Fedor Emelianenko turned back the clock at Bellator 208 with a ground-and-pound victory over Chael Sonnen. The win, in the semi-final of Bellator MMA’s heavyweight world grand prix, set the Last Emperor up with a finale/title fight with Bellator’s light heavyweight champ Ryan Bader.
The fight with Sonnen lasted less than a round, but it was packed with action. That was somewhat surprising given the competitors’ combined age of 83. When the opening bell rung Sonnen signaled that he’d be a game opponent by bouncing to the centre of the cage and swinging at the heavyweight legend.
Sonnen’s lunging hook caught nothing but air. The punch Emelianenko threw back found a home and dropped Sonnen to the mat. Emelianenko showed patience in letting The American Gangster return to his feet. From that moment, it was rinse and repeat — with Sonnen lunging forwards with either punches or desperate takedowns and Emelianenko dodging, sprawling, and hurting Sonnen in return.
Most of the time, when Sonnen hit the ground, Emelianenko let him back up. Sonnen did get Emelianenko down a few times, though. However the Russian would eventually end up on top of the American each time. Getting up and down so many times looked as if it winded Emelianenko, who was breathing heavy with two minutes left. Though, it was then that he got an opportunity to end the contest.
What was the highlight of the fight?
With two minutes left Sonnen landed a big takedown that put him in the half guard position, with an opportunity to rain blows down on Emelianenko. With the crowd chanting U-S-A, Sonnen was unable to land any offense on his opponent. Sonnen did get full mount, but was reversed immediately. Emelianenko then stood. As Sonnen labored to his feet Emelianenko sprang forwards, swinging punches. He missed, but the flurry was enough to send Sonnen back to the canvas. Once there Emelianenko was relentless with ground and pound, forcing Sonnen to turtle up.
Emelianenko bashed away at Sonnen with short lefts for a solid ten seconds before the referee stepped in. There were 14 seconds left on the clock.
Where do these two go from here?
One of the nice things about tournaments is that you don’t need to guess what the winner might do next. Fedor Emelianenko moves on to fight Ryan Bader for the vacant Bellator heavyweight crown. Bader got his spot in the final by handily beating Matt Mitione the night before.
For Sonnen’s next move there’s a lot more mystery. Even though he was severely outmatched by Emelianenko in the cage, the bout proved once again that Sonnen is one of the better showmen in MMA. The L on his record won’t change that (it never has). So expect Sonnen to pop up in Bellator again soon, matched against another recognizable name. I wonder what Royce Gracie is up to...
Watch this fight now, later, or never?
Watch it now. It was a fun scrap that will only take four minutes of your time. Despite taking a mini-breather, Emelianenko looked sharp and mostly energetic. And though Sonnen’s offense was ineffective (and comical in some spots) you can’t fault his effort and belief that he could actually pull this off.
Check out the finish in the video above, along with the other Bellator highlights.