Emelianenko shows he’s the real deal

Times Staff Writer

Red and white lights created a rose-colored glow inside the Honda Center in Anaheim, a fog machine sent wafts of vapor through the arena and a distinctly Orange County crowd filled every available seat.

There was nothing artificial about Affliction’s first fight card, however.

The apparel company-turned-mixed martial arts producer turned up the volume as Saturday night wore on, and so did the sellout crowd of 13,988 during the final three bouts.

In the main event, former PRIDE Fighting Championships heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko (28-1) needed only 36 seconds to dispose of Tim Sylvia (24-5) in a match scheduled for five rounds. Emelianenko, a Russian making his second appearance in the United States, landed four lightning-quick lefts before dropping Sylvia with a rapid combination. He then pounced on Sylvia, rolled him over with his back on Emelianenko’s chest and locked in on a rear naked chokehold, forcing Sylvia to tap out as blood trickled from his nose.


“I was hoping I would end the fight then,” Emelianenko said through an interpreter. “I was prepared to fight standing up, but I knew I had a better chance to end it on the ground.”

It was Emelianenko’s second straight first-round submission against a much larger opponent. He beat 7-foot-2, 352-pound Hong-Man Choi with an arm bar in December.

“He got off first and I had so many things going through my mind,” Sylvia said. “He landed the big punch, got on me and got the submission.”

Affliction, which has built a niche among MMA followers, ventured into the fight business with a production that seemed part rock concert and part fashion show. Affliction was competing with MMA heavyweight UFC, which put together a card in Las Vegas on five weeks’ notice and televised it simultaneously on the basic cable channel Spike TV.

Among those in attendance at the Honda Center were former UFC light-heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz, former heavyweight champion Randy Couture, former pro wrestler Bill Goldberg and real estate tycoon Donald Trump, an investor in the event who sat next to Ortiz’s girlfriend, former adult film star Jenna Jameson.

The show had some early glitches, particularly with the oversized boxing ring Affliction chose to use. On three occasions, fighters fell through the ropes, forcing the referee to halt the action so they could get back in the ring. Several fighters also appeared out of shape, leading to slow-paced action that elicited booing.

The action heated up during the heavyweight undercard bouts, with Andrei Arlovski and Ben Rothwell engaged in a slugfest for two rounds. Arlovski, who is from Belarus, unleashed a battery of punches late in the second round, followed by a knee to Rothwell’s jaw, drawing blood from his nose and ear. At 1:13 of the third round, Arlovski (13-5) dropped Rothwell (29-6) for good, landing a straight right followed by a right hook.

In another heavyweight bout that was scheduled for three rounds, Josh Barnett (23-5) of Seattle beat Pedro Rizzo (16-8) of Brazil, inflicting two right hammer fists before referee Herb Dean stopped the bout at 1:44 of the second.