.m. from the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J.

Fedor Emelianenko, who’s string of 28 consecutive mixed martial arts victories was snapped last year by Fabricio Werdum, enters the tournament as one of two heavy favorites. Long thought to be one of the world’s top pound-for-pound performers, Emelianenko will look to re-exert his dominance against Antonio Silva in Saturday’s main event.

“I feel very good about participating in the tournament,” Emelianenko said through a translator. “I’m very proud to be part of the eight that have been chosen to be part of the tournament. I’m very proud to be representing my country in the tournament, and I’m training to win the tournament.”

Former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski will face Sergei Kharitonov in Saturday’s other quarterfinal match.

The other two quarterfinals take place April 9 and pit Strikeforce heavyweight champion and co-tournament favorite Alistair Overeem against Fabricio Werdum and Josh Barnett versus Brett Rogers. The semifinals will take place later this summer. The Emelianenko-Silva winner will fight the Overeem-Werdum winner, and the Arlovski-Kharitonov winner will fight the Barnett-Rogers winner.

“We’re thrilled that Fedor has agreed to jump into this tournament,” Showtime Sports executive vice president and general manager Ken Hershman said. “Having the number one, pound-for-pound fighter in the world as part of this collection took it to a different level.”

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