It had to happen eventually. But who thought that the guy to end the 10-year unbeaten streak of the great Fedor Emelianenko would be Fabricio Werdum?
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace got a blessing in disguise in the opening seconds of the fight at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. Emelianenko came charging forward and grazed him with few punches. The off-balance Werdum fell to his back just 27 seconds in. It came too easy for Fedor. Werdum was far from finished and Fedor made the mistake of recklessly jumping into the Brazilian's guard. Emelianenko never established position, leaving his head and left arm exposed. Werdum locked on an armbar and then added the triangle choke. As his head changed colors, Fedor held out for as long as he could. But with his arm looking like it was going to pop, Emelianenko tapped once on Werdum's hip. Referee "Big" John McCarthy jumped in and the fight was over at 1:09 of the first round.
"I'm very, very happy," said Werdum. "My team is a strong team, I believe in my family. This victory is not me. It's for California, for everybody. Thank you Fedor for the opportunity. Fedor is the best in the world. Fedor is the best."
Fedor was no different in his first legitimate defeat (his only previous loss, in 2000, was on a controversial cuts stoppage) than he was following most of his huge wins in Japan and the U.S. He was stoic and philosophical.
"Frankly speaking, nothing," the former PRIDE heavyweight champion answered when asked what he was thinking after losing for the first time in 10 years. "The one who doesn't fall, doesn't stand up."
Emelianenko (31-2) didn't whine and didn't complain that the victory wasn't legit or take any of the glory away from Werdum.
"I was concentraing on the strikes that's why I made the mistake," said Fedor. "Now we'll make the analysis. We'll try to figure why it happened."
The way in which the historic run came to an end is still shocking and kind of amateurish for a guy who has dominated the sport for so long. Fedor flurried on Werdum early and caught him with three glancing shots. When Werdum fell back, Emelianenko misjudged just how hurt he was. Werdum wasn't and immediately threatened with an armbar. Emelianenko powered his way out but didn't learn his lesson. He stayed right there for Werdum to slap on a triangle choke and work for the armbar. When the 6-foot-4, 238-pound Brazilian eventually straightened out the arm it was too much to take.
What's next for Fedor? He appeared to be on a collision course with Strikeforce heavyweight champ Alistair Overeem. From a viewership standpoint, that had the makings of the biggest non-UFC fight in the history of the sport. Now Overeem would have to get Werdum next, leaving Fedor with no one intriguing left to fight with just one bout left on his Strikeforce contract. Emelianenko told Showtime play-by-play voice Gus Johnson that he had every intent of returning to America to fight again for Strikeforce.
The UFC has been chasing Fedor for years. UFC president Dana White thought he was close but the Russian shocked many by signing with the smaller American promotion Strikeforce. White has been blasting Fedor, his management, Showtime and Strikeforce ever since. Recently, he sounded like he was at his wit's end. UFC has a major heavyweight battle going down next weekend between champion Brock Lesnar and interim champion Shane Carwin. In the leadup to UFC 116., expect a little gloating from White this week about Fedor's loss.
Werdum (14-4-1) made some interesting comments during the postfight interview in the cage, saying he wanted to fight Fedor again and would wait for his chance to fight the champ Overeem.
Watching Fedor lose in this fashion put his 10-year run of dominance into perspective. MMA provides so many different ways of handing a fighter a loss. The fact that Fedor had steamrolled opponents, rarely ever being in jeopardy of losing a fight, has already cemented his legacy as one of the greatest ever. That said, all-timers bounce back from losses and show their moxie when faced with adversity.
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