Josh Barnett punched his ticket to the finals of Strikeforce’s heavyweight grand prix Saturday night by submitting hard-hitting Pride veteran Sergei Kharitonov in the first round of their semifinal clash at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati.

Though Barnett (Pictured; file photo) would eventually trip the Russian and take the fight to the floor for the finish, the American looked somewhat shaky early on while standing in the pocket with the heavy-handed Kharitonov. While Barnett appeared to be mildly hurt by some of the Kharitonov’s punches, “The Warmaster” asserted afterward that he was simply biding his time.

“You’ve got to [engage in the standup]. Every fight starts on the feet. If you want to send me to K-1, I can fight over there. I’ve sparred and trained with guys who are K-1 grand prix-level guys and done just fine,” Barnett said in an interview with Showtime Sports following his win. “[Kharitonov] landed a couple of OK shots. He threw a nice jab and an uppercut, but I didn’t let any of it really land clean. You’re going to get hit. That’s the name of the game. [The plan was to] draw him in enough and [let him] overextend and then take him down.”

When the opportunity presented itself, Barnett did close the gap. The man formerly known as “The Baby-Faced Assassin” quickly executed a beautiful outside trip and transitioned smoothly into mount once the fight hit the canvas. From there, he pounded away until Kharitonov turned his back.

As Barnett continued to pepper him with shots, the Russian rolled back into Barnett’s mount in order to avoid the blows he could not see coming. It was at this point that Barnett swiftly captured Kharitonov’s head and arm, locking up an arm-triangle choke and forcing him to submit at 4:28 of round one.

“You don’t just throw a left hook and then pray for it to land. Some people do, and sometimes it works, but when you get to the top level, you need to throw what’s appropriate when you’ve set [your opponent] up for it,” Barnett said. “When you see him give that opening to you, you catch that timing. I can stand with anybody, but we’re not in there to do just one thing. It’s mixed martial arts. How do you cut all of the strengths off of your opponent and then put him into his [weakest area]?”

Barnett still has one more war to wage if he plans on taking home the Strikeforce grand prix title. Just prior to Barnett’s submission victory over Kharitonov, Daniel Cormier blasted Antonio Silva into unconsciousness, displaying vastly improved standup skills in his one-sided semifinal win. Though Barnett commended the Olympic wrestler, the catch-wrestling specialist believes he will be too much for Cormier to overcome when the two meet in the grand prix final.

“I was very impressed with [Cormier’s] use of hooks over and under ‘Bigfoot.’ He knew he wasn’t going to beat him on reach. He knew that jabbing was going to be difficult,” said Barnett. “I think he’s going to come [into our fight] feeling strong and feeling great about his standup. But it's like Cormier said: I’ve been winning all my life. What's going to change now?”

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