ANAHEIM-Any debate on Russian fighter Fedor Emelianenko’s ability was immediately put to rest in the 36 seconds it took for him to dispose of former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia on Saturday night.
Emelianenko grabbed the first World Alliance Mixed Martial Arts heavyweight title with a blitzkrieg of Sylvia in front of 13,889 fans at the Honda Center. It was a bravura performance and substantiates him as the best fighter pound for pound in MMA.
The Affliction Events and M-1 Global promotion proved to be eager to show its artistic mettle with a production quality equal to any major film studio. There were flashing lights, smoke-filled arena and haunting red lights that were further augmented by popular musical group Megadeth.
All anyone could say was “wow.”
For years the Russia fighter had been talked about, You-tubed, and written in almost mythical terms as he beat fighter after fighter in Asia or Russia. Finally, America got a chance to see what the fuss was about.
He’s for real.
Once the bell rang the six-inch height advantage Sylvia enjoyed shrank faster than the American dollar and it took seconds for Emelianenko to step inside the American’s reach to unload a savage fusillade of punches that were almost 1980s Mike Tyson-like.
Down went Sylvia and in a flash the Russian was on top and immediately had the American’s back. In another few seconds he slipped a rear naked choke that was wrenched to a level that must have solicited visions of death to Sylvia. He immediately tapped out.
“I don’t know what kind of choke it was, but it hurt man,” said Sylvia, who touched his neck as if still feeling the pain. “He’s not human.”
The soft-spoken Russian fighter was almost embarrassed to talk about his exploit.
“I’m very happy about the fight and about my performance,” said Emelianenko with an almost embarrassed look.
Sylvia (24-5) who was eager before the fight to prove his ability, was both shocked but amazed at the fighting skills of Emelianenko.
“He got off first and then I had so many things going on my mind,” said a shaken Sylvia, who was still shaking his head long after the fight. “He ended it with a big punch, jumped on me and got the submission.”
The sold-out crowd was satisfied and awed by the Russian superstar. The fact it took only 36 seconds to end did not diminish the crowd’s approval.
“I was hoping I would end the fight then,” said Emelianenko (28-1). “Everything I wanted to do I was able to do.”
Before coming to America, there was a dispute among MMA fans and experts on his fighting ability. Some cited the lack of credible opponents during the last few years. Beating Sylvia erased all doubt.
“That is the baddest man on the planet,” said John McCarthy, the former MMA ref now doing reporting for television. “Whoever says otherwise doesn’t know what they’re talking about.”
After the fight Emelianenko was asked who he would like next. The great Russian fighter looked around and almost apologetically said, “It would be a great honor to meet Randy Couture of course.”
Couture, who was in the audience, had a huge smile.
In the semi main event, Belarussian Andrei Arlovski dominated in a heavyweight contest and especially the war standing up. But Ben Rothwell withstood a hurricane of punches and had his moment on the ground in the second round. It proved to be the eye of the hurricane because Arlovski unleashed a torrid string of punches in the third round and finished off Rothwell with an overhand right and right uppercut combination that put Rothwell down for good in the third and final round.
“He’s tough, tough fighter,” said Arlovski of Rothwell. “My training was harder, that’s how I did what I did.”
Popular Josh Barnett (23-5) avenged an earlier defeat to Pedro Rizzo (16-8) in a heavyweight fight that ended at 1:44 of the second round. A right hand missed but a cleanup left hook landed flush on Rizzo’s jaw for a knockout.
“He said I was going to get knocked out again, did you hear this guy,” said Barnett, who lost to Rizzo in 2001. “His jab is harder than most peoples' right hands. It could have been me lying on the ground.”
Brazilian favorite Renato “Babalu” Sobral (30-7) used his considerable fighting skills to out-score Mike Whitehead (20-6) in a nip and tuck three round light heavyweight fight. The judges scored it 30-27 for the more accurate puncher and kicker , the Brazilian.
“I tried hard to finish the fight but it was kind of hard, he was a world class fighter,” said Sobral.
Oregon’s Matt Lindland (21-5) used his experience to dominate Fabio Nascimento (8-4) in all three rounds of the middleweight bout. He out-punched and out-grappled the Brazilian with strength and power in gaining a unanimous decision win. Early in the fight he had a choke that seemed airtight, but Nascimento managed to escape. The judges scored it 30-27 twice and 30-26 for Lindland.
“I hit him with some huge shots and he was still coming in,” said Lindland.
Antonio “Minotoro” Nogueira (14-3) wasted little time against Arizona’s Edwin DeWees (35-13). Once he cornered DeWees, a left hand dropped him and the Brazilian did a ground and pound that forced referee Herb Dean to halt the fight at 4:06 of the first round.
“I’m happy to be here and be the winner by knockout,” said Nogueira. “I’ve been learning boxing for five years.”
Las Vegas welterweight Mike Pyle (16-5-1) fought off JJ Ambrose’s (9-2) take down attempts then took down the Lakewood, California fighter in the second minute of the fight. Pyle got on Ambrose’s back and manipulated a submission by rear naked choke 2:51 of the first round.
“I was looking for the submission, anybody can knock somebody out but its tough to win by submission,” said Pyle who fights for Xtreme Couture.
Brazil’s famed Vitor Belfort (17-8) entered the ring to loud cheers and left to even louder cheers in knocking out hard-hitting Terry Martin (16-5) at 3:12 in the second round of a middleweight bout. A flying knee to the chin followed by a right uppercut and straight left hand knocked Martin down and through the ropes. Belfort dropped down from the 205-pound light heavyweight division to 185-pound middleweights.
“I had good success tonight,” said Belfort, 31, a former UFC legend who began in 1996 and owns a win over Randy Couture. “He was a tough guy and pretty fast but I took care of him.”
Paul Buentello (26-10) found out his opponent Aleksander Emelianenko was not sanctioned by the state to fight, so instead, he met Gary “Big Daddy” Goodrich (23-18-1) in a heavyweight bout. For three rounds Buentello fired combination after combination and forced Goodrich to retreat for cover. The judges scored it 30-27.
Lightweight Mark Hominick (16-8) of Canada wrangled an arm bar from underneath Savant Young (9-8) of Lakewood, California to force a submission at 4:25 of the second round.
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