(…. ….*crickets* …. …. PhotoProps: Strikeforce)
In the days and weeks following Fedor Emelianenko’s stunning loss to Fabricio Werdum inside the Strikeforce cage on Saturday night, some jerk with a website or internet radio show will probably try to tell you that he saw this coming. When that happens it will be important for you to remember that, aside from a very, very select group of individuals, those people are goddamned liars.
In retrospect – and retrospect always feels cheap – maybe it’s not shocking that Emelianenko lost a fight down the stretch of his storied MMA career. Regardless of the nonsensical stuff Frank Shamrock told us at the top of last night’s broadcast about Fedor’s “impenetrable shield of invincibility,” Emelianenko himself has taken pains to remind us again and again that he is, in fact, just a man; a man who puts his traditional Russian garments on one leg at a time like everybody else.
But to lose this fight? Admit it, you didn’t see that coming.
What was additionally shocking was that Fedor appeared to bring the defeat on himself by making such a classic rookie mistake. After dropping Werdum with a blitz of his signature winging punches just a few seconds into the fight, Emelianenko followed him to the mat with a wild aggression befitting a much less experienced fighter. Even after the jiu jitsu ace almost snared him in an arm bar early on, it didn’t look like Fedor even considered the possibility he might get caught in a submission while he was dropping unchecked hammerfists on Werdum’s head. The 6-foot-4 Brazilian, meanwhile, calmly adjusted his legs to lock in a triangle choke.
Even when it became clear that Fedor was stuck and his head started to turn a deep shade of purple, we all had to be thinking, “He’s going to get out of this … he’s going to get out of this …,” right up to the moment that the choke/arm bar elicited a single, defeated tap to Werdum’s left leg. Turns out, Emelianenko even taps differently than everyone else in MMA.
The end, like in a lot of big-time MMA fights, was a bit anticlimactic. It took just a minute, nine seconds and aside from Fedor’s early flurry, which made it look like the outcome was going to be just as academic as we all thought in the week leading up to the fight, there wasn’t a lot to see. Still, even for the most strident supporters of “The Last Emperor” it was hard not to feel kind of good for Werdum, who looked just as surprised as everybody else (maybe more so) as he raced across the cage with his hands raised as soon as referee John McCarthy called a stop to the fight.
“My feel is very, very happy,” a clearly elated Werdum said when Gus Johnson asked him about his feelings during their post-fight interview. He also acknowledged the unpredictable and sort-of indefinite nature of his own win, saying even he still felt Fedor was the best fighter in the world.
That final question – Is Fedor still the best? — is certainly one Strikeforce is going to have to grapple with duiring the next few weeks. The loss naturally appears to dash the company’s plans to have Emelianenko fight Alistair Overeem for the title later in the year. While a meeting between Werdum and Alistair would be OK, it wouldn’t have nearly the same sizzle of Fedor vs. Overeem, a fight so potentially big that CEO Scott Coker had even talked about trying to put it on pay-per-view. Obviously, Strikeforce isn’t above having a guy who just lost fight for the title, but that would seem like a giant cop-out in this situation. For his part, Werdum said he’d like to fight Fedor again, as if he too needs to see this shit again to believe it.
From somewhere in the world, UFC President Dana White tweeted a giant smiley face in the moments following the fight. Stay classy, Big DW. By comparison, Fedor himself was the picture of civility following his first real career loss.
“I was made into a kind of an idol,” he said at the post-fight press conference. “I’m a normal human being as all of us, and if it is God’s will, the next fight I will win.”
Emelianenko has one fight left on his contract with Strikeforce and said that he will honor that commitment.