Sergei Kharitonov is a name that may not be as recognizable as Chuck Liddell or Jon Jones here in the western hemisphere. But, for the 11-year veteran of Pride FC and Dream, Kharitonov's upcoming bout with Josh Barnett could be his coming-out party, and his chance to show American fans what "The Russian Mercenary" is all about.
Kharitonov is expected to face Barnett in Strikeforce's heavyweight grand prix semifinals after he defeated Andrei Arlovski in the quarterfinal round earlier this year via knockout late in the first round.
Going into the bout, Arlovski's former UFC heavyweight title and fan support did little to faze Kharitonov who pushed the pace and dropped Arlovski with a right hand. The ensuing ground and pound was all it took to seal the victory.
"There was nothing extraordinary in my bout with Arlovski, I can't mark it out from my other victories," Kharitonov told FiveKnuckles.com. "It's too early to celebrate, the main events are ahead. I'll be glad when I put the belt on."
Helping him prepare for the Arlovski bout and his upcoming fight with Barnett is his teammates at the Golden Glory gym based out of Breda, Netherlands.
"The whole Golden Glory team helps me with my preparation," Kharitonov said. "We always work all together. All is clockwork."
"He (Overeem) is much more experienced, in my opinion, and he is also my teammate so I have no doubts about his victory." Kharitonov explained concerning the Overeem vs. Silva match-up.
Kharitonov and Overeem are poised for a rubber match if both men can defeat their respective opponents. Their last meeting was at a 2007 Hero's MMA event in Japan where Kharitonov defeated Overeem via knockout in the opening round.
Big wins over Semmy Schilt, Murilo Rua, Fabricio Werdum and Pedro Rizzo puctuate the list of victories for Kharitonov who has built an 18-5 record predominantly while fighting in various Japanese promotions. He is currently 5-1 in his past six fights and represents one of Russia's top MMA talents.
Fellow countrymen and longtime heavyweight untouchable, Fedor Emelianenko is seemingly slipping towards the other end of that spectrum given recent losses to Fabricio Werdum and Antonio Silva. UFC president, Dana White, as well as others in the MMA community have questioned Emelianenko's legacy and his former "unbeatable" billing.
"Actually Fedor had losses before," Kharitonov said. "He lost combat sambo world championship, he lost to Kohsaka, he almost lost to Ricardo Arona. That fight was even and victory could be given to any fighter. He had been defeated, they just didn't put it in the window."
Emelianenko is looking to snap his two fight skid with a win over Dan Henderson who has gone 5-1 in his past six fights as well, and is coming off of two consecutive stoppage wins over Renato Sobral and Rafael Cavalcante, the latter earning him Strikeforce's light heavyweight title.
Kharitonov believes the fight is make or break for his Russian counterpart.
"If Fedor loses to Hendo, he has to retire," Kharitonov said. "Henderson is not a super heavyweight, he is 42 already, that's why Fedor has to win. I think this is a chance for Fedor to rehabilitate himself."
Emelianenko and Henderson are scheduled to headline the fast approaching July 30 Strikeforce...