Fabricio Werdum vs. Fedor Emelianenko: Dave
Added to Fedor
Emelianenko’s considerable accomplishments during a ten-year
MMA career: breaking the Internet.
Emelianenko, 33 and with a 32-1 (1 NC) record heading into
Saturday’s fight with Fabricio
Werdum, has spent the last three years as one of the sport’s
best fighters and its single most divisive personality. The
mystique of his undefeated record made him the UFC’s priority
acquisition -- yet he and his management team rejected their
advances, an arrogance that pleased fans irritated at the UFC’s
monopoly and annoyed others who wanted to see him butt heads with
the 280-pound wrestlers.
For fans, his disinterest was an example of a fighter who refused
to become a commodity; for Dana White, he was a fading champion who
didn’t deserve the respect shoveled on him. It is probably not
unreasonable to say significant ad space was sold on sites that got
bumper-to-bumper traffic based on the debate. Strikeforce and
Emelianenko got plenty of press. The only person it didn’t benefit
was White, who was chastised in media for not being able to close a
White’s consolation was that Emelianenko losing was only a matter
of time. Everyone does, sometimes to an athlete most would
overlook. (St. Pierre and Silva, the UFC’s two best fighters, lost
Chonan and Matt Serra,
respectively, Washington Generals-level underdogs.) But what made
Fedor special was his inexplicable ability to defy the odds for so
long. In a sport where just one mistake can cost you a loss -- or a
broken arm, or worse -- he had somehow navigated through a decade
without suffering a freak occurrence, injury, or brain fart.
Until this weekend. Emelianenko rushed Werdum, who fell to his back
more out of a loss of balance than punishment, and made a horrible
error: he willingly tumbled into Werdum’s guard, a position
representing his biggest danger of the fight. Without the sweat of
a long fight to help him, a dry Emelianenko was forced to tap to a
triangle choke. Message boards, busy for so long with arguments
over his abilities, froze from the congestion.
In a sport where you’re only as good as your last fight, getting
tied and tapped by a triangle in just over a minute leaves
Emelianenko open to some revisionist history. But reputations are
built on the sum total of efforts: to date, no heavyweight has
dominated his division as thoroughly, consistently, and for as long
as Emelianenko has. He may not be the best heavyweight competing
today, but he is easily the most accomplished.
There will probably be a rematch with Werdum, and a chance to
reestablish the claim that Emelianenko has beaten every man he’s
ever faced. There may also be a softening on demands from M-1, his
squad of contract negotiators, who can no longer twist promoters
with the promise of delivering a superhuman. The loss may even
provide the best result possible for his fans: a career-ending trip
in the UFC. And with it, a chance to break the Internet one more
Will Fedor regain his
Recognition that, at 38, he has only a sliver of time left as a
competitive athlete and should take the fights he wants sooner
rather than later.
More ‘80s-Tyson-level squash
Continuing to be underrated; Lyle
Werdum had a defibrillator effect on the industry by tapping Fedor
Saturday, becoming the first man ever to decisively stop the
Russian. With that will come loads of sponsorship and endorsement
opportunities -- but his window closes fast if Emelianenko gets his
rematch in short order.
The debatable question is whether Werdum should be ranked number
one for beating the world’s No. 1 heavyweight. Or should that be
Santos, who beat Werdum nearly two years ago? Or the winner of
next weekend’s Carwin/Lesnar bout? Dana White, fans, and media will
get plenty of mileage in figuring it out.
While he was respected for being an excellent, well-rounded
fighter, much of Emelianenko’s recognition came from his record --
a feat nearly impossible in a sport as unpredictable and varied as
MMA. Without that armor, the drawing power of a monosyllabic
foreigner with central obesity takes a hit.
Emelianenko could restore much of his appeal with a decisive,
bloody bit of revenge against Werdum. But the days of considering
Emelianenko the Rocky Marciano of this sport are over.
Unlike the UFC, which can count on its brand to deliver a
bottom-floor level of business, Strikeforce is largely dependent on
the appeal of its matches. Owning Emelianenko was their single
biggest resource for media and legitimacy. Now that he’s lost,
depreciation is going to follow.
In the short term, they’ve lost potential pay-per-view revenue in a
fight with Alistair
Overeem: worse, Fedor’s conqueror in Werdum isn’t particularly
charismatic or a crowd draw. Long-term, other lost attractions like
Carano (doing movies), Herschel
Walker (probably good for one or two more fights), Frank
Shamrock (retired), and Cung Le (aging)
aren’t going to be there to deliver box office.
Emelianenko’s comeback story will get a lot of play. If he can beat
Werdum and resurrect interest in a fight with Overeem, it’ll be a
happier scene than the one on Saturday.
Winslow, the sport’s only female referee at the televised level,
drew sharp words for her officiating of the “Cyborg”
Finney fight. Santos scored four knockdowns in the bout, most
of which she followed up with a barrage of punches from the top.
Winslow was complacent until a knee to the body dropped Finney in
Finney defended well, covering her face and deflecting most of the
major blows on the ground. But a fighter getting repeatedly knocked
down is a fairly obvious indication of scrambled brain function:
even a sport as cruel as boxing often prohibits a fighter from
continuing after three knockdowns in a round. While Finney may have
seemed game, what amounted to a 9-7 round (Santos was deducted a
point for a foul) should’ve been cause for Winslow to step in. If
not, her corner should have. Taking a beating is admirable, but
it’s one seriously misguided compliment.
Thomson, who squeaked out a win against a dangerous and
underrated Pat Healy,
suffered two broken ribs in the bout according to MMAJunkie.com.
Prior to a choke by Thomson in the third, it looked like Healy
bettors were going to have a profitable night…Strikeforce chair
Scott Coker told press after the bout that Erin
Toughill would be on tap for “Cyborg” Santos later in the year.
Toughill signed with the promotion earlier this year but has yet to
make her debut. At this point, recruiting solid female Judoka or
wrestlers to test Santos’ jiu-jitsu might be the only way to make
her division competitive…Coker also stated a Werdum/Emelianenko
rematch was a possibility for pay-per-view, which would be a big
mistake: that’s a CBS attraction, and if they want to deliver
eyeballs for the network, that’s where it should be
Shamrock, one of the biggest talents in an era where no one was
watching, announced his retirement Saturday. While his attitude put
some people off, he was one of the first athletes to understand the
psychology of fighting (and fight promoting). His omission from the
UFC’s hall of fame remains that promotion’s most immature decision.