Emelianenko's loss rocks MMA world

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Fabricio Werdum was fully cognizant that the greatest moment of his life took place in front of a crowd of 12,698 at HP Pavilion on Saturday night, even if he couldn't fully remember all the details of a fight that went only 69 seconds.

Werdum (14-4-1) was knocked down in an opening flurry against Russia's Fedor Emelianenko, generally considered the greatest MMA fighter in history. Werdum had no idea he even was punched but did recall locking on a combination triangle choke and armbar leading to what may go down as the most famous tapout in the history of the sport.

"I don't remember the fight right now," Werdum said. "I have to watch the fight. I like to watch my fight 15 times. Fedor punched me? I don't remember. Maybe the punch affected my mind."

Emelianenko (32-2, 1 no contest) had gone 28 straight fights without a loss since a fluke December 22, 2000, loss to Tsuyoshi Kosaka, on a match stopped when he was cut in 17 seconds by an illegal elbow.

"The one who doesn't fall never stands up," said Emelianenko, the former PRIDE heavyweight champion, through an interpreter. "It happened that people made me an idol. But everybody loses. I'm just a human being. And if it's God's will next fight, I'll win."

Emelianenko said after the fight it was the triangle, not the armbar, that did him in.

"At the very beginning of the round, I hit him and I wanted to finish as soon as possible," he said. "At that moment, I made a mistake. I would like to have a rematch with Fabricio if he was to agree. I'd love to do that.

"There were several moments when I could escape, but I relied on myself too much and that's why I paid for it. At the very moment when I had to escape, I stopped, and that moment was used for Fabricio to lock it on." The win changes the face of the world heavyweight rankings, which were controversial enough since Emelianenko largely had been considered No. 1 in the world since a 2003 win over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

He dominated PRIDE from 2003 to 2006 when the best heavyweight talent in the world fought in the Japanese promotion. But the axis of power shifted in 2007 when fighters like Nogueira and Mirko Cro Cop were signed by UFC, and even more so in recent years with the emergence of a new breed of American wrestling powerhouses like Brock Lesnar, Shane Carwin and Cain Velasquez, as well as Brazilian striker Junior Dos Santos.

But since Emelianenko's long win streak continued, and he had been the established No. 1, it was hard to say another fighter was better, even though many questioned Emelianenko's level of competition in recent years.

"I'm really very sorry and it's a pity that I disappointed people who believe in me and trusted in me," said Emelianenko. "But everything in this life happens for some reason. If God decided this is what should happen, then it's the best thing for this very time."

Werdum's career high point came less than two years after its nadir. The Brazilian heavyweight, who was 2-2 in the UFC, was cut from the company after Dos Santos, a huge underdog himself, KO'd Werdum in just 1:21 on Oct. 25, 2008, in Chicago.

"I'm so happy," said Werdum, who came into Saturday's fight as a 6-to-1 underdog. "Fedor's the best in the world. This night I'm the best guy, but Fedor is the best in the world, he went 10 years with no losses. I idolized Fedor from when I saw him in PRIDE. Now I beat my idol. Can you imagine how I feel?"

Werdum said he wanted the fight on the ground, where as a two-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion, he felt he had the edge. But he also felt it was imperative if finishing to do so quickly.

"I think it had to be in the first round because you don't have so much sweat," he said. "Maybe the second round it wouldn't be possible because of a lot of sweat. The first round was better for me."

For the promotional parties involved (Strikeforce, Showtime, Emelianenko's handlers in M-1 Global and possibly even CBS), the question becomes what to do next. The most anticipated potential match in the promotion was Alistair Overeem defending the Strikeforce title against Emelianenko, provided the latter won Saturday. Doing that match anytime soon would seem out of the question.

So do you go with Overeem defending against Werdum or a Werdum vs. Emelianenko rematch, with the winner then facing Overeem? As an added twist, Werdum defeated Overeem via submission with a Kimura on May 5, 2006, although that was an Overeem who was more than 25 pounds lighter than this year's model.

Of the three, Emelianenko still is going to be the biggest business draw by far, so the best business would be the rematch, and whoever wins that gets the shot at Overeem.

Emelianenko's loss would seem to make Saturday's Brock Lesnar-Shane Carwin UFC heavyweight title match in Las Vegas a battle for the No. 1 heavyweight position. Overeem has looked impressive in his recent series of quick wins, but the toughest guy he has beaten under MMA rules was Brett Rogers.

Werdum has had three wins since being let go by the UFC. Before Saturday night, he scored a victory against journeyman Mike Kyle and a three-round decision where he recovered from an early disadvantage to beat Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva, a strong second-tier heavyweight.

Emelianenko's loss goes beyond the effect on rankings and goes straight at the power structure of the sport. The UFC deals most of the cards, but M-1 Global had quite a bit of power because of the perception by many of Emelianenko as the best heavyweight fighter. They used that to leverage major demands for years and turned down major UFC money offers in asking for co-promotional rights, which UFC would not agree to.

Strikeforce, looking to make its place as a strong No. 2 group on the worldwide scene, made the deal with Emelianenko and M-1 when UFC couldn't seal the deal last summer. But whatever M-1's leverage might have been in playing both sides when his Strikeforce contract expires after the next fight went down considerably with the loss.

Even if he were to face Werdum next and beat him impressively, and he still would make for intriguing fights against UFC heavyweights, M-1 has lost leverage. It is doubtful UFC would be willing to offer the kind of money it would have if Saturday's result had not happened.

An Emelianenko vs. Werdum rematch would be significantly bigger than the first match, but Emelianenko's appeal was based both on the aura of invincibility he had and the mystique surrounding it. The nature of the loss doesn't indicate that he's washed up or even slipped, as he rocked Werdum hard with the opening barrage.

In fact, in many ways, the finish was the experienced fighter's version of the rookie mistake Lesnar made in his 2007 loss to Frank Mir, a fight when he rocked Mir, made a mental lapse and got caught in a submission. Lesnar dominated that rematch and at least until Saturday is now the top heavyweight in the game.