Sunday, June 27, 2010

One must fall to ultimately stand again

Wow, where do I begin? After easily the biggest upset in MMA so far this year, one could argue of all-time, and one of the most exciting fight cards, Strikeforce put on quite a show this past Saturday night. I guess their main event featuring Fabricio Werdum's stunning first round defeat of previously invincible Fedor Emelianenko is where I should start.

The world's greatest mixed martial artist and number one pound for pound fighter Fedor Emelianenko (31-2, 8 KO's 16 subs) was headlining against formidable Fabricio Werdum (pictured above) (14-4-1, 4 KO's 8 subs). In the first 30 seconds it looked like business as usual for the man known as 'The Last Emperor'. With his deceptively quick hands, Fedor threw a four-punch combination that didn't land flush, but just enough to knock Werdum backward to the ground. Unfortunately, this would prove to be the best thing for Werdum and Fedor's downfall.

A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt, who is a submission wizard on the ground, it was no secret this is where Werdum's best chance to win the fight lied. Thus, in hindsight one must wonder why Fedor decided to follow him there instead of letting his downed opponent get back up? I'm sure he is asking himself the same question, although he did pounce on him in attack mode and was trying to finish with smashing punches. However, Werdum weathered the storm, grabbed Fedor's left arm and in a scramble caught Emelianenko in a tight triangle choke. The Russian phenom fought frantically to escape, but it was to no avail and with the heavyweight Werdum cranking an arm bar while choking his opponent, even the great Fedor Emelianenko was forced to tap. In total, it lasted barely over a minute.

The post fight interviews proved just as interesting and entertaining. Humble in victory, Werdum was ecstatic about his win and when asked about a potential fight with heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem next, Werdum responded by saying, "Fedor, I want to rematch Fedor; he is the best in the world."

As for Fedor, while you could clearly see the disappointment etched in his face, his demeanor was as laid back in defeat as it has always been in victory. His reaction to losing in such a surprising fashion, he said, "One must fall to stand again."

I'm sure that with one fight currently left on his Strikeforce contract Emelianenko is itching to get back in the cage right away to erase the memory of losing to Werdum. It's going to be interesting to see how Scott Coker handles satisfying, his champion Overeem, his number one contender Werdum and his biggest drawing card Emelianenko. One person he won't have to worry about is his Women's 145lbs. Champion Cristiane 'Cyborg' Santos (10-1, 8 KO's 2 subs).

Santos looked dominant in her two round destruction of Jan Finney (8-8, 4 KO's 1 sub), which she won via KO after a vicious onslaught that was completed with a brutal knee to the body. All respects to the game Finney, as she tried to go toe to toe with Santos and when Cyborg got the best of her in both rounds, which was a lot, she never quit. As a matter of fact, I believe this was a case where the referee should have come to the fighter's defense and step in, which she ultimately did, but I feel was way too late.

Referee Kim Winslow, who I personally don't remember seeing before last night's fight, I feel did a poor job overall. On more than one occasion when Cyborg dropped Finney who immediately went into guard mode, Winslow turned to Cyborg and asked her if she wanted the fight standing. That is not the fighter's discretion, but rather the referee's. If you leave it to Cyborg, or any other striker for that matter, of course she's going to want the fight standing. Maybe Fedor needed Winslow to referee his bout.

Second, she penalized Cyborg a point in the first round for an illegal strike to the back of the head, which clearly did happen, but I never heard her give Santos a warning before that. No big deal since the inevitable finish was clearly going to happen, which brings me to the most important point. Finney was clearly outmatched and taking a tremendous beating. Granted this is a judgement call, but in this case it was obvious numerous times there was no reason for the referee to let this beat down continue. Why she did not step in sooner and stop this fight is not only in question, but I felt was getting seriously close to dangerous.

In the other big feature bout, hometown hero San Jose's own Cung Le (7-1, 7 KO's) exacted revenge on Scott Smith (17-7, 14 KO's 3 subs) for his only loss. Le looked sharp with his boxing and take down defense, but it was his patented lightning quick back kick that was ultimately the finisher. Next up for Le, "I got a box of chocolate chip cookies waiting for me; I'm going to eat the whole box."

Finally, sandwiched in between all the exciting fights, the legendary Frank Shamrock announced his retirement as a fighter in the sport. Now working as a color analyst for Strikeforce, Shamrock was eloquent and respectful in his retirement speech, very similar to his fighting style. Unlike most fighters who hang on too long wanting to leave on one last high note, Shamrock, who lost his final two fights, walked away on his own terms. How poignant that two of the sports all-time great fighters, Frank Shamrock and Fedor Emelianenko, both realize that one must fall to ultimately stand again.

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