Two MMA legends returned to a spot in which they created so much history at a joint Bellator/Rizin event Sunday afternoon outside Tokyo at Saitama Super Arena. One delivered a reminder of the skills that made him so effective at his best.
Fedor Emelianenko, considered by many to be the greatest MMA fighter of all time, looked dangerous at age 43, quickly moving in and out with power punches and overwhelming former UFC light-heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Emelianenko dropped Jackson with a punch, and after Jackson collapsed face first, the fight was called off 2:44 into the first round.
Emelianenko and Jackson both fought many times in Saitama Super Arena for Pride Fighting Championships, at the time the world’s premier MMA organization. Emelianenko was the dominant heavyweight champion while Jackson was a popular knockout artist in Pride’s loaded middleweight division. They returned to the arena years later for a novelty fight for the Japanese fans.
After the bout, Emelianenko announced it was likely his final fight in Japan. He said wants to continue to wind down his career and wants to fight again in the United States and Russia. Bellator president Scott Coker indicated after the fight he would like to match Emelianenko against Josh Barnett next, a bout that promoters have tried to put together for over a decade. Barnett was scheduled to return to action after a three-year hiatus last week but he was forced to pull out of his fight due to sickness.
As for Jackson, he delivered a performance that led to ridicule on social media. Jackson looked out-of-shape, lethargic and unmotivated. Jackson has lost three of his last four fights and it appears his career could be in jeopardy . He seemed in good spirits, however, expressing his admiration for Emelianenko and even posing for photos with Emelianenko’s team in the cage after the fight.
In the co-feature, former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler turned in a tremendous performance, knocking Sidney Outlaw out in 2:59 with a beautiful right hand and one additional punch on the ground. Chandler lost the Bellator lightweight title in his last fight and the win moves him closer to a rematch with new champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire.
In other action, the charismatic Michael “Venom” Page proved to be a great fit for the Japanese fans. He dazzled the crowd with his unorthodox fighting style and personality before knocking out overmatched Shinsho Anzai in the second round. The audience reacted big to Page after his win and his post-fight interview. Unlike in the United States, Japanese MMA fans have historically been more receptive to competitive mismatches and they just enjoyed seeing Page showcase his formidable talent. Bellator stars Lorenz Larkin and Goiti Yamauchi also scored wins.
This collaboration between Bellator and Rizin was the first of two at the close of 2019. Next up, Rizin will include Bellator fighters as it puts on its New Year’s Eve show “Rizin 20" at Saitama Super Arena. The card has less name value to the American market but includes Japanese stars Tenshin Nasukawa, Kai Asakura and Ayaka Hamasaki.