Emelianenko weathered a savage first-round beating to escape with a majority decision over Maldonado in the Eurasia Fight Nights 50 headliner on Friday at Sibur Arena in St. Petersburg, Russia. Judges scored it 28-28 and 29-28, 29-28 for Emelianenko (36-4), the former Pride Fighting Championships titleholder who appears to be a shell of his once dominant self.
Maldonado (22-10) floored the Russian legend with a right hook-left hook combination in the opening round and swarmed with ground-and-pound. Emelianenko was on the verge of being stopped on multiple occasions, even after returning to his feet. Maldonado appeared to hurt him with every punch he threw and had “The Last Emperor” stumbling around the cage seeking cover. He found none.
Emelianenko welcomed the respite between rounds one and two, gathered himself and slowly chipped away at the Brazilian. Maldonado faded as the fight unfolded, fatigue becoming an increasing factor. Emelianenko assaulted him with knees the body and head, occasional low kicks and explosive punching volleys. By the time it was over, both men were bloodied, bruised and winded.
In the heavyweight co-main event, former Bellator MMA champion Vitaly Minakov submitted K-1 mainstay Peter Graham with a first-round armbar to keep his perfect professional record intact. Graham (11-10) conceded defeat 62 seconds into round one, losing for the fifth time in seven appearances.
One mistake led to Graham’s undoing, as Minakov (18-0) swooped into top position when the Australian kickboxer lost his balance while defending a takedown. The 31-year-old Russian framed a kimura from half guard before advancing to full mount and dropping punches. Graham was helpless on the mat. Minakov, a multiple-time combat sambo world champion, snatched the armbar during a subsequent scramble and coaxed the tapout.
Meanwhile, M-1 Global veteran Kirill Sidelnikov posted his fourth straight win, as he captured a unanimous verdict over Ruben Wolf in a featured heavyweight clash. Sidelnikov (10-4) drew the favor of all three judges with fast, accurate punches.
Wolf (10-8) was in survival mode for much of the 15-minute encounter. Sidelnikov tore into the German with savage punching combinations to the head and body. Wolf was a mess at the end of the first round, spitting blood onto the canvas at one point. Sidelnikov, who withstood three low blows in the fight, slowed down in rounds two and three but maintained his stranglehold on the match.
Elsewhere, crushing top control and heavy ground-and-pound were the weapons of choice for reigning Absolute Championship Berkut titleholder Anatoly Tokov, as he cruised to a unanimous decision over Vladimir Filipovic in their three-round catchweight showcase. All three cageside judges sided with Tokov (24-1), who has rattled off 17 consecutive victories.
Outside of briefly achieving full mount in the first round, Filipovic (7-2) was never a legitimate threat. Tokov was the superior fighter on the feet, sprawled on repeated takedowns from the increasingly desperate Serb and assumed top position in all three rounds. Once there, he battered Filipovic with short punches and hammerfists.
In other action, the unbeaten Rasul Mirzaev (16-0) wiped out Dioginis Souza (10-3) with punches 4:13 into the first round; Rizin Fighting Federeation alum Vadim Nemkov (6-2) dismissed Mikolaj Rozanski (4-2) with punches 3:39 into round one; Sergey Pavlovich (8-0) stopped Chaban Ka (8-5-1) with punches 1:54 into the first round; Akhmet Aliev (13-4) earned a three-round unanimous verdict over Matej Truhan (9-5); Valentin Moldavsky (3-0) tapped Daniel Doerrer (4-3) with a standing guillotine 47 seconds into round one; Georgy Kichigin (11-5) submitted Vladimir Tyurin (3-2) with an armbar 2:03 into the first round; Abdulsupyan Alikhanov (5-2) took a one-sided decision across three rounds from Artem Shokalo (16-14); Jack McGann (10-2) disposed of Abdula Dadaev (6-3) with a knee strike and follow-up punches 2:13 into round one; Aleksandr Dankov (2-1) put away Dmitriy Maryukhin (0-1) with punches 2:49 into the first round; Vasiliy Zubkov (10-6) tapped Sergey Tovkan (1-2) with a triangle choke 3:57 into round one; and Marina Mokhnatkina (1-0) submitted Ekaterina Torbeeva (0-1) with an armbar 25 seconds into the first round.