HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. – Fedor Emelianenko gave the sellout crowd at the Sears Centre what they came to see on Saturday. So, too, did Brett Rogers.
After a lackluster card in mixed martial arts' first network television card in 13 months, the legendary Russian and the upstart American put on a memorable slugfest that ended with Emelianenko stopping Rogers in the second round.
Emelianenko, whose nose was bloodied with the first punch of the fight, landed an overhand right that dropped Rogers hard. Emelianenko pounced and landed shots on the ground until referee John McCarthy stopped it at 1:48.
Both men took and gave punishment in a surprisingly competitive fight. Rogers entered the bout with a 10-0 record, but was given little chance by many. He entered as a 9-1 underdog, but was as competitive with Emelianenko as anyone the Russian has faced in a long time.
Rogers managed to escape several submission attempts in the first and he doled out his share of punishment. But Emelianenko wouldn't be denied and he landed the punishing right that ended the bout.
The main event wasn't helped by a sluggish lead-in bout between Jake Shields and Jason "Mayhem" Miller for the vacant Strikeforce middleweight championship.
Miller made an elaborate dancing entrance that got the crowd roaring, but they were booing loudly by the end of the often-tedious five-round affair. Shields won a unanimous decision by scores of 49-46 twice and 48-47, but there was precious little action.
Most of the bout was spent grappling on the ground with Shields in control but doing little to advance his position. Shields was fortunate to escape a rear naked choke in the third when the bell sounded just as it appeared that Shields was about to tap.
Gegard Mousasi, the Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, overcame a slow start to stop Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou in the second round. Mousasi got a dominant position and pounded Sokoudjou until referee David Smith stopped the non-title match at 3:43.
Heavyweights Antonio Silva and Fabricio Werdum put on a good show in the opener of the main card. Silva had a strong first round and nearly finished Werdum with punches, but Werdum rallied to take the last two and win the fight. He kept his hopes of a bout for the Strikeforce heavyweight title alive with the win.