HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. -- Fedor Emelianenko left the Sears Centre Arena on Saturday with the moniker of world’s No. 1 heavyweight still intact, but it did not come without a struggle.
Previously undefeated Brett Rogers gave the Russian legend his toughest fight in recent years at Strikeforce/M-1 Global “Fedor vs. Rogers,” but Emelianenko prevailed with a dead-on right hook that cracked Rogers’ chin and then pounced on his larger foe with crushing follow-up punches. Referee John McCarthy halted the melee 1:48 into the second round.
The first exchange -- a looping right and left from Emelianenko and a sneaky left from the burly Minnesotan that snuck under the Russian’s right arm -- produced a surprising result: a cut on the bridge of the seemingly impervious Russian’s nose.
Emelianenko struck and grabbed Rogers for the first of a few key clinches, then tossed the 265-pound fighter to the canvas as if he were 50 pounds lighter. Rogers wisely rushed to his feet before Emelianenko could snag an appendage.
Rogers was hardly ready to quit, though. Pushing Emelianenko to the fence, he stalled the former Pride champion, as blood trickled down his face.
Emelianenko then sent Rogers backwards with a right before taking him down. As the Russian maneuvered for a keylock, Rogers used his strength and size to turn the table and gain top position. His opening upon him, Rogers unloaded with hard punches before Emelianenko gained his bearings. Emelianenko reversed to the top position again and trapped Rogers’ arm against his head for an arm-triangle choke. Rogers recovered guard when Emelianenko attempted to pass from half guard. The bell sounded with a much closer round than most would have expected.
“The main thing is not to be nervous, to take some time during the first round to learn a little bit (about) the opponent and then to look for some (weakness) and then to use it,” Emelianenko said through an interpreter.
“I hate it,” Rogers said. “I’m coming back stronger. I’m so heated I can’t even put it to words, the words that I want to put it to. I doubted myself a little bit. I should have thrown my hands more, a lot more. That’s the only reason I failed today.”
Next on Emelianenko’s plate: a championship match against wayward heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem or a tide-over bout against Fabricio Werdum.
Shields Crowned Middleweight Champion
Jake Shields out-positioned the flamboyant but outclassed Jason “Mayhem” Miller over five rounds to take the vacated Strikeforce middleweight championship with a unanimous decision (48-47, 49-46, 49-46).
Miller thrilled the crowd with a rowdy entrance, complete with synchronized dancers toting red umbrellas, but it would prove to be his shining moment.
At the bell, Shields dropped levels and lunged for an instantaneous takedown, a recurring sequence throughout the bout. His back against the fence, Miller bided his time at first but soon realized he had little time for pause.
The dual jiu-jitsu practitioners kept the bout moving as they contorted around one another in awkward poses searching for the upper hand. However, Shields rarely left the driver’s seat. The San Francisco fighter flirted with a rear-naked choke finish on a couple of occasions, as a game Miller jockeyed his way free.
In his most dominant moment, Miller took Shield’s back in the final 30 seconds of the third round and lined up a rear-naked choke. Shields’ eyes bulged as he gazed up at a hovering referee John McCarthy and narrowly rode out the clock.
Miller never achieved that type of advantage again, as he spent a good chunk of the final moments fending off the onslaught.
Gegard Mousasi was tested by an equally athletic Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou until the Strikeforce light heavyweight champion scored a technical knockout 3:43 into the second round of their three-round, non-title contest.
Mousasi peppered Sokoudjou early with mostly deflected jabs and high kicks, until Sokoudjou cried foul and grabbed his groin from an inside kick. However, referee David Smith did not see fit to halt the action, and the pair continued on.
Sokoudjou connected with an outside kick a couple of times, but the Cameroon fighter could not find any other openings on the calm and smooth Mousasi.
Mousasi turned up the pace shortly after, backing Sokoudjou to the fence. The cornered U.S. judo champion reverted to instinct and nailed a beautiful throw. However, Mousasi swept easily into side control. Sokoudjou wrestled to his feet and then manhandled Mousasi against the fence and down to the canvas. But Mousasi, who knocked out Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza with an upkick in Dream’s middleweight grand prix final in 2008, connected again and dropped a stunned Sokoudjou in the final seconds.
Both men pushed and tugged for control in the clinch at the top of the second round. Mousasi settled on the outside, then began to flurry as the dreadlocked fighter ducked for cover. In the following clinch, Sokoudjou fell into the champion’s half guard, but Mousasi latched onto an arm and nearly rolled into the submission before resuming top position. Weathered and waning, Sokoudjou began to fade under Mousasi’s fists until referee Smith stepped in for the stoppage.
In a heavyweight bout to begin the live CBS telecast, Fabricio Werdum fought tooth-and-nail to earn a closely contested unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) against Antonio Silva.
In an explosive first round, Werdum attacked with punches early and paid for it, as Silva fired back just as furiously. Werdum crumpled on the fence, as Silva dived in with hammerfists for a potential stoppage, but the former UFC contender recovered to his feet. Both men gave and took well-placed punches and kicks, but Silva gained a slight edge with a left jab-right outside kick combination.
Werdum again lunged forward as the aggressor in the second, but Silva floored him again. Werdum then baited Silva down to the canvas and reversed easily, but Silva scrambled free before the jiu-jitsu black belt could find an advantage. From the clinch, Werdum found his first takedown and settled in Silva’s half guard before moving to side control. Werdum then scrambled for an arm but found a leg lock attempt before the bell.
Silva again went to work in the third with wide hooks and jabs, until Werdum dropped for another takedown and grounded the giant. Werdum quickly slid into back control but Silva escaped. The pair continued to bob and weave each other’s punches and knees, until Werdum landed an uppercut that sent Silva to his knees. In the final seconds, Silva struggled to stay alive as Werdum hunted the finish from top position.
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