For many hardcore Mixed Martial Arts fans, the first round of the Strikeforce World Heavyweight Grand Prix was supposed to be Christmas and your birthday rolled into one event. A throwback, to the good ol’days of MMA, when PRIDE FC was having their famous tournaments. Last night as we were enjoying a stellar card of Heavyweight fights that ended in climactic finishes, the main of Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva Vs. Fedor Emelianenko ended in a way that wasn’t very “Fedor” like.
You can feel the anticipation in the air while watching at home and at the IZOD Center in New Jersey. As both fighters made their grand entrance to the fight, you can imagine the millions of questions running through the minds of fight fans. Was Fedor having an off night against Werdum? Will lightning strike twice tonight? Is Bigfoot too slow for the Last Emperor? All you hopes and doubts were answered last night at the sound of the bell.
With hands low and chin high, Fedor moved into the pocket of Bigfoot and swung his signature looping hooks aimed at the face of Silva. Bigfoot did a wonderful job defending against Fedor’s heavy hands, using his size to keep The Last Emperor close and pinned to the cage. The fight went back and forth in the first round with Fedor attempting guillotine chokes, Bigfoot scoring takedowns, and what’s a Fedor fight without him jumping into the ground with a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt? The first round ended with the big man on top, which would become the story of the whole fight.
As soon as the bell rang in the second round, Antonio Silva took Fedor down to the canvas. For practically the whole round, Silva used his thirty pound weight advantage on the ground (some say he even had a fifty pound weight advantage at fight time). Bigfoot had Fedor in all kinds of dangerous dominant positions, everything from the full mount to side control. The Brazilian unleashed his fury of heavy ground and pound for practically two whole minutes in the 2nd round. Each blow from Silva’s fist had “bad intentions” written all over it, each hitting Fedor clean in the right eye.
Just when you thought the storm of fists was over, Silva placed Emelianenko in a very tight side arm triangle choke. Fedor was being choked in Silva’s vice grip like arms for nearly a minute. But just when you thought he was finished, he somehow found a way to get out of that dangerous situation. Around the thirty second mark of the round, Bigfoot grabbed Fedor’s leg and attempted a kneebar. Fedor once again rolled out of that potentially dangerous position and locked in a leg lock submission attempt of his own. At the end of the 2nd round, when Fedor got back to his feet you could see his right eye was completely shut from the heavy punches of Antonio Silva. The referee and the doctors felt that since Fedor couldn’t see at all from his swollen right eye, it was appropriate to end the fight.
Following the loss, a physically broken Fedor Emelianenko addressed his fans that have loved him and followed him all these years:
“Thank you very much for your love and support. What happened, maybe I didn’t manage to readjust myself, something went wrong from the very beginning. Maybe it’s the time to leave, maybe it’s the last time. Thanks God for everything, I spent a great, beautiful, and long sports life. Maybe it’s God’s will.”
Right after Fedor’s loss to Antonio Silva, UFC President Dana White set the MMA Twitter world on fire with one simple tweet:
Fans world wide were outraged by that single tweet, many who’ve never used Twitter before signed up for accounts just to have an opportunity to voice their opinion to the UFC President. Even now while I type this article for you guys, people are still tweeting Dana White and Dana is firing back at the people as well.
All controversy aside, this main event might have been the very last time we’d ever see Fedor Emelianenko again. His accomplishments in the ring / cage, make him the Mohammad Ali of our your sport. When ever he put on the gloves and walked out to “Oy, To Ne Vecher”, we knew we were in for something special, something epic. In a way, he was bigger than the sport of MMA. He was an icon and hero to many. A humble man, a religious man from the small city of Stary Oskol, Russia that became one of the most beloved figures. A man who never knew how to quit, who only knew to push forward, and no matter how hard he got hit, you couldn’t keep him down.
Some will say he was the greatest of all time, some will say he was ducking the best competition in the UFC, and some will even say he didn’t belong in the heavyweight division. Could he have won this fight at a lighter weight class? Perhaps, but we may never find the answer to that question. With this loss, it actually symbolizes the passing of the torch from one generation to the next. I’m not saying Bigfoot is the next Fedor, but this is a perfect example that the Heavyweights in this day and age are not like they were in Fedor’s day.
Regardless of Fedor’s decision to leave this sport behind, as a diehard fan I support whatever he decides 100%. If he does leave and walks off into the sunset, at least he left on his own terms. When I get older, with kids of my own, and eventually grandchildren, I’ll tell them stories of this pudgy Russian guy that captured the imagination of millions. I’ll never forget The Last Emperor.
Photos by Esther Lin for Strikeforce/Showtime