Bigfoot Announces His Presence
It would be easy to start this assessment of the news that came out of Saturday’s Strikeforce event talking about Fedor Emelianenko, but that would be a disservice to Antonio Silva.
The massive Brazilian executed a tremendous game plan and showed he belongs in the hunt of the Heavyweight Grand Prix title, working a more technical approach in the opening round and stinging Emelianenko several times before taking him down at the outset of the second frame. From there, Silva put a beating on the iconic Russian, landing hammerfists from mount and cinching in strong chokes a couple different times.
When the round ended, Emelianenko was a mess, his right eye swollen shut and purple welts painting his face, leading the doctor to call an end to the bout. Silva was overjoyed, and showed the utmost respect for his opponent, walking over to kneel at Fedor’s feet before shaking his hand and giving him a kiss on the head.
While many will trumpet Silva’s size advantage as the main deciding factor in the fight – and it was certainly important – he’s also a highly-skilled fighter, and one the rest of the tournament field should watch out for moving forward.
The End of an Era
Even if that wasn’t the last time we see Fedor Emelianenko inside the cage, it was the last time fans and media alike will look at “The Last Emperor” as a mythic superstar with an aura of invincibility.
His loss to Fabricio Werdum showed that the old adage that everybody loses is true, but back-to-back defeats takes it a step further; it shows that Emelianenko is as human as his opponents, capable of being outworked and victimized by a bigger man or a better game plan, or both as was the case Saturday night in New Jersey.
Regardless of the realization that Emelianenko is indeed mortal, his career has still been legendary; more than eight years without a defeat, a 31-3 record and a place as the best heavyweight in the history of the sport cannot be taken away from him.
The debates about Emelianenko will rage on throughout the week, but when the dust settles, the smoke clears and the next biggest story in MMA arrives, “The Last Emperor” will go down in history as one of the best to ever compete, and that is what is most important.
On the Road to Epic Failure?
With Emelianenko out of the tournament there are only two scenarios that prevent this tournament from going down in flames.
The first is a Silva sweep from here on out.
The Brazilian should gain momentum with fans because of his win, though he won’t receive nearly as much interest as Emelianenko would have generated. Still, beating Fedor and following it up with two more strong wins catapults Silva up the rankings, and sets up a title fight with Overeem once the tournament conclused.
Outside of “Bigfoot” winning it all, the winner of the April clash between Fabricio Werdum and Alistair Overeem has to do the same.
Ideally, the Strikeforce heavyweight champion runs the table, legitimizes the belt and solidifies his place as one of the top heavyweights in the sport today. If Werdum beats Overeem, he too needs to win out, even if that renders the heavyweight title meaningless.
Anything else turns the division into a complete mess, with a title belt that holds no value and a collection of contenders that are hit-and-miss from fight-to-fight.
Strikeforce Threw Their Females Fighters Under the Bus
Hey everybody! Look over here! Gina Carano is back! She’s the face of women’s MMA!
After an 18-month stretch where fighters like Sarah Kaufman, Miesha Tate, Marloes Coenen and Cris Cyborg carried the torch for Women’s MMA in the Strikeforce organization, the company threw them all under the bus by parading out Carano and making a grand production out of her impending return.
I get it, she’s really attractive. But she also got throttled the last time she was in the cage and has yet to show me anything on the level of Cyborg or the other three females mentioned earlier that merits such an over-the-top announcement.
Until she gets back in the cage and impresses against a solid contender, Strikeforce should hold off on trumpeting Carano as loudly as they did Saturday night. It’s an insult to the females who have established themselves in her stead and keeps you out of danger should “The Face of Women’s MMA” catch another beating when she steps back into the cage.
Broadcasting Rule #1: Know Who and What You’re Talking About
A new MMA drinking game could have been born Saturday night: take a shot every time the Strikeforce announce team bastardizes the name Kharitonov or over-extends on a comparison.
I’m not going to linger here long because it’s a moot point; Gus Johnson and company aren’t going anywhere any time soon.
That being said, it’s Kharitonov and as solid as he looked in dispatching Andrei Arlovski, he most certainly didn’t look like a young Emelianenko.
P.S. Mauro: you need to relax, and not every situation relates back to a moment from your career, Frank.
Speaking of Kharitonov…
The dark horse in the Heavyweight Grand Prix field looked good in stalking Arlovski and putting him away with a series of thunderous strikes.
But what does it all mean?
Right now, all it means is that Kharitonov is through to the semifinals, where he will meet the winner of the April fight between Brett Rogers and Josh Barnett.
Knocking out Arlovski at this stage isn’t a grand accomplishment. Kharitonov is the fourth consecutive opponent to leave “The Pitbull” glassy-eyed.
Putting together the same kind of performance in the second round will solidify the Russian as a true contender in the heavyweight ranks, win or lose. Outside of that, he’s still an underdog in the field.