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Strikeforce results: Cormier, Barnett make finals in heavyweight tourney

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Luke Rockhold celebrates after winning a Strikeforce bout in 2009. Rockhold is the new middleweight champion of the promotion after beating Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in a major upset.

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United States' Daniel Cormier reacts during the men's Freestyle 96kg final bout against Kyrgyzstan's Alexey Krupnyakov at the World Wrestling Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan, Friday, Sept. 21, 2007.

A decorated veteran of mixed martial arts will meet a star in the making in the finals of the Strikeforce World Grand Prix heavyweight tournament.

Josh Barnett, a 33-year-old former UFC champion and PRIDE standout, and Daniel Cormier, a 32-year-old Olympic wrestler who started training in mixed martial arts two years ago, advanced to the championship with semifinal victories Saturday in Cincinnati.

Barnett submitted Sergei Kharitonov at 4:28 of the first round, while Cormier knocked out Antonio Silva 3:56 into their bout.

“It was perfect,” Cormier said. “I could not have imagined it going any better. I just beat one of the top five heavyweights.”

Cormier (9-0 MMA, 6-0 SF) was considered an underdog to Silva (16-3 MMA, 3-2 SF) because of his experience disadvantage. But Cormier’s athleticism was the deciding factor in the bout.

He was too quick for Silva, who looked helpless trying to defend against Cormier’s strikes. Cormier wobbled Silva multiple times before dropping him for good with a right hand.

Barnett (31-5 MMA, 2-0 SF) won his fight in typical fashion, taking Kharitonov (18-5 MMA, 1-1 SF) to the ground and choking him out. It was his fourth submission victory in his last five contests and 19th of his career.

Barnett, like Cormier, is also known for his wrestling, setting up an interesting tournament championship bout stylistically.

“I’m going to take down an Olympian,” Barnett said. “I’m going to train hard. This will be a different style than the training I’ve done recently. I thought he was brilliant tonight.”

Strikeforce hasn’t yet set a date for the finals, but CEO Scott Coker confirmed it would come sometime in early 2012. Cormier injured his right hand against Silva, but said he didn’t believe it was hurt seriously.

“Josh got what he wanted,” Cormier said. “We’re going to get to fight each other and it’s going to be an honor. He’s a UFC heavyweight champion, but as for the takedown, it’s not going to happen.”

Cormier’s victory wasn’t the biggest upset of the night. His teammate from American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., Luck Rockhold, took that honor.

Rockhold (8-1 MMA, 7-0 SF) was as high as a 4-to-1 underdog, but left US Bank Arena with the Strikeforce middleweight championship belt after winning a decision over Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (14-3 MMA, 4-1 SF).

It was a close fight that the judges unanimously gave to Rockhold by scores of 50-45, 48-47 and 48-47. Rockhold worked his kicks to win the stand-up against Souza and continually prevented the jiu-jitsu specialist from taking him down.

Rockhold was in tears as soon as the announcer read the judges’ scores.

“I train with some of the best wrestlers in the world so my takedown defense is awesome,” Rockhold said. “I got rocked a couple times. I look forward to defending the belt.”

Here are the full results from the rest of the fights on the card.

Mohammed "King Mo" Lawal knocked out Roger Gracie in the first round of their light heavyweight bout. After a close four minutes, Lawal dropped Gracie with a right hook at 4:33 into the round.

Pat Healy defeated Maximo Blanco via second-round submission (rear naked choke) at 4:24. Healy was able to recover from Blanco's illegal kicks to his head while grounded in the first round.

Light heavyweight Mike Kyle beat Marcos Rogerio de Lima by unanimous decision. The judges scored it 30-27, 29-28 and 30-28.

Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante, the former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, defeated Yoel Romero, who won a silver medal in wrestling at the 2000 Olympics for Cuba, via TKO at 4:51 of the second round.

Jordan Mein upset former welterweight title contender Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos via TKO at 3:18 of the third round.

Alexis Davis stunned prospect Amanda Nunes with a second-round TKO victory in their women's featherweight bout.

In a battle between two native Cincinnati fighters, Dominique Steele scored a unanimous decision over Chris Mierzwiak. The scores were 29-28, 29-27 and 29-27.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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