It was apparent that Strikeforce has been banking that their top star, Fedor Emelianenko, would find a way to bring massive exposure to their Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament. No one thought that the attention they would be getting for Saturday night’s event in East Rutherford, NJ would be due to the controversial stoppage to the main event and the apparent end of Fedor’s fighting career. Coming into the fight, Emelianenko had only suffered one “true” loss to Fabricio Werdum last June via triangle choke. The other previous blemish on his record was due to a cut stoppage, although the “Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva” finish evoked similar disdain from the fans as that loss to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
As expected, the entire evening was based around Fedor as the fans showered him with praise, giving him the largest and most raucous crowds of the evening. When the text voting as to how the viewing public felt the tournament would play out was announced, Emelianenko was a resounding favorite with almost 50% of the vote. Antonio Silva obviously didn’t care about the odds though, battering the former PRIDE Fighting Championship legend into ground beef while Fedor squirmed on the canvas for the majority of the second round.
Sure, Fedor had fought bigger fighters. He’d given up size to other challengers before. None of them was as good, though, as Silva was on this night. After a razor close first round, Silva ducked an immediate straight right from “The Last Emperor” and began to ground and pound him on the mat. It was a brutal display that showed massive holes in the ground game of Fedor and illustrated some of what has eluded the last “great” generation of mixed martial artists: true wrestling pedigree. Many of the stars from years gone by have seen limited effectiveness in their primary weapons because opponents can get takedowns around those powerful strikes. If Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic misses on a high kick, he’s taken down now. Years ago, people were terrified of another retaliatory stirke, as if it was your fault he missed, but with the mystique of the fighter removed, he’s just another competitor. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was one of the toughest fighters to ever step in a ring. You couldn’t knock out Nogueira. Frank Mir proved otherwise and Cain Velasquez further illustrated the point in their matchup. All of these ex-PRIDE stars are being randomly exposed as little more than over-hyped, pampered fighters. Many of us, myself included, can still be counted among their fans, but their level of competition wasn’t the same as this new level of “new MMA” star.
Silva is a new star after Saturday. One that wasn’t front and center on the promotional banners like Fedor. That’s probably something he noticed and ultimately, his defeat of Fedor has thrown the tournament into shambles. Sure, Strikeforce still has Showtime and CBS and Alistair Overeem and Josh Barnett, but without the top star and one of the sport’s all-time greats, this Grand Prix won’t be crowning the best fighter in the world. So often as we see in any and all tournaments, it only crowns the “best of the moment,” a time capsule of each individual contest.
If Saturday night was Fedor Emelianenko’s last fight, he went out trying to win. He didn’t verbally tap to the abuse he was taking in the second round. He didn’t submit to a kneebar at the end of round one and instead got a leg lock of his own. He didn’t let being mounted stop him. Fedor still had the same fighting spirit as the man who was suplexed onto his head by Kevin Randleman in Japan. He just got up and kept fighting. Sadly, we might never see that Fedor again.
Tags: Andrei Arlovski, Andrei Arlovski vs. Sergei Kharitonov, Anthony Leone, Antonio Silva, Chad Griggs, Chad Griggs vs. Gian Villante, Don Carlo-Clauss, Don Carlo-Clauss vs. Sam Oropeza, Fedor, Fedor Emelianenko, Fedor Emelianenko vs. Antonio Silva, Fedor vs. Silva, Gian Villante, Igor Gracie, Igor Gracie vs. John Salgado, Jason McLean, Jason McLean vs. Kevin Roddy, John Cholish, John Salgado, John Stevens vs. Marc Stevens, Josh LaBerge, Josh LaBerge vs. Anthony Leone, Kevin Roddy, Lavar Johnson, March Stevens, Mixed Martial Arts, Ray Sefo, Sam Oropeza, Sergei Kharitonov, Shane Del Rosario, Shane Del Rosario vs. Lavar Johnson, Strikeforce, Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva, Valentijn Overeem, Valentijn Overeem vs. Ray Sefo