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SportsMixed Martial Arts

Gian Villante loses Strikeforce debut

Gian Villante trains at Bellmore Kickboxing Academy for

Gian Villante trains at Bellmore Kickboxing Academy for his Strikeforce mixed martial arts debut. (Feb. 2, 2011) Credit: Mark La Monica

Gian Villante spoke last week about keeping a calm approach before a fight. But when the guy standing opposite him in the cage at Strikeforce opens the heavyweight bout throwing huge bombs and crazy haymakers, "calm" runs away faster than the HOV lane.

Chad Griggs threw shot after shot and eventually got the technical knockout of Villante at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J.

Villante, 25, of Levittown, stood his ground and threw his own share of power punches and uppercuts. He landed a pair of head kicks, as well, but Griggs (10-1) never seemed to back down. He was full throttle the entire way.

"I fought his fight," Villante said. "I started brawling instead of how I like to fight, clean and crisp."

Few strikes connected flush in the opening exchanges between the two heavyweights. Finally, a few of Griggs' shots got through and staggered Villante. The two fighters ignited the crowd with the back-and-forth brawl, but midway through the round, Villante swallowed more big shots.

"I  knew he had the wrestling background," Griggs said. "I thought if I caught him a few times, he'd go in for the shoot."

Villante tried it once or twice, but he never really tried to use any wrestling.

Villante (7-2), a two-time Ring of Combat champion making his Strikeforce debut, fell to the ground but got back to his feet after a shot from Griggs. A few seconds later, Villante was dropped again, and Griggs moved in for some ground and pound to finish Villante. Referee Yves Lavigne stepped in with 2:11 left in the first round to stop the bout for a technical knockout.

"I fought with my - - instead of my brains," Villante said.

As doctors checked out Villante and fight officials entered the ring, Griggs stroked his pork-chop sideburns, perhaps a nod to Villante's donning of fake sideburns as a joke at Friday's weigh-ins.

New York Sports