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Falling Action: Best and Worst of Strikeforce - Fedor vs. Silva

If you sat through Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva on Saturday night and still don't think that a tournament structure instantly makes everything feel a little more exciting, then I'm afraid there's no hope for you.

Even the reserve bout between Valentijn Overeem and Ray Sefo felt almost meaningful (though it didn't look it), and the Silva-Emelianenko fight had enough thrills to last us until the next wave of fights in April.

All in all, a success out of the gates for the most ambitious endeavor in Strikeforce history. Now let's sift through the biggest winners, losers, and everything in between after the opening night of Strikeforce's heavyweight Grand Prix.

Biggest Winner: Antonio Silva
'Bigfoot' didn't appear to even respect Fedor's punching power, much less fear it. He walked him down for the better part of the first round, smashing his enormous fists into Fedor's face when the opportunity arose and taking the Russian's best punches without so much as flinching. Going for the takedown to start round two was a brilliant move, and Silva made the best of it with an assault that would have finished most other heavyweights. True, being the second man to beat Fedor probably doesn't feel quite as special as being the first, but who cares? Silva shocked the heaviest first-round favorite in the tournament and fought his way into the semi-finals. Now if only he could work on his post-fight interview skills – I caught something about soda and video games and pretty much nothing else. Were we hearing from a 285-pound heavyweight or a twelve-year-old boy?

Biggest Loser: Fedor Emelianenko
He started the night as the biggest first-round favorite in the entire tournament. He ended it with a swollen mass the size of a tennis ball hanging off his right eye, and talk of retirement on his lips. He got bullied and beaten by a much bigger fighter, but it's more than that. That he so readily discussed retirement after a fight that was stopped by a doctor and not by a submission or knockout tells us that maybe the fire isn't burning in him these days. Most great fighters go on longer than they should, but Fedor has never been most fighters. He's been so unique in so many other ways, maybe he'll also be the rare fighter to hang up the gloves when he should. That is, if M-1 Global will let him.

Most Intriguing: Sergei Kharitonov
He's done so little MMA over the last few years that I'm still not sure what to make of him. He has a few minor holes in his stand-up defense and some major ones in his ground game, but he's also a powerful striker with killer instinct to spare. He certainly benefited from Andrei Arlovski's high knockoutability quotient, so there are still some unanswered questions. If he ends up facing Josh Barnett in the semis, we should find out quickly what he's really capable of. For now I'm interested, but not yet convinced.

Most in Need of a Retirement Plan: Andrei Arlovski
Yet another fight where he looked pretty good...right up until he got hit on the chin. Arlovski simply can't take a shot anymore. When he gets hit he goes down, and he doesn't just get sort of TKO'd, either. The last few times we've seen him stopped, he's been getting knocked into an altered state of being. We're talking all the way out, stiff as a board, waking up on his back with no knowledge of the last few seconds of his existence. That's scary, and when it happens with such frequency there's just not much you can do about it. You can't game plan around a glass jaw, nor should you. Arlovski should stop now before he does something to himself that he can't undo.

Most Exciting: Chad Griggs
I still don't know why Strikeforce didn't try to do something with Griggs after he beat Bobby Lashley, but after the Muttonchopped One knocked out Gian Villante in a tournament reserve bout, I really hope they see the potential. It wasn't the most technical fight – I've seen bar brawls at 2 a.m. that had more defensive work and fewer haymakers – but it was a lot of fun to watch. What it wasn't, however, was a contest between two heavyweights. Both these guys weighed in below 230 pounds, and I know Griggs would embrace a drop to light heavyweight if only Strikeforce would offer him something other than a heavyweight fight they expect him to lose. The Strikeforce 205-pound division could use a little help right now, and if nothing else you know Griggs will give you a show.

Most Methodical: Shane Del Rosario
He's by far the best all-around Strikeforce heavyweight who's not in the Grand Prix, and he proved it with an intelligent, thorough destruction of Lavar Johnson. I'd love to see him get a shot in the tournament if someone goes down with an injury, but at the same time it'd be a shame to keep a young prospect like him on the shelf for too long while waiting to see how things play out. He needs a chance to work and improve, not sit around and watch. He might be the best homegrown prospect on the Strikeforce roster. If everyone gets through the first round unscathed, it wouldn't be a bad idea to give him a fight with one of the other victorious reserve fighters in the meantime.

Biggest Wasted Opportunity: The Gina Carano Announcement
Let me get this straight: Strikeforce is excited to tell us that Gina Carano – the "face of women's MMA" – is coming back to the world of pugilism, so they conduct a brief stand-up interview in front of the cage in which no date, opponent, or details are given? Exactly what was that supposed to accomplish? Carano did her giggly girl-next-door act, tossing out one-word answers about her movie career and blushing her way through a series of inane questions, and in the end we learned nothing that we didn't already know. Carano is coming back...eventually...against someone. Feeling pumped yet?

Most Improved: Mauro Ranallo
I don't know if it's a result of putting him next to the hapless Gus Johnson rather than Pat Miletich, or maybe even the fact that Michael Schiavello opened for him on the HDNet undercard broadcast, but Ranallo seemed much smoother in his announcing duties on Saturday. When he's not firing off prepared one-liners or trying to do too much of a pro wrestling gimmick (and let's be honest, the WWE is the only place where fans want announcers to be a show unto themselves), he's pretty solid on the mic. Maybe he should go on after Schiavello all the time, since it makes him seem so calm and professional by comparison. He still has his moments, but the more Ranallo relies on his abilities as a broadcaster rather than a comedian, the better he is. But please, get Miletich back in there for the next round of the tournament. He's too good to be at home watching on TV.

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