He was called a dark horse in the tournament, but for those that have seen Sergei Kharitonov before, knew he was capable of doing what he did on Saturday night as he knocked out Andrei Arlovski in the first round of their fight to kick off the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix.
Over the last few years and since the end of Pride Fighting Championships, Kharitonov has appeared around MMA circles only a few times, but over the last year he signed on with Strikeforce and picked up his activity.
He’s also been fighting in K-1 and he showed off those striking skills as he lit up Arlovski with punches, walking forward like a machine looking for the knockout blow.
The former UFC champion has fallen on hard times of late, dropping three fights in a row, and he once again showed little improvement, finding himself trapped against the cage with Kharitonov bearing down on him.
Clipping Arlovski with a quick right hand, Kharitonov dropped the Belarussian, and followed him to the ground, blasting him with a few more punches. A second later, Arlovski was knocked out cold.
Kharitonov channeled his inner Ivan Drago as he spoke to the crowd in his native tongue, drawing strength from his home countrymen and women in attendance on Saturday night.
“I look around the stands and I saw so many people from Russia and Russia is the best, Russia is No. 1,” Kharitonov said.
If critics are calling Kharitonov a dark horse, he’s not listening, because he’s convinced that when this Grand Prix is over, everyone will be calling him champion.
“I could care less what the experts think,” Kharitonov said. “I know I’m going to win this tournament.”
Kharitonov will now move on to face the winner of the upcoming bout between Josh Barnett and Brett Rogers taking place in April.