Photo by Tracy Lee for Yahoo! Sports
The plan seemed to be in place from the beginning. Fedor Emelianenko would run through Antonio Silva. Alistair Overeem would demolish Fabricio Werdum months later. The semi-finals would then feature the fight Strikeforce President Scott Coker has been salivating over for months: Overeem-Emelianenko. Instead, an upset shook the tournament to it's core.
We see it all the time in mainstream sports. A Cinderella team makes it to college basketball's Sweet Sixteen every year. A wildcard playoff team has been known to win the Super Bowl. And sometimes the best fighter of all time loses to a rising star in the most prominent MMA tournament in years.
We've seen tournaments like this fall apart in MMA before as welll. For years the UFC desperately wanted a match between Ken Shamrock and Tank Abbott. When they finally got them in the same tournament, they set the brackets up for Ken and Tank to meet in the semi- finals. It was a dream bout, but one that fans never got to see in the waking world. Shamrock broke his hand in his quarterfinal win and Abbott fought the forgettable Steve Nelmark instead.
There are no Steve Nelmarks in this tournament. Whoever goes forward in the opposite bracket, whether it is Overeem or Fabricio Werdum, the fight with Silva should be competitive. But some in the industry were shocked Strikeforce and Showtime waited to present their marque matchup.
"I thought it was a big mistake putting Fedor and Alistair on the side of the draw together to meet in the semifinals. They should've done it first up. They should've done it first up, this should've been a big pay-per-view event tonight, the hype of Alistair versus Fedor," HDNet broadcaster Michael Schiavello told Bloody Elbow Radio in an exclusive interview. "There would've been no injuries, no hassles, no contractual disputes. It would've been done and dusted. We would've had an effective outcome, either Alistair or Fedor, and now we're probably never going to get to see it,"It would be done and dusted.Now we're probably never going to see it."
We may never get Emelianenko-Overeem, but the great fight with Silva almost makes up for it. In the first round the Russian legend attacked the Brazilian with reckless abandon, both standing and on the ground. Silva took it in stride and landed some blistering punches of his own, closing the distance and pushing the smaller man into the cage. In the second round, size came into play as Silva took Fedor down immediately, took the mount, and pounded away. He threatened with rear naked chokes and an arm triangle before the round ended with a classic Pancrase style battle of leglocks.
As the round came to an end, there was a gasp from the crowd as they showed Emelianenko's eye on the big screen. It was closed completely shut and the fight was stopped before the third round could begin. The fight ended anti-climatically, but was a barn burner while it lasted.
"It was an amazing fight, epic. I feel so proud for him. I've only met him once, but he's a lovely guy. And he had a great gameplan," Schiavello said. "At the same time I was gutted for Fedor."
More on a night of fun fights after the break
- While Fedor announced his retirement after the fight, there was no such announcement from Andrei Arlovski. There should be. Arlovski isn't able to compete at the highest level any more. A flat footed Sergei Kharitonov walked him down, controlled him in the clinch and knocked him out in brutal fashion. That makes three knockout losses in his last four fights. It's time to hang them up.
- In tribute to Chan Sung Jung, I'm going to start calling Chad Griggs the "Mutton Chop Zombie." The man who conquered Bobby Lashley won an incredible back and forth slugfest with prospect Gianpiero Villante in a tournament reserve match. I told people watching live with me that it was horrible and wonderful all at once.
- Gina Carano is back. Perhaps that's the law of the universe coming into play. Strikeforce gained a star in Carano and lost a star in Fedor. Strikeforce is looking to feature Carano on Showtime in June. Whether she makes another run at Cyborg Santos is an open question.
- A certain segment of hardcore fans should be happy to see the prelims on HDNet. While there were no stars made, John Cholish's kneebar win over Marc Stevens stole the show. The commentary team of Michael Schiavello and Bas Rutten were working together for the first time, but you'd never have guessed it by listening to them. HDNet has a team with a lot of potential on their hands. I hope we hear them together again soon.
- After the show Dana White coined the term "Vadummy" on twitter to mock M-1 President Vadim Finkelstein. The term ended up trending, as did Antonio Silva. While I understand White's man of the people act works for some, profane arguments with idiots on Twitter make us all look bad.