Six additional hard-hitting heavyweight fighters have been called to action for the Strikeforce World Grand Prix — Heavyweight Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 12, at The IZOD Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The three fights are: Undefeated top prospect Shane Del Rosario of Irvine, Calif., vs. hard-hitting Lavar “Big’’ Johnson of Madera, Calif., Chad “The Grave Digger’’ Griggs of Tucson, Ariz., vs. Gian (pronounced “John”) Villante of Bellmore, N.Y., and Valentijn Overeem (28-25) of Amsterdam, Holland, taking on the biggest surprise announced in this, Ray “Sugarfoot’’ Sefo of Las Vegas.
The promising 6-foot-4, 27-year-old Rosario has won nine of his 10 fights in the opening round, including a 3:38 first-round TKO (knees and punches) over Lolohea Mahe during a Strikeforce Challengers event in his last outing on July 23, 2010, at Everett, Wash. Prior to that, Rosario registered a rare omoplata submission victory over Brandon Cash at 2:27 of the first on Nov. 6, 2009, on Strikeforce Challengers at Fresno, Calif.
The heavy-handed Johnson has been triumphant in seven consecutive fights, winning all by knockout or TKO, including three straight on Challengers. This will be his third fight since returning to the cage after he was gunned down while attending a family barbeque during the July 4 holiday in 2009. Johnson survived three gunshot wounds from a walk-by shooting that led to the death of his cousin. A father of two boys, Johnson spent 30 days in a hospital fighting for his life and several more months rehabilitating.
Thirteen of Johnson’s 15 victories have come via either knockout or TKO.
Griggs, a winner in four consecutive fights, is coming off a bloody, upset second-round TKO (retirement) over former pro wrestling superstar and previously unbeaten MMA fighter, Bobby Lashley, on Aug. 21, 2010. A fulltime Tucson firefighter and paramedic, the 6-foot-1, 32-year-old Griggs opened up a gushing cut over Lashley’s left eye in the first round after getting taken to the ground and ultimately outlasted the previously unbeaten MMA fighter in the second as a still-bleeding Lashley seemed to gas.
Villante is a 6-foot-2, 25-year-old grappling stud who was born and raised on Long Island. Before he wrestled and played football at Hofstra University, he was an All-State football player and All-American wrestler at MacArthur High in Levittown, New York. After trying out with the NFL’s New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles, Villante turned to MMA in late 2008. Without the benefit of an amateur career, Villante turned pro on Feb. 20, 2009, and won his initial six fights. His lone defeat came when he dislocated an elbow in a bout halted in the opening round on April 16, 2010. Villante is coming off a 1:03, first-round TKO over Joseph Reyes on Dec. 3, 2010. It was his sixth success in the first round.
The older brother of Alistair Overeem, Valentijn Overeem is a fierce, dangerous striker who has won his last two fights in a combined time of 47 seconds. The 6-foot-3, 34-year-old Dutch Destroyer scored a 40-second KO (knee) over Catalin Zmarandescu on May 21, 2010. In his outing before last, the previous April 17, a head kick finished off Tengiz Tedoradze seven seconds after the opening bell.
Overeem, who injured an elbow during training and withdrew from a match last Dec. 4 against “Big Foot’’ Silva, has several notable victories, including a 0:56, first-round submission over all-time great Randy “The Natural” Couture and a 2:19, first-round submission over former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Renato “Babalu” Sobral. Overeem has only gone the distance twice in a 53-fight career. A member of Team Golden Glory like his brother, Alistair, Valentijn is a four-time winner in PRIDE Fighting Championship competition. He’ll be making his debut for Strikeforce after signing with the San Jose, Calif.-based promotion last June.
Sefo is one of the most devastating knockout artists in the history of kickboxing and many are excited to see him return to Strikeforce. This will be the native of Auckland, New Zealand’s first MMA start since he defeated (knee injury) Kevin Jordan in his Strikeforce debut during a Challengers event on Sept. 25, 2009. After turning professional and earning more than a dozen kickboxing championships, Sefo turned his focus to the mecca of kickboxing, K-1, in Japan. While competing under the K-1 banner, Sefo quickly earned a reputation as a power puncher with a penchant for knocking his opponents out. During his time with in K-1, Sefo notched wins over the likes of MMA notables Mark Hunt, Melvin Manhoef, 7-foot-2 Hong Man Choi, Gary Goodridge, Marvin Eastman and Gilbert Yvel along with scores of champion kickboxers. Sefo has had two MMA fights thus far, winning both, and looking to continue that trend.
Previously booked was two quarter-final matches with Fedor Emelianeko fighting Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and Sergei Kharitonov against Andrei Arlovski.