Ryan Bader wrote several notes to himself to prepare for mixed martial arts legend Fedor Emelianenko, detailing several ways he saw the fight playing out.
So much of that homework remained in reserve Saturday night, as Bader needed only 35 seconds to knock out Emelianenko in the Bellator MMA heavyweight grand prix final at the Forum.
Bader (27-5), a former Pac-10 champion wrestler at Arizona State, decked Emelianenko (38-6) with a left hook planted above the chin, sending the Russian to the canvas. There, Bader slugged Emelianenko in the head with a powerful right hand and followed with two hammer punches that convinced referee Mike Beltran to stop the fight.
“You never think it’s going to go that quick,” Bader said.
Bader, the light-heavyweight champion, became Bellator’s first fighter to hold two titles at once, and he said he’ll defend them both.
Emelianenko, 42, said last week that he was considering retirement, and after the fight Bader was quick to show his respect.
“He’s one of the best to ever do it,” Bader said. “To win the heavyweight title against that man …”
Emelianenko left without discussing him future, but Bellator President Scott Coker said “it’s time” for him to retire, and envisioned a “retirement tour” with stops in Moscow, China and New York.
Emelianenko, a former Pride Fighting Championships heavyweight champion, won 27 consecutive fights in his prime, and Bader said he tried not to think about that before the fight.
“Not only that, there’s a lot at stake with the title on the line,” Bader said. “It’s surreal. What a night.”
Bader, who spoke of being ready to lean on his wrestling skill and cardio should the fight go into the late rounds, said he also worked on that left hand that floored Emelianenko.
“I saw him go down pretty hard. We practiced that [punch for when] he was setting up that right hand,” Bader said.
Another sudden finish was recorded in the co-main event: Henry Corrales responded remarkably to a knockdown punch from his younger Whittier neighbor Aaron Pico and answered by slinging a right-handed punch that struck Pico flush on the jaw, knocking him down to set up the stunning ending just 67 seconds into their fight.
Corrales (17-3) went down on a hard right uppercut by the Freddie Roach-trained Pico, but Corrales said he’s “at my best” when adversity arises.
Instead of trying to force a wrestling match that might’ve served him better, Pico (4-2) followed his knockdown blow by landing a knee to Corrales’ body, delivering punches to the gut when Corrales suddenly winged the blow that felled Pico.
“What’s done is done. Who the ... is next?” Corrales asked inside the cage. “That’s five straight [victories while training in Arizona]. I’ve got my stuff together.”
Earlier, with UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw, former UFC title challenger Joe Stevenson and UFC featherweight Cub Swanson in his corner, Hesperia’s Juan Archuleta (22-1) beat Ricky Bandejas by unanimous-decision scores of 29-28, and he asked for a showdown with Bellator bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell.
Torrance’s Adel Altamimi (8-5) opened the nationally televised portion of the card with a first-round submission by armbar of Brandon McMahan at 1:16.
Former WWE performer Jake Hager made short work of J.W. Kiser in Hager’s Bellator debut, getting Kiser to the mat and delivering elbows that enabled him to pursue a choke hold. Kiser tapped out at 2:09 of the first round.