Saturday night Fedor Emelianenko kicked off another daunting contender climbing toward his throne, demonstrating why he’s considered the greatest MMA fighter to have ever lived.
As the fight started, Arlovski looked extremely focused and Fedor calm as usual. Arlovski found his range a little the better of the two over the opening minute or so, using quick footwork and straight punches to beat the champ to the punch in most exchanges. Fedor subsequently tied Arlovski up in the clinch on the ropes, perhaps to re-gather his thoughts or change strategies. When the referee broke the two up and action commenced again Arlovski seemed to have found his range, landing a sharp punch combo to the body and one to the head.
What happened next has become a point of conjecture. Having seen Fedor feign being hurt many times, I consider that he exaggerated the effect of an Arlovski push kick, bounced of the ropes looking hurt and baited Arlovski into rushing onto a massive right hand. Many who saw Arlovski getting the better of the boxing exchange believe the Belarussian simply got too keen and went for a flashy flying knee finish. Either way, he paid the price, eating a huge right overhand which spun his bearded jaw and face planting into the canvas, knocked out cold. Regardless of whether Fedor forced the error or not, when two men have power and accuracy in their hands like these two one mistake is too many.
There have been cries for an immediate rematch, suggesting Arlovski was winning the stand up for the 3 minutes of the bout prior to the KO. It was to be expected that Arlovski would look the better striker since the bulk of Arlovski’s MMA training has been pure boxing lately. Anyhow, it is difficult to suggest that anyone could “win the stand-up game” despite being unconscious before hitting the ground 3 minutes into the fight. In the end Fedor’s astounding reactions, fighting brain and explosive physical power made up for his deficit in technical boxing skills. Another exceptional finish for the Russian wrecking ball. He will now likely fight his good friend, and probably the best heavyweight submission artist in the game, Josh Barnett.
Barnett himself struggled to put away Dutch KO artist Gilbert Yvel. From the very beginning it was apparent that Yvel was too much for Barnett standing and vice versa with Barnett on the ground. The difference was purely that Yvel was unable to stop Barnett taking the match to his territory. Once on the ground, Barnett easily found mount for nearly the entire 3 rounds. The Dutchman showed exceptional heart to stay in the fight in the face of some vicious elbows and punches from the top, even landing some good punches of his own. Eventually, in the third round, Yvel was unable to stop the shots getting through and tapped out due to a barrage of punches from a mounted Josh Barnett. It was unlike Barnett to be so shy about attempting submissions and he will have to find a better performance to test Emelianenko.
In a bout between two very topmiddleweights, former UFC heavyweight champ Vitor Belfort, reinvigorated with a new training camp and a drop to 185 lbs, took on perennial top middleweight and Olympic silver medallist Matt Lindland. A sharp, fit, mentally strong Vitor Belfort is a contender in any division, and we saw this as he put Lindland away in typically ferocious fashion. As the bell rung, the two circled looking to find their distance. Lindland lunged in with a hook and Belfort stepped aside, landing a leading right hand followed by a thundering left cross which sent Lindland to the mat. Belfort followed the dazed wrestler to the mat and delivered 5 or so heavy shots to his opponent, knocking the wits out of him. Lindland took several minutes to regain consciousness and went to hospital to be checked out. You can rest assured there won’t be too many middleweights who want to face the “New Vitor”, who displayed the kind of boxing that made Mike Tyson a fan when he first burst onto the scene. Robbie Lawler, Jorge Santiago and Yoshihiro Akiyama may be the only non-UFC middleweights even close his level right now.
Babalu Sobral showed a marked return to form, while “Judo”Thierry Sokodjou showed again that he is only good for one round in a fight. The first round of their fight was an up and down affair, with Babalu the aggressor on the feet and also getting several takedowns. Sokodjou scored with some heavy shots from top position but round one was probably the Brazilian’s. In the second round the Cameroonian Sokodjou seemed to run out of air, and once taken down he ate a steady stream of punches before giving up a darce choke in an attempt to get to his feet. Babalu let us know why he ws once at the top of the division and now deserves another top light heavyweight opponent next. A match with Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, who won his fight with Vladimir Matyushenko by KO, makes sense. A match with Tito Ortiz was suggested by Babalu, but Ortiz is reportedly some way from fully recovering from a back surgery. It has to be back to the drawing board, or treadmill, for Sokodjou, who can’t seem to keep his composure or breathe under fire. Mike Whitehead next?
Dan Lauzon came through with a rear naked choke submission win against his inexperienced but wildly aggressive opponent Bobby Green. Green swung for the fences throughout the round, even landing 3 low blows of varying severity throughout the round, which cost him a point. Lauzon was too crafty for the new boy on the ground and transitioned to his back from a heel hook attempt to get the choke and secure the win.
Fedor protégé Kirill Sidelnikov showed an exceptional heart and chin throughout his fight with the much bigger Paul Buentello. Buentello used a crisp jab to batter the Russian’s eyes and nose for nearly the full three rounds until the doctors considered it wise to stop the contest. Buentello looked his sharpest ever on the feet and may earn the right to fight Gilbert Yvel or even Tim Sylvia with this win. Sidelnikov’s frame is surely more suited to being a 205 lbs fighter, and carrying the extra weight took its toll on his cardio for sure. It was also bizarre not to see him attempt to take the fight to the ground more, where he would have a huge advantage. Had he effectively transitioned to takedown attempts from his punches (a la Fedor) he may have made more impact on the “Headhunter”. Plenty of fights should appeal to him at 205lbs, but I’m struggling to think of a top heavyweight he could beat on this evidence.
Affliction’s points to note:
-Interviews by 200 cigarette a day smokers and Hell’s Angels should be avoided
-Tito Ortiz might want to tighten up his commentary. Mistakes included stating Vitor Belfort was 131 years old and a Bush-esque inability to pronounce any Russian names
-Vast improvement over previous broadcast. Excellent fights.