A Stunning Saturday — Fabrico Werdum’s submission of Fedor Emelianenko in San Jose considered greatest upset in MMA history

By Jon Swenson - Last updated: Wednesday, June 30, 2010 - Save & Share - 2 Comments

Brazil's Fabricio Werdum celebrates atop the cage after upsetting Fedor Emelianenko in Strikeforce M1 Global heavyweight match

Fedor Emelianenko discusses his loss after Strikeforce M1 Global main event at press conference

Stunned. After Fabrico Werdum submitted top-ranked Fedor Emelianenko 69 seconds into the Strikeforce/M1 Global main event with a combination triange choke/armbar, many media on press row and fans in the stands stood in stunned silence. Mouths were agape, one fan stood on his chair shaking his head back and forth. There was a distant, far off stare by members of Emelianenko’s hard nosed M1 Global management group and their large red-clad entourage cageside. HP Pavilion officials, ushers, photographers, trainers, even a few of the security staff and the CSAC officials took a moment to register what they just witnessed inside the cage.

Then came the piercing scream from Werdum as he leaped atop the fence in celebration, and shortly went over it into the arms of his jubilant fight camp on the apron. He was quickly ushered back into the cage for post-fight proceedings, but members of his fight team were overcome with emotion. One front rolled over the fence and into the cage, another was stopped short by a pretty technical double leg by Showtime’s security staff. HP Pavilion’s security staff were barely able to control the situation, as Werdum’s camp wanted to spill into the cage in celebration. Renato ‘Babalu’ Sobral broke down into the arms of a pair of teammates as he was overcome with emotion.

It was that powerful a moment. To those inside the mixed martial arts game for any length of time, the aura and mystique of the top ranked heavyweight and one of the pound-for-pound alltime greats Fedor Emelianenko preceeded himself. A calm, quiet and simple figure outside of a cage or a ring, inside of it he has been one of the most devestating figures in the history of the sport. With 28 wins and 1 no contest in the 10 years since a fluke stoppage in 2000, Emelianenko nearly doubled the reign of terror heavyweight Mike Tyson inflicted on boxing in the 80′s and 90′s. Like Tyson, the intimidation Emelianenko brought with him often decided fights before he stepped into a ring or a cage. Unlike Tyson, Fedor has twice as many submissions as devestating knockouts, and solid judo and grapplings skills on top of that.

Werdum, when asked what it felt like to beat Fedor, mentioned through a translator, “I just beat my idol, how do you think i feel?” A much more somber Emelianenko said through a translator, “One that does not fall, does not stand up.” He added, “I was concentrating on the strikes and made a mistake, I will have to go back and analyze what happened.’’ He lightened up during the question and answer session, and seemingly took the loss with less difficulty than members of his extensive entourage. One reporter speculated that the pressure of being such a dominant figure in the sport was now off of his shoulders. At one point, the question and answer session was strained as singing and dancing from Fabricio Wedum’s very loud celebration could be heard from down the hall.

The main event fight itself looked much different in person than it did on Showtime. From press row it looked like Emelianenko missed with an initial exchange, before Werdum fell to his back and Fedor pressed for the ground and pound knockout. Via the replay, 25 seconds in Emelianenko connected with a pinpoint right hand to the head, then landed 2 of the next 4 hooks in quick succession. The longtime Pride FC heavyweight champion pressed forward, pushing the legs of Werdum out of the way. Fabricio was able to get his legs back in front of him, and control Fedor’s left hand.

With control of the hand comes control of the arm, and Emelianenko had to battle a combination triangle choke/armbar submission attempt. With three previous fights vs the first Pride FC heavyweight champion, also a former UFC interim heavyweight champion and dominant grappler, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Emelianenko instinctively spun out to his right and pushed Werdum’s legs aside. The sons of UFC founder Rorion Gracie, Ryron and Rener Gracie, offered a technical video analysis of the BJJ Werdum used here.

Emelianenko, as is his wont, does not really respect the strengths of his opponents. In the past he has simply blown through wrestlers, kickboxers, judoka or BJJ specialists, usually with similar results. He tossed Werdum’s legs aside, and jumped in looking to hammer out the fight with his right hand. Werdum used his 6-foot-4, 240-pound frame to his fullest, and spun back into a solid guard position and quickly regained control of Emelianenko’s hand. This time, backed against the cage Fedor could not spin out. Werdum alternated between pressure on the armbar, and pressure on a locked in a full triangle choke, and the fight was over. Emelianenko offered a single tap, and the landscape of the entire heavyweight division was changed in an instant.

“I am so very, very happy,’’ the 2-time BJJ World Champion and 2-time ADCC heavyweight submission grappling champion Fabricio Werdum said. “He is such a strong man. He is a great fighter. I would be glad to fight him again.’’ Werdum upset the apple cart for Strikeforce’s heavyweight plans. Fedor was an overwhelming favorite to win, and many expected the final fight of Fedor Emelianenko’s 3-fight deal with Strikeforce to be against current heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem (full disclosure that is a Sharkspage photo, not a Strikeforce photo as listed on several dozen newspaper sites and blogs). “Personally, I hope Fedor wins the fight. I am a big fan of his fighting, and I am looking towards fighting him myself,” Overeem told Showtime’s Mauro Ranallo in a cageside interview before the Fedor-Werdum fight.

An Emelianenko vs Overeem heavyweight title fight could have taken place in April or May, but Fedor’s managment at M1-Global decided to re-enter negotiations for their already completed co-promotional arrangement with Strikeforce. Sherdog.com’s Loretta Hunt interviewed Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker on an immediate rematch for Fedor-Wedum II. “If fighters want to fight, I want to promote… if it makes business sense, we could put on a great fight,” Coker said. “At this point, I feel that we will do the rematch if they want to do it, I think the future in our heavyweight division looks fantastic.” One of the only individuals to publically predict Werdum over Emelianenko, Coker said he based it on Fedor not having an experience advantage over Fabricio, and due to a simple gut feeling.

