All Heavyweight Card Set For

Strikeforce World Grand Prix Kickoff

Saturday, Feb. 12, Live On Showtime®

 

Top-Heavy: Shane Del Rosario-Lavar Johnson,

 Chad Griggs-Gian Villante, Valentijn Overeem-Ray Sefo

At IZOD Center in East Rutherford, N.J.

Ticket Pre-Sale Begins Tomorrow/Wednesday

 

February 12, 2011

IZOD Center

E. Rutherford, New Jersey

 

 

NEW YORK (Dec. 11, 2011) – Six additional hard-hitting heavyweight fighters have been called to action for

the STRIKEFORCE and M-1 Global co-promotion and historic kick-off of the STRIKEFORCE World Grand

Prix Heavyweight Tournament on Saturday, Feb. 12, live on SHOWTIME® (10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on

the West Coast) from IZOD Center in East Rutherford, N.J.

 

The three fights are: Undefeated top prospect Shane Del Rosario (10-0) of Irvine, Calif., vs. hard-hitting

Lavar “Big’’ Johnson (15-3) of Madera, Calif., Chad “The Grave Digger’’ Griggs  (9-1) of Tucson, Ariz.,

vs. Gian (pronounced “John”) Villante (7-1) of Bellmore, N.Y., and Valentijn Overeem (28-25) of

Amsterdam, Holland, vs. Ray “Sugarfoot’’ Sefo (2-0) of Las Vegas.  

 

“This event will showcase the depth of talent in the STRIKEFORCE heavyweight roster,” said STRIKEFORCE

CEO Scott Coker.  “Shane and Lavar are two products of the STRIKEFORCE Challengers series that has

been instrumental in developing new talent.  We are proud to welcome them to our championship series for

the first time on Feb. 12 and excited to show the world that STRIKEFORCE is home to the best

heavyweights on the planet.”

 

The all heavyweight main card will be highlighted by two sensational quarterfinal bouts in the single-

elimination STRIKEFORCE World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament

 

Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko (31-2, 1 NC), of Stary Oskol, Russia, returns against Brazil’s

Antonio “Big Foot” Silva (15-2) of Campina Grande, Paraiba, Brazil in the main event. The co-feature will

match former world champion Andrei Arlovski (15-8), of Chicago by way of Minsk, Belarus, against Sergei

Kharitonov (16-4) of Moscow, Russia. Kharitonov is the last fighter to defeat STRIKEFORCE Heavyweight

World Champion Alistair Overeem.

 

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. 

 

“I’m looking forward to fighting again and fighting Lavar on Feb. 12,” said Rosario, a Muay Thai specialist

whose longest fight lasted a total of 4:07. “We’ve both fought on Challengers and now we get to show what

we can do on a big show. I’m excited about that. This will be a great fight between two hungry fighters.”

 

The heavy-handed Johnson has been triumphant in seven consecutive fights, winning all by (T)KO, 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.

 

“I want to be known as a fighter, not as a guy who got shot, and this is my greatest opportunity to do that,”

said the 6-foot-3, 33-year-old who stopped Virgil Zwicker at 2:17 of the first round on Oct. 22, 2010. “I feel

like I’m ready to move up to the big stage. Fighting a talented fighter like Rosario is a huge step and, with

our records, there is no way this cannot be one of the most exciting fights of the night.”

 

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, in

Houston, on SHOWTIME. 

 

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.

 

The courageous, come-from-behind triumph may have been the most noteworthy for a well-rounded, strong

finisher known for quick endings and tricky submissions. Six of Griggs’ victories came in the first round, and

he has scored knockouts in eight of his nine victories.

 

“It was a dream come true to fight for STRIKEFORCE and getting a super win in a big fight like that was

huge for me,’’ Griggs said. “I appreciate the opportunity to show what I can do again against another tough

opponent.”

 

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, N.Y.

 

After trying out with the NFL’s New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles, Villante turned to MMA in late 2008.

“I got hooked the first time I went to an MMA fight card and saw one of my high school wrestling coaches

KO some guy in a few seconds,” he said. “I was still a senior in high school but I got that feeling that I could

maybe do this, and it was always in the back of my mind.

 

“I knew when my dream to play in the NFL ended that this was what I wanted to do. Now, fighting MMA has

become more of a dream than football. I’m extremely excited about fighting for STRIKEFORCE on

SHOWTIME. This is a tremendous opportunity and it is like a home game for me.”

 

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.

 

The 6-foot, 39-year-old Sefo’s level of kickboxing is rarely seen in MMA, yet with just two pro MMA fights in

five years he remains a question mark in a heavyweight division regarded as the best in MMA. Sefo, who

went undefeated his entire career as an amateur kickboxer, won his MMA debut with a second-round KO

(head kick) over Min Soo Kim on July, 6, 2005, in Japan.

