Fedor finally loses, but mystique still exists

July 2, 2010

Fedor Emelianenko said it was God’s will. It’s written in the Bible (Jeremiah 29:11) that God has plans to prosper and not harm ... plans to give hope and a future.

He had to lose some day. It’s the nature of sports and it’s a test of character. The best of the finest in MMA have become even better after a loss. Now it’s Emelianenko’s turn.

"If God decided it that way that means that was the best way for this very time,” Emelianenko said after his first loss in 10 years and 28 fights. “I thank God for everything. The one who doesn't fall doesn't stand up.”

All it took was Fabricio Werdum, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion, to trap the great Emelianenko in a triangle choke, forcing him to tap 69 seconds into Strikeforce’s main event Saturday in San Jose, to burn up Twitter, threads and the MMA media with news of arguably the most shocking upset in the history of the sport. The last time Werdum was in a marquee fight Junior dos Santos blasted him to bits and out of the UFC with an 80-second knockout. Werdum signed with Strikeforce and won his next two, but was viewed as nothing more than a stepping stone to Emelianenko and a heavyweight title showdown with Alistair Overeem that may have ended up on pay-per-view.

Alas, even Fedor and his aura is human, prone to mistakes. He decked Werdum almost immediately and went for the kill. That’s when Werdum set his trap and executed Brazilian jiu-jitsu in its purest form.

I disagree, however, with anyone claiming the mystique of "The Last Emperor" is gone. One loss isn’t a stigma of what’s still one of MMA’s outstanding careers. Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, Georges St. Pierre, B.J. Penn and Cung Le all tasted defeat. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera blows a save once in awhile. All of them recovered. All are regarded as the best at their craft. Tapping out Werdum, now MMA’s Buster Douglas, doesn’t alter Emelianenko’s stature.

"It happens so that I was made an idol," Emelianenko said. "Everybody loses. That happens. I'm an ordinary human being as all of us are. I'm a normal human being, as are all of us. If it is God's will, the next fight I'll win."

For one night it looked like God was an MMA fan. The show was the best I’ve seen from the company since I started covering the sport, Strikeforce drew only 12,698 to San Jose’s HP Pavilion, light years behind the 18,265 that saw Frank Shamrock defeat Cesar Gracie in 2006 and less than the 14,749 it drew in December 2009, the last time Strikeforce was in the Bay Area.

The big story, though, was a ratings jump of 56 for the show against May's "Strikeforce: St. Louis" event, reports MMAJunkie.com. The story adds that viewership increased throughout the telecast and ratings peaked for Emelianenko-Werdum with a 2.1 household rating and more than 700,000 viewers.

The buzz over Emelianenko losing is bleeding into the hype for Saturday’s UFC 116 show. Fans want a rematch. The fighters want it – Werdum wants it over a shot at Overeem – and CEO Scott Coker may give it to them.

"I think more people are going to want to see the rematch," Coker said during the post-fight press conference. "That's how I feel. Emelianenko is going to come back, and I wouldn't want to be the one to fight him in a rematch. You're going to see him come out with a vengeance."

Whether this will qualify for a pay-per-view remains to be seen. Strikeforce needs to buff the undercard with viable bouts and step up its marketing efforts. If not PPV, it’ll be Coker’s best chance to make amends with CBS in light of the disaster in Nashville.

"To me, [pay-per-view and CBS] are both fantastic," Coker said. "The beauty about CBS is the UFC could do five pay-per-views, and it could be one CBS broadcast in terms of viewership. The viewership [Werdum vs. Emelianenko II] could garnish, it would do four or five or six million viewers.”

For the first time in awhile, Strikeforce reveled in publicity’s glory, though it won’t last with UFC 116 days away and the winner of Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin to be rightfully considered the finest heavyweight in the world. Werdum’s win, however, won’t fade so easily. Even if Werdum doesn’t remember getting punched, he will cherish how he shocked the MMA world for the rest of his life.

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Who’s next for Overeem? MMAjunkie.com also reports that Overeem (33-11 MMA, 3-0 DREAM) has verbally agreed to face former UFC champion Ricco Rodriguez (42-11 MMA, 0-0 DREAM) at DREAM.15.

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Lost in shuffle of the Fedor shocker: Le looked awesome. Josh Thomson showed grit and courage. And Cris Cyborg, gender be damned, showed once again she’s one of the best in the world, period. There was no quit in Jan Finney, and that’s admirable, but she had no business being in the cage with Cyborg, nor did Kim Winslow have any right to allow that fight to go longer than it did. In MMA, the safety of the fighter is first and foremost, consequences and complaints be damned too. From what I read, it looks like Strikeforce and Erin Toughill are working out their differences. Toughill hasn’t fought in more than a year, so Coker is correct that she’ll first need a tune-up fight, but there’s honestly nobody remotely close who can hang with Cyborg right now, except Toughill.

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Credit Scott Smith (as always) for his guts and Le for making the adjustments to rebound from his first career defeat. I can see Le and Scott Smith fight 10 more times, but Le’s next step needs to be a spot in the middleweight title tournament once Jake Shields says farewell ... Despite broken ribs, Thomson stopped Pat Healy and didn’t let a close fight get to the judges. I call for a rubber match with The Punk and Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez for a spot on the undercard of Fedor-Werdum II ... Dana White’s Tweet seven minutes after Fedor’s loss summed up his feelings perfectly, : D. 

 

Originally posted on the FightLaunch.com MMA Blog.

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