From a rankings perspective, SBnation/USA Today’s consensus heavyweight rankings have yet to come out, but the needle in the heavyweight division is already starting to move. Sherdog.com in rankings this week dropped Fedor from #1 to #3, and quizically moved Werdum up from #9 to only #2. The UFC’s Brock Lesnar, with all of a 4-1 mma record and a still unproven comeback from a life-threatening bout with diverticulitis, moves up to #1 days before his fight with #5 Shane Carwin. MMAweekly.com goes with a similar Lesnar, Werdum, Emelianenko top three. It should be noted that on both Sherdog (Werdum, Emelianenko, Overeem, Silva) and MMAweekly (Werdum, Emelianenko, Overeem, Rogers) lists, four of the top 10 heavyweights reside in the Strikeforce promotion. Andrei Arlovski and free agent Josh Barnett remain on the outside looking in.

Plaintiff claims by UFC president Dana White that Strikeforce heavyweights do not face quality compeition are not bared out by the facts. The next wave of heavyweight stars could be found among Shane Carwin, Junior dos Santos, and San Jose based Cain Velasquez, and Lesnar offers a must-see spectacle at the top of the promotion, but for one of the few times in MMA’s short history the heavyweight division of two promotions are prepared to offer interesting and compelling fights for an extended period. Only 5 years into its run as a mixed martial arts promotion, Strikeforce offered the biggest upset in mixed martial arts history. Fedor’s loss is only going to increase interest in a rematch with Werdum, and a possible title fight with Overeem.

On the undercard, longtime San Jose kickboxer and mixed martial artist Cung Le used a spinning back kick to end a fight with Sacramento’s Scott Smith 1:46 into the second round. Le could not finish Smith in their December 2009 meeting despite a minute and a half of non-stop punches from a dominant position. This time when Le had Smith on the ground, he wound up and delivered heavy punches to the body and knee strikes to the shoulder. Le denied interest in a potential Middleweight tournament that features the deepest pool of talent in the Strikeforce organization. Strikeforce Women’s Middleweight champion Cris ‘Cyborg’ Santos demolished Jan Finney 2:56 into the second round, a stoppage that could have come from female referee Kim Winslow much, much sooner. According to official Compustrike figures, Cyborg landed 141 strikes to Finney’s 21. Compustrike notes that Cyborg has oustruck opponents 387-94 in her last 5 fights. San Jose’s Josh Thompson rebounded from a title defeat to Gilbert Melendez with a come-from-behind RNC submission of Pat Healy at 4:27 of the third round. Chris Cope, Bret Bergmark, a 9-0 Yancy Medeiros and Pacifica native Bobby Stack were also successful on the untelevised undercard.

According to MMAjunkie.com, ratings for “Fedor vs. Werdum” on Showtime were up 56 percent equalling the third highest MMA broadcast on the network. Ratings peaked at a 2.1 household rating and over 700,000 viewers for the subscription based network. Only Carano-Cyborg from San Jose, and Hercshel Walker’s debut this January in Florida earned higher ratings. Attendance announced at Saturday’s post-fight press conference was 11,757 officially, with a $1 million gate. It is the sixth highest attendance for a mixed martial arts promotion in San Jose. Jan Finney (60 days), Scott Smith (60 days), Josh Thomson (180 days), Ron Keslar (45 days) and Gareth Joseph (45 days) were issued medical suspensions by the California State Athletic Commission.

Payroll figures announced for Fedor vs. Werdum headliners: Fedor Emelianenko ($400,000), Fabricio Werdum ($100,000), Cung Le ($100,000), Scott Smith ($55,000), “Cyborg” Santos ($35,000 w/ win and champion bonus), Jan Finney ($6,000), Josh Thomson ($60,000) and Pat Healy ($8,000).

A photo gallery from the event is available here. Note: After the 5th round of the NHL draft at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, made the drive back to HP Pavilion in San Jose and made it to seat 2 minutes before Josh Thomson fight.

[Update] Fedor Loses: Werdum Shocks the World – Sherdog.com.

Fabricio Werdum turned the MMA world on its ear with his stunning upset off top-ranked heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko at Strikeforce/M-1 Global “Fedor vs. Werdum” on Saturday at the HP Pavilion.

[Update2] “Strikeforce/M-1 Global: Fedor vs. Werdum” recap: Werdum shocks Emelianenko – MMAjunkie.com.

For the first time in more than a decade – and for just the second time in his storied career – famed heavyweight fighter Fedor Emelianenko has experienced the sting of defeat.

Facing fellow PRIDE veteran and heavy underdog Fabricio Werdum, Emelianenko scored a quick first-round knockdown only to get trapped in a fight-ending triangle choke when he moved in for the finish.

[Update3] Fedor dethroned, Werdum topples last emperor – MMAweekly.com.

[Update4] Fedor: “This loss was necessary for me, I never wanted to be a god” – Prommanow.com.

[Update5] Showtime posted the retirement video that preceeded Frank Shamrock’s statement inside the cage on Saturday night. Shamrock was a large local draw that helped establish San Jose as a destination for the sport, and Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said it was at the urging of Shamrock that he transitioned from a kickboxing to an MMA promotion.

[Update6] Fedor’s decade of domination ends with 69-second submission – Josh Gross for Sports Illustrated.

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2 Responses to “A Stunning Saturday — Fabrico Werdum’s submission of Fedor Emelianenko in San Jose considered greatest upset in MMA history”

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