ANAHEIM, Calif. – The legend of Fedor Emelianenko added another chapter Saturday night at the Honda Center.
And for the third time in his career, he appeared in trouble. And for the third time, just seconds later, he was the winner.
Emelianenko stopped former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski in 3:14 of Round 1 to retain his World Alliance of Mixed Martial Arts heavyweight title in the main event of Affliction: Day of Reckoning.
Arlovski had just connected with a push kick to the chest that backed Emelianenko into the corner. Arlovski went in for one of his bread-and-butter moves, the flying knee, and while Arlovski was in mid-air, Emelianenko threw an overhand right. Arlovski went down like he was shot.
"I knew that Arlovski was prone to make a mistake and I saw the opportunity and I capitalized on it," said Emelianenko (29-1, 1 no-contest) through an interpreter after the fight.
Arlovski's superior boxing technique gave him a slight advantage in the three minutes of the fight, up until his mistake.
"I read what he said in a Russian newspaper about this not being a boxing match, but being an MMA match, and I guess he was right," said Arlovski, who felt he was controlling the fight until throwing the knee.
Emelianenko downplayed Arlovski's early advantage or that he was really hurt by the push kick that knocked him backward.
"No, not really. I didn't get hurt at all," he said. "Andre's punches were mostly glancing blows. They didn't hit me on the button and I didn't feel them too much."
Emelianenko had two prior fights where it appeared he was in serious trouble. One, against Kazuyuki Fujita, saw him seriously stunned by a punch, but he recovered and quickly choked Fujita out. Another, against Kevin Randleman, saw him picked up and suplexed on the back of his head, but he got right up from the fall and submitted Randleman seconds later.
But Arlovski believed Emelianenko was vulnerable.
"I let myself down and I let my trainers down," he said. "They gave me a game plan and I don't know why I didn't follow the game plan and threw the flying knee."
For the second time, Affliction Entertainment proved to be able to put on a strong live show and drew an announced crowd of 13,228, only slightly down from its packed first show in July in the same venue.
But with a huge payroll for the event, reported by MMAWeekly.com at $3.3 million, the question remains whether the company is in it for the long haul. Getting that many fans to the Honda Center was a huge success considering there were another 20,000-plus fans at the Staples Center in Los Angeles for the Shane Mosley-Antonio Margarito boxing match. But success or failure depends more on pay-per-view numbers, which Affliction vice president Tom Atencio wouldn't discuss.
The first event did about 100,000 buys, which was the best number for a non-UFC MMA event in history, but a major money loser for an event Atencio had previously said would need 250,000 buys to break even.
No date or place was announced for a third show, with Atencio only estimating in about four months and that they would have to sit down with their partners, M-1 Global, the company that represents Emelianenko, The Trump Organization and Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions on Monday to start to work on it.
De La Hoya praised the show as the best MMA event he had seen and emphasized what more in the arena came away with: that Emelianenko is every bit what he's cracked up to be with his tag as the new "baddest man on the planet."
"This is not a short-term relationship," he said, giving the impression he was impressed by the prospects of a new sport for his company. "This is going to be a long-term relationship."
Atencio said he was working on Emelianenko vs. Josh Barnett for the main event on the next show. Barnett defeated Gilbert Yvel in a third-round stoppage in the show's semifinal match.
"I always said that the Fedor-Arlovski winner would face the Barnett-Yvel winner," said Atencio. "That's a fight I would like to see and it's a fight the fans, especially in Japan [where Emelianenko and Barnett have fought primarily the past several years] would like to see."
Barnett (24-5) would be Emelianenko's last top level non-UFC heavyweight challenge. Barnett controlled Yvel (35-13-1) on the ground for most of their fight. He damaged the left side of Yvel's face with punches and elbows before Yvel tapped out at 3:05 of the final round.
But neither participant seemed thrilled about the prospect of the match, even though both said they were open to do it.
When asked if he wanted to fight Barnett next, Emelianenko said, "No, he's my friend."
"I don't care about rankings and belts," said Barnett. "I just want to fight and beat the hell out of my opponent or give an exciting performance."
Barnett said he had a lot on his mind going into the fight, as his boxing coach, Oscar Muniz, was involved in a serious auto accident Friday and in intensive care. He also noted that he was good friends with Justin Levens, the fighter who is believed to have died along with his wife last month in what police termed a possible murder-suicide.
Barnett, whose face was a mass of cuts and bruises from Yvel mostly punching upward while on his back, felt disappointed with his performance.
"It was a game plan to wear him down over the fight," he said. "But the game plan was to finish him right away. I thought they were going to stop the fight in the first. I'm not happy about my performance. I couldn't get the submission."
- Fedor Emelianenko
- Andrei Arlovski