 

A special ticket pre-sale for “STRIKEFORCE Insiders,” begins tomorrow/Wednesday, Jan. 12, at 10 a.m.

ET and ends Thursday at 10 p.m.  Fans can sign up to become an “Insider” at STRIKEFORCE.com

 

Tickets for the Feb. 12 mega-event go on sale to the public on Friday, Jan. 14, at 10 a.m. ET at the IZOD

Center box office, online at Ticketmaster.com and STRIKEFORCE.com or by phone at (800) 745-3000. 

 

About STRIKEFORCE

STRIKEFORCE (www.strikeforce.com) is a world-class mixed martial arts cage fight promotion which, on

Friday, March 10, 2006, made history with its "Shamrock vs. Gracie" event, the first sanctioned mixed

martial arts fight card in California state history.  The star-studded extravaganza, which pitted legendary

champion Frank Shamrock against Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Cesar Gracie at San Jose's HP Pavilion,

played host to a sold-out, record crowd of 18,265.  Since 1995, STRIKEFORCE, sanctioned by ISKA, has

been the exclusive provider of martial arts programming for ESPN and, after 12 years of success as a

leading, world championship kickboxing promotion, the company unveiled its mixed martial arts (MMA)

series with "Shamrock vs. Gracie."  In May 2008, West Coast Productions, the parent company of

STRIKEFORCE, partnered with Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment (SVS&E), an entity created in 2000

to oversee all business operation aspects of the San Jose Sharks and HP Pavilion at San Jose.  In March

2009, STRIKEFORCE signed a multi-year agreement with SHOWTIME® to stage live events on the

premium cable television network.  The promotion has since also produced two live, primetime events on the

CBS Television Network.

 

About M-1 Global

Founded in 1998, M-1 Global (www.M-1Global.com) has established itself in the realm of mixed martial arts

(MMA) as the premiere entity for discovering and developing the world’s next-generation of superstar fighters.

With offices in St. Petersburg, Amsterdam, New York City, Washington DC, Los Angeles and affiliates in

Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Tokyo and Paris, the M-1 brand has staged over 70 events worldwide including the

M-1 Selection and M-1 Challenge events and its co-produced Strikeforce events in the United States.

Captivating the live, television and broadband audiences with its superior production values and match-ups,

M-1 events boast some of the sport’s top names including Fedor Emelianenko, Andrei Arlovski, Aleksander

Emelianenko, Gegard Mousasi, Alistair Overeem, Ben Rothwell, Melvin Manhoef, Roman Zentsov, Stephan

Struve and rising stars Shamil Zavurov, Byron Byrd, Alexander Sarnavskiy and Vinny Magalhaes. 2011

marks a breakthrough year with two Selections tournaments across Eastern & Western Europe, North

America and Asia and a full calendar of Challenge events fuelled by a talent-rich contention system ranking

M-1 Global’s Champions amongst the greatest in the sport.

 

M-1 Global’s greatest asset is the number one heavyweight fighter in mixed martial arts history, Fedor

Emelianenko. With daily coverage on all MMA-related websites in the world, and articles in Time Magazine,

LA Times and New York Times, Fedor and M-1 Global make a lifetime match serving as the catalyst to

grow MMA in the 21st century.

 

About Showtime Networks Inc.

Showtime Networks Inc. (SNI), a wholly-owned subsidiary of CBS Corporation, owns and operates the

premium television networks SHOWTIME®, THE MOVIE CHANNEL™ and FLIX®, as well as the multiplex

channels SHOWTIME 2™, SHOWTIME® SHOWCASE, SHOWTIME EXTREME®, SHOWTIME BEYOND®,

SHOWTIME NEXT®, SHOWTIME WOMEN®, SHOWTIME FAMILY ZONE® and THE MOVIE CHANNEL™ 

XTRA.  SNI also offers SHOWTIME HD™, SHOWTIME 2 HD™, THE MOVIE CHANNEL HD™, SHOWTIME

ON DEMAND®, THE MOVIE CHANNEL ON DEMAND™ and FLIX ON DEMAND®.  SNI also manages

Smithsonian Channel™, a joint venture between SNI and the Smithsonian Institution.  All SNI feeds provide

enhanced sound using Dolby Digital 5.1. SNI markets and distributes sports and entertainment events for

exhibition to subscribers on a pay-per-view basis through SHOWTIME PPV®.

 

CONTACT: 

- Strikeforce

  Mike Afromowitz: mafromowitz@strikeforce.com

 

- Showtime Networks Inc.

  Chris DeBlasio: chris.deblasio@showtime.net

  Annie Van Tornhout: annie.vantornhout@showtime.net

 

- Brener Zwikel & Associates, Inc.

  Steve Pratt: Stevep@bzapr.com

  John Beyrooty: Johnnybey@aol.com

 

 

- Press Release from Strikeforce

 

 

 

Subject to change

 

 

 

(1/11/11)