Even in a diminished state, Fedor Emelianenko remains a formidable weapon.
“The Last Emperor” put away Frank Mir with first-round punches in the 2018 Bellator MMA heavyweight grand prix quarterfinals at Bellator 198 on Saturday at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois. In his first appearance since March 19, 2016, Mir (18-12, 0-1 Bellator) succumbed to blows 48 seconds into Round 1, as the fading former Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholder was saddled with his third straight defeat.
Emelianenko (37-5, 1-1 Bellator) navigated some choppy waters, drew Mir into a firefight and uncorked a short but devastating left uppercut that put the Las Vegas native on all fours. The Russian great pounced with follow-up punches -- a volley of left hands did the trick -- to force referee Mike Beltran to intervene on Mir’s behalf.
The 41-year-old Emelianenko will face Chael Sonnen in the tournament semifinals later this year.
In the featherweight co-main event, surging Roufusport standout Emmanuel Sanchez submitted Sikjitsu’s Sam Sicilia with a first-round arm-triangle choke. A feeling of resignation having enveloped him, Sicilia (16-9, 1-1 Bellator) raised the white flag 3:52 into Round 1 and lost for the fourth time in five outings.
Sanchez (17-3, 9-2 Bellator) pushed a merciless pace with seemingly boundless energy. He rolled for a leg lock, absorbed some ground-and-pound and then scrambled toward Sicilia’s back along the fence. The opportunistic Sanchez locked in a standing arm-triangle choke, cut off blood flow and dragged Sicilia to the canvas, where the inevitable tapout followed moments later.
On a short list of deserving title contenders at 145 pounds, Sanchez has rattled off four consecutive victories.
Meanwhile, the unbeaten Rafael Lovato Jr. continued his unabated climb on the middleweight ladder by bouncing former Titan Fighting Championships titleholder Gerald Harris with an armbar in the first round of their catchweight feature at 188 pounds. A short-notice substitute for the injured John Salter, Harris (25-6, 0-1 Bellator) bowed out 1:11 into Round 1.
Lovato (8-0, 4-0 Bellator) lured “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 7 graduate into his guard after falling to his back on an errant flying knee. The longtime Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt took aim at a triangle choke before making a smooth transition to an armbar for the quick tapout. Harris could only bury his face in his hands in disgust, having been submitted for the first time in 31 professional appearances.
The loss closed the book on a four-fight winning streak for Harris.
Elsewhere, Neiman Gracie remained undefeated, as he dispatched Power MMA representative Javier Torres with an arm-triangle choke in the second round of their welterweight showcase. Torres (10-4, 0-1 Bellator) conceded defeat 3:18 into Round 2, suffering the first submission loss of his 14-fight career.
Gracie (8-0, 6-0 Bellator) was masterfully methodical. The 29-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt chipped away at Torres’ resolve in the first round, where he executed a pair of takedowns, pursued a heel hook and allowed frustration to build. Though his initial advances were denied, he stayed true to his game plan. Gracie struck for another takedown in the second round, passed from full guard to half guard and ultimately achieved full mount. He then framed the choke, cleared the last line of Torres’ defense and tightened his squeeze until the deed was done.
Gracie has submitted seven of his first eight opponents.
Finally, SBG Ireland’s Dillon Danis made his long-awaited transition from Brazilian jiu-jitsu to mixed martial arts and submitted Kyle Walker with a toe hold in the first round of their catchweight collision at 175 pounds. Danis (1-0, 1-0 Bellator) elicited the tapout 1:38 into Round 1.
Walker (2-4, 0-1 Bellator) clipped the Marcelo Garcia protégé with a pair of overhand lefts but wandered into a trap, as Danis pulled guard and went to work. Once the action spilled onto the canvas, the finish became a formality. Danis, 24, isolated the King of the Cage alum’s left leg, thought briefly about a kneebar and then clamped down on the toe hold.
The 31-year-old Walker has lost three fights in a row.
In other action, Sultan Umar claimed a unanimous verdict over Tom Angeloff in a three-round battle at 170 pounds, prompting 30-26, 30-27 and 30-27 scores from the judges; Robert Morrow was awarded a unanimous decision against Adam Maciejewski in a three-round heavyweight scrap, earning 29-28 scores from all three judges; Adil Benjilany captured a unanimous verdict over Corey Jackson in a three-round featherweight tussle, sweeping the scorecards with 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 marks; Mark Stoddard submitted Daniel Stittgen with a triangle choke 4:43 into the first round of their welterweight affair; Eric Wisely tapped Morgan Sickinger with an armbar 1:12 seconds into the first round of their 150-pound catchweight tilt; Asef Askar settled for a majority draw with Andrew Johnson -- 29-28, 28-28, 28-28 -- in their three-round pairing at 145 pounds