10 Most Memorable Championship Shockers: Part 2

10 Most Memorable

By Jason Probst Dec 12, 2009
Diego Sanchez will challenge B.J. Penn for the lightweight championship in the UFC 107 main event on Saturday at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn.

In that showdown’s considerable shadow, Sherdog.com completes its list of the 10 most memorable shockers in championship fights -- bouts where a title changed hands and etched an indelible memory upon those who witnessed them. The list concludes in no particular order.

More » 10 Most Memorable Championship Shockers: Part 1

J. Sherwood/Sherdog.com

Pride Heavyweight Championship
Fedor Emelianenko def. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira -- Unanimous Decision
Pride 25 “Body Blow,” March 16, 2003

The Setting: For hardcore fans of this era, Pride was the indie rock band the hipsters follow. Its production value, presentation and talent level often surpassed that of the mostly-stateside UFC, which struggled to gain market share and stay alive in the face of meddling politicians -- most notably Arizona Sen. John McCain, whose Budweiser and boxing ties rarely gain mention in the same stories that recycle his infamous “human cockfighting” quote.

The leader of the pack was Nogueira, the heavyweight champion who had proven seemingly indestructible. Whether it was getting spiked on his head by the 350-pound Bob Sapp or luring the dangerous Mark Coleman into his guard and a slam-bang submission, Nogueira had what the Japanese call “budo”: a fighting spirit one cannot help but admire. Emelianenko’s most noteworthy accomplishments entering their first match were two workmanlike Pride wins over Semmy Schilt and Heath Herring, along with the consistent ability to have his name reversed as “Emelianenko Fedor” in virtually every article written on him.

The Swing Moment: While Nogueira’s ground game and patient style had been like quicksand to opponents, Emelianenko danced on it. He punished Nogueira on the feet, landing hammering punches. He beat him in every transition, using textbook judo and positional scrambling to impose his will in the clinches and on the ground. After a few minutes of increasingly one-sided action, Emelianenko postured up in Nogueira’s guard, reared back and delivered a massive right hand that landed flush, bouncing the champion’s head off the canvas. It was all academic from there, as Emelianeko took a clear-cut decision. It remains one of the hardest blows anyone has ever weathered from their back. If you watch it again, you can see Nogueira go out and then re-boot like a computer, shaking off the cobwebs from the punch that essentially had him on the defensive for the rest of the night.

The Aftermath: Emelianenko went on to become arguably the greatest fighter in history, while Nogueira enjoyed more battles in Pride -- including a no contest and another one-sided decision loss to the Russian -- before transitioning to the UFC. Now in the mix for a title shot, Nogueira seems a lock for the hall of fame. Like many standout champions, it took a great one to dethrone him.
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