On Saturday, June 26th, mixed martial arts history was made. Fabricio Werdum ended Fedor Emelianenko's decade long reign of dominance with a beautiful triangle choke / armbar combination that forced "The Last Emperor" to submit. I was stunned, this was moment clearly worthy of a Gus Johnson freakout. This time around he actually could have said "the most incredible victory in the history of mixed martial arts" and fans would not have mocked him (as much).
How did this happen anyways? Let's take a deeper look (Gif Makers I would love you forever). After a brief exchange standing, it was obvious that Werdum was no match for Fedor on the feet. Werdum was ducking his head and throwing sloppy looping punches and Fedor threw a wild right hook that either barely clipped Werdum's chin, or made him lose his balance falling backwards to avoid it. (26 seconds into the fight). Werdum immediately starts butt-scooting and appears to have all of his faculties.
This moment reminded me eerily of the Andrei Arlovski / Werdum fight. Werdum dropped on his butt multiple times that fight, but Arlovski refused to take the bait. He smartly kicked at Werdum's legs, got the crowd booing a little bit, and forced the fight back to standing where he clearly had he edge. Fedor, on the other hand, immediately jumped into Werdum's guard throwing hammerfists and ground and pound but Werdum's legs closed around him like a Venus flytrap.
What happens next is incredibly important and I can't believe people are not noticing it. Fedor has solid sub defense, when Werdum initially goes for the armbar, he spins out of it, shrugging it off easily and goes back to work with his punches. In his excitement (37 seconds into the fight) Fedor spins to his right trying to avoid Werdum's extremely active sub attempts and as Werdum does a forward roll into guard, Fedor gets pressed against the cage, stopping his momentum and giving Werdum the moment he needed to throw his left leg around Fedor's head. Werdum crosses his feet going for a brief armbar but then locks in the triangle. From that point on, it was only a matter of time until Fedor tapped or went unconscious.
It was Fedor's inexperience in a cage, coupled with his overaggression on the ground against the two time ADCC submission wrestling champion that was his downfall. I had asked Fedor if he felt he had successfully adapted to the cage in the conference call last week and this was his answer.
I trained in a cage in Russia and I feel like I’ve adapted. I don’t really see any major differences whether I’m fighting in the cage or in a ring. I feel comfortable in there.
Fedor may have undestimated the differences between the ring and a cage. I don't think Werdum latches on that triangle in a ring. Fedor would have kept spinning around Werdum from top position, either that or the ref would have stepped in and moved them to the center of the ring.
Regardless, it's too little too late to argue semantics now.
Edit: Thought I should mention, this excellent fanpost has an even better view of Fedor bouncing off the cage and shifting his momentum.
Here's the video, Fedor bounces at the 37 second mark.
Double Edit: Kid Nate has the gifs I was talking about in his Judo Chop