Grades are in from San Jose, Calif., where Fabricio Werdum turned the MMA world upside down with a huge upset of perennial No. 1 heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko.
Fabricio Werdum: A
“Vai Cavalo” did it. Werdum recovered from a dicey start to shock the world and the landscape of MMA’s heavyweight rankings. It’s one thing to defeat Fedor, but to do it in 69 seconds? That’s simply incredible. Next for the BJJ black belt: Alistair Overeem, a crack at the Strikeforce title and overdue respect.
Fedor Emelianenko: D-
It was looking like old hat for the “Last Emperor” early in the round, as Werdum was on his keister looking up at the man who hadn’t lost a bout in nearly 10 years. That all changed when Emelianenko engaged the dangerous Brazilian in his own world and put his legacy at stake with a man he clearly underestimated on the floor. So what’s the big deal, you ask? Everyone loses, right? For years, the Russian from Stary Oskol was the exception. He had beaten the best at their own game. Twice did Fedor abuse Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira from the guard. He spent extended time on his feet with Mirko Filipovic and arguably got the best of him when the Croatian’s kicks were feared as much as global warming.
Fedor was the one consistent in this sport of seemingly unavoidable parity, but no more. So where does Fedor stand now? This poses a tough question for ranking panelists such as myself, who will have to examine the placement of a man that arguably (considering the recent slides of Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski) hasn’t won a blockbuster fight in five years. Is he still a top-10 heavyweight? We’ll see on Tuesday, when Sherdog.com releases its divisional rankings.
Cung Le: B+
Oh yes, revenge is sweet. Several clean knockdowns and a convincing finish will do wonders for recent memory. The Vietnam native made a statement with flashy kicks that would make Wong Fei-hung proud and put fear in the hearts of Strikeforce middleweights. Le’s one setback against Smith aside, the San Jose resident still possesses a bright future in the cage and a few years of fight in his 38-year-old frame.
Scott Smith: D
It looked like a solid strategy at first, but rushing a superior athlete in his own realm is questionable at best. If Fathead made Strikeforce wall emblems, Smith would have just gotten “posterized” by a lethal kick to the body.
Cristiane Santos: B
The former handball player is making a name for herself as one of the premier athletes in female MMA and a path of violence that is perhaps unequaled. Will the media still carry Megumi Fujii’s torch as the sport’s best, although “Cyborg” does it more impressively on a bigger stage? Time will tell.
Josh Thomson: B
Thomson looked exceptional on the floor in round one and less than impressive in the follow-up frame before locking up a fight-ending rear-naked choke in the final stanza. Thomson is largely inconsistent but is a threat to any lightweight, as evidenced by his blowout of Gilbert Melendez in their first encounter. Let’s not forget that Thomson isn’t far removed from a broken leg that forced a lengthy layoff; he’s yet to peak as a mixed martial artist.
Jan Finney: C-
It was a complete drubbing, but Finney showed enough heart to leave San Jose with respect.
Pat Healy: C
A big underdog, Healy pushed a top-level lightweight into the third round, and he managed to take the second period on all three Sherdog.com play-by-play scorecards.
Four fights, four finishes: not too shabby for a televised card. Fedor went down, but the promotion’s poster girl dominated in brutal fashion, and ex-champions Le and Thomson made positive moves toward title contention. Can the league survive recent disappointments from Dan Henderson and the reeling Emelianenko? Yes.
Dana White: A+
The sport’s most recognizable figure can now say that the man who defeated Fedor couldn’t hack it in the UFC, and he’d be correct in saying so. Finally, reporters and fans will stop asking him about the one fighter he couldn’t secure on his roster, and MMA’s undisputed No. 1 heavyweight will be anointed on July 3 inside the Octagon. Is there any arguing that? Nobody came out of Saturday evening looking better than Mr. White, not even Werdum.