by Al Yu – MMAWeekly.com
Sergei Kharitonov (13-2) vs Aleksander Emelianenko (8-2)

Sergei Kharitonov is a member of the Russian Top Team and a Sambo practitioner. At Pride 31, Kharitonov suffered the second loss of his career against Dutch striker Alistair Overeem. The Russian fighter sustained a shoulder injury after being taken down by Overeem. Unable to respond with much of an offense, the referee called a halt to the bout after minutes of unanswered punishment.

Aleksander Emelianenko is the younger brother of Pride heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko. Just like his accomplished brother, Aleksander is also a Sambo practitioner and is a two-time world Sambo champion. At Shockwave 2005, the Red Devil Sport Club fighter submitted Olympic Gold Judoka Pawel Nastula with a rear naked choke. Emelianenko is coming off of a loss to Josh Barnett in the opening round of the Absolute Grand Prix.

The final four match-ups slated for Pride Final Conflict Absolute have already made fans’ dreams come true. Anticipation for this event has grown after the announcement of this fight as the reserve match. Sergei Kharitonov is currently the #8 heavyweight fighter in the MMAWeekly Rankings, while Aleksander Emelianenko is right behind him at #9.

Aleksander fought well against Josh Barnett and it was apparent who the superior striker was. In that fight, however, his opponent wasn’t Barnett, it was his gas tank. After the start of the second round, it was clear that fatigue had set in. The Russian fighter was taken down and eventually succumbed to a keylock.

Both fighters match up well physically. Sergei Kharitonov demonstrates a textbook boxing technique and has a really stiff jab. The Russian Top Team fighter also has a nice straight right and favors body shots. Aleksander has some of the fastest hands in the heavyweight division and his punching power is undeniable.

Coming from a Sambo background, both fighters are well-versed enough to negate each other on the ground. Though Aleksander was submitted in his last fight, I attribute his loss more to fatigue rather than a lack of skill. Kharitonov went the distance with Fabricio Werdum and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, two well known submission specialists with the latter arguably being the best heavyweight BJJ fighter in MMA today.

This fight has the makings to be a stand-up war and I expect to see some good exchanges. Look for Emelianenko to take advantage of his reach and hand speed while Sergei will counter with jabs and straight rights. Kharitonov has proven that his conditioning can withstand an entire fight while Emelianenko has yet to surpass two rounds. Aleksander has a very good chance of winning this fight as long as his conditioning has improved.

Watch for Kharitonov to push the pace of the fight and slowly pursue Emelianenko with his stiff jab. Aleksander’s striking may give him the edge early on but his questionable conditioning could play into Sergei’s favor as the fight progresses into the later round. I foresee a competitive match with Emelianenko fading in the second round. The referee will halt the fight after an exhausted Aleksander is unable to defend himself late in the second.

Prediction: Sergei Kharitonov TKO Aleksander Emelianenko RD2