EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Fedor Emelianenko came into his fight against Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva on Saturday night hoping to prove that his first loss in a decade was a fluke.
Instead, the native of Stary Oskol, Russia, left the cage at the Izod Center pondering retirement.
The man regarded by many as the greatest fighter in mixed martial arts history was brutalized by Silva in the main event of the Strikeforce card at the Izod Center. Silva (16-2) dominated the former PRIDE heavyweight champ in a one-sided second round. Emelianenko came out of the stanza with his right eye swollen shut and the doctor called a stop to the match.
"Maybe it is the time to leave," said Emelianenko (32-3, 1 no-contest) in the cage after the fight through an interpreter. "Maybe it is the last time. Maybe it is my time. Thank you for everything."
The fighters came out and fought a back-and-forth first round that could have been scored for either combatant. But at the outset of the second, Silva ducked an Emelianenko overhand and scored a takedown. They stayed there for the remainder of the round, as Silva unloaded with a ground-and-pound assault, mixed with several submission attempts. Silva locked in a tight arm triangle, but Emelianenko survived both the attempt and the round without quitting.
"I came into this fight and everyone said, 'Fedor, Fedor, Fedor,' " said Silva, who had 4½ inches and 34 pounds on his opponent. "But I showed to the world what I can do."
Silva's win over Emelianenko was one of two quarterfinal matches in Strikeforce's Grand Prix tournament. In the other, former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski's long, sad decline continued as he was knocked out by Russian Sergei Kharitonov. Arlovski came out sticking and moving, but Kharitonov quickly overpowered and cornered him. A big overhand left was followed with a right to the jaw that knocked Arlovski (15-9) to the ground. Two more shots from Kharitonov put Arlovski out before referee Kevin Mulhall stopped it at 2:49.
Arlovski has lost his past four fights and has been knocked cold in three of them.
"I was nervous because Andrei is a very tough fighter," said Kharitonov (18-4) through an interpreter. "I have a lot of respect for his skills and for him as a person. "I could care less what the experts think. I know I'm going to win this tournament."
The main card at the Izod Center also featured three tournament alternate fights, all of which ended in first-round stoppages.
In a much-anticipated battle of prospects, Shane Del Rosario improved to 11-0 with a first-round submission win over Lavar Johnson (18-4). The two heavyweights, who have won the bulk of their matches via TKO and KO, were expected to come out and stand and trade. But Del Rosario absorbed Johnson's best shots and got him to the ground, where he worked him over until he saw the opening for a submission. Del Rosario applied an armbar and Johnson submitted.
"I knew he would come out pressuring me," said Del Rosario. "It was my first fight in seven months. He was as advertised. He was very strong. I went for a submission and I got it."
It was the 10th time in 11 fights that Del Rosario, who connected on 37 of his 64 attempted strikes, finished his opponent in the first round.
Chad Griggs (10-1) finished Gian Villante (7-2) at 2:49 of the first round after a whirlwind brawl. Neither fighter exhibited much in the way of technical skill, but both brought the crowd to its feet with a series of wild haymakers at the outset. Villante connected with a huge head kick that caused Griggs' cauliflower left ear to bleed heavily. Griggs caught a break when referee Yves Lavigne stopped the fight to let Griggs retrieve his mouthpiece, which had been knocked out of his mouth by the force of the kick. And Griggs, who previously had been best known for knocking out highly touted Bobby Lashley, came out of the timeout swinging, finishing Villante off soon thereafter.
The main card opened with Valentijn Overeem (29-25) making short work of Ray "Sugarfoot" Sefo (2-1). The near 40-year-old Sefo is a decorated kickboxer and Muay Thai fighter but is inexperienced in MMA. That showed in the fight as Overeem, the brother of Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem, quickly took Sefo down to the mat and out of his element. Overeem worked into position for a neck crank and got the submission just 97 seconds into the fight.
The tournament continues on April 9 at a site to be determined, where the remaining quarterfinal matches will be held – Alistair Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum, and Josh Barnett vs. Brett Rogers. Silva meets the Overeem-Werdum winner and Kharitonov gets Barnett-Rogers.