Kicking off the Showtime action for Strikeforce: "Barnett vs. Kharitonov" is a lightweight bout between two fighters in their late 20s, but both of whom have marked discrepancies in the mixed martial arts (MMA) experience department.
Maximo Blanco, 27, has eight wins in 12 appearances (8-2-1, 1 No Contest) since his professional debut in 2008, while Pat Healy, 28, has already compiled 25 wins in 41 fights during a career that began way back in 2001.
What "Maxi," a decorated amateur wrestler on the international circuit for his native Venezuela, lacks in experience compared to "Bam Bam," he makes up for with his aggression and power.
Healy, meanwhile, can take comfort in knowing that Blanco likely doesn't bring anything wildly unique to the fight, which he recently accepted on short notice when Josh Thomson was forced to withdraw because of injury, that he hasn't seen before.
- Bronze medalist in 2007 Pan American Games at 143 pounds in wrestling | Lightweight King of Pancrase Champion (2009)
- Maximum Fighting Championship (MFC) Welterweight Champion (2008) | Competed for about 20 organizations, including Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC)
Blanco: Katsuya Inoue (Technical knockout, 2009), Rodrigo Damm (Technical knockout, 2010), Kiuma Kunioku (Knockout, 2010)
Healy: Dan Hardy (Submission, 2004), Carlos Condit (Submission, 2006), Lyle Beerbohm (Unanimous decision, 2011)
Blanco: Making his promotional debut after just recently inking a three-fight deal with Strikeforce, as well as competing for the first time in MMA on United States soil, Blanco has earned the reputation as a ferocious finisher. In fact, he has gone the distance just once in his career, taking out five of his last six opponents via (technical) knockout. He has competed primarily overseas in Japan under the Pancrase and World Victory Road/Sengoku banners.
Healy: The gritty Team Quest product has taken on a Who's Who of opposition throughout his career with mixed success. In addition to the notable wins mentioned above, Healy has also toppled guys like Paul Daley and Ryan Ford (twice), while dropping bouts to others such as Denis Kang, Chris Lytle, Jake Ellenberger and Josh Thomson. A former welterweight, Healy has been unable to win more than four consecutive fights, establishing a pattern of inconsistency that has seemingly kept him from competing consistently for larger promotions up until recently.
This has all the ingredients of a very fun fight. And it will likely serve as a UFC tryout, so both men would be wise to bring the heat.
Blanco could come down with a case of cage jitters, but he is a very confident athlete who has been in high-stakes battles before. Healy is about as tough as they come. He doesn't do anything super special, possessing the all-around skills to touch 'em up and do well against just about anyone in the 155-pound division. He won't always win, but rest assured he is willing to die trying. He is facing a very tight turnaround, fighting (and winning) just last month, but for someone like him it is par for the course. Healy will likely want to keep his distance, close it when it's in his best interests, and turn this into a good ole' fashioned dirty boxing brawl. He definitely wants to avoid Blanco taking him down, riding him for 15 minutes and showering him with strikes throughout the entire process.
Healy will also want to stay out of the range of Blanco's powerful strikes, which can come from all sorts of crazy angles. Healy is very experienced and comes from a great camp. He'll need to leverage both those strengths against Blanco, who has never faced such an accomplished opponent.
Blanco has been stopped just once in his career, which was via submission, and he has never recorded a tapout victory to date. Don't expect that to change this weekend. Healy has been submitted more often, but he has also been in four times as many fights. Blanco has the clear edge in wrestling, which he will likely use to his advantage if things don't go as planned in the stand up. He also has more power in his fists and his kicks. This fight likely won't go the distance. Expect Blanco to score (another) technical knockout or Healy to submit the Venezuelan.