Reporting from San Jose -- The rapid turn of events that led Fabricio Werdum to claim perhaps the most shocking upset in mixed martial arts history Saturday night over Fedor Emelianenko is what makes fans of the growing sport so rabid.
Anything can happen at any second.
So it was Saturday at HP Pavilion, where a nearly full house was stunned as Emelianenko knocked Werdum to the mat in the opening seconds of the fight with a hard right hand, then found his head locked in a Werdum leg wrap.
Emelianenko (31-2) tried to wriggle free, to find a better position. Instead, Werdum twisted, too, and locked the Russian’s left arm while setting a triangle choke that caused Emelianenko to surrender by tapping Werdum’s side once with his right hand.
One minute, nine seconds into the first round, the fight was over.
“I made a mistake,” Emelianenko said after watching his amazing 28-fight unbeaten streak end in a bout that was supposed to be little more than a tuneup in anticipation of a Strikeforce title shot later this year.
Emelianenko, who hadn’t lost since 2000, also has been targeted often by the rival MMA organization Ultimate Fighting Championship, with an expected bidding war that now takes on a much different form given Emelianenko’s slip to mortal.
Werdum, a Brazilian who resides in Marina del Rey, improved to 14-4-1.
Asked how the loss will affect his future business negotiations, Emelianenko’s business advisor, Vadim Finkelstein, said, “We’ll see. The future will show us. Fabricio Werdum is the first fighter who managed to defeat Fedor. It’ll be great to have a rematch and prove Fedor is still the best.”
Earlier Saturday, Cris “Cyborg” Santos showed that she’s an exception in women’s mixed martial arts, which on many levels is still a work in progress.
The 24-year-old Brazilian is far and away the best female fighter in the sport, holding the Strikeforce middleweight championship belt and disposing last year of the top challenger the organization could throw at her, Gina Carano.
Saturday, Cyborg delivered a brutal beatdown to Springfield, Ohio’s Jan Finney. Cyborg assaulted Finney with wicked right-hand blows to the face, and ended the bout at 2:56 of the second round with a knee to Finney’s head and some finishing blows to the head that prompted referee Kim Winslow to stop the fight.
In the end, Finney (8-8) was left down after receiving 141 strikes and landing only 23. She kneeled on the mat, treating her swollen eyes with an icepack.
Cyborg (9-1) has now won eight of her last nine bouts by technical knockout. Her dominance was cited last month by Lorenzo Fertitta, owner of the rival Ultimate Fighting Championship, as a reason why he has no immediate need to have women fighting in his circuit.
“There’s Cyborg and who?” Fertitta said.
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker is all for women fighting, but he admitted Saturday that “it is tough” with Cyborg. He joked that he’s entertained the idea of having her fight his current men’s lightweight champion, Gilbert Melendez.
The card also included a dominant showing by former Strikeforce middleweight champion Cung Le, who scored a second-round TKO over Scott Smith in a rematch of their December fight, which Smith won.
Le’s defining shot Saturday was a spinning leg kick to Smith’s gut that knocked Smith down. Le pounced, landing punches and the referee stopped it. Le (7-1) dominated the first round with kicks and impressive stand-up combinations.
Also, Josh Thomson (17-3) posted a third-round submission victory over Pat Healy (23-16).