Fedor's mystique snuffed in 69 seconds

IRVIN MUCHNICK FOR QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:50 AM ET

SAN JOSE -- The aura of invincibility Fedor Emelianenko carried through a decade-long streak of 28 fights without a loss was shattered in a mere 69 seconds Saturday night.

Heavyweight Fabricio Werdum forced Emelianenko to tap out in the first round of the Strikeforce mixed martial arts main event in San Jose, California.

In a stunning encapsulation of MMA’s unpredictability – a creative strength that presents constant new superstar marketing challenges – Fedor floored Werdum with a right hand in the opening seconds and pounced eagerly for a quick finish.

Much too eagerly, as it turned out. In the process, the ”Russian Emperor” left himself wide open for a counter from the bottom by a two-time world jiu-jitsu champion.

Werdum clamped Emelianenko in a left armbar, quickly converted into a combination armbar and triangle choke. With no possibility of escape and nearly four minutes left in the round, the man many regard as the all-time greatest MMA performer had no choice than to tap. A crowd that just moments earlier was bouncing chants of “Fedor!” off the walls of HP Pavilion erupted in disbelief.

As stolid and philosophical in defeat as he has been throughout his string of victories, Emelianenko said through his interpreter that the choke was the decisive hold.

“The one who doesn’t fall, doesn’t stand up,” he said, vowing to analyze his “mistake” and make the necessary adjustments in his next bout.

Emelianenko’s loss will add to the viewpoint that he has recently exhibited diminished skills and conditioning. But Fedor and his M1 Global promotional team have one fight left in their Strikeforce contract and there was no immediate suggestion that he was considering retirement. And if he were, he definitely would not want to end his career on this note.

MMA legend Frank Shamrock, who now does commentary on Strikeforce broadcasts, announced his own retirement from the cage last night, at age 37. Of the Fedor shocker, Shamrock said, “I’ve felt that tap. I’ve made it myself. That’s why this is such an amazing sport.”

It marked the third straight win for Werdum since he was cut from the roster of the more established UFC in 2008.

The result sets up an intriguing three-way scenario of future matches involving Werdum, Emelianenko, and the Strikeforce heavyweight champion, Alistair Overeem (over whom Werdum also owns a submission victory, in 2006). But it perhaps also strengthens the claim that next Saturday’s UFC heavyweight championship bout between Brock Lesnar and challenger Shane Carwin will crown the more widely-recognized version of the baddest dude on the planet.

“Fedor has been my idol and tonight I beat my idol,” Werdum said between the whoops of joy from his entourage of fellow Brazilians. “How do you think I feel about that?”

Strikeforce announced live attendance of 12,698, well short of a sellout.

On Saturday’s undercard, women’s middleweight champion Cris “Cyborg” Santos won by second-round TKO over Jan Finney. The brutally one-sided match again raised the question of whether Strikeforce can find Cyborg any serious competition.

After decisively taking apart Gina Carano last August, Cyborg has not matched her convincing athletic superiority with the prospect of big box office.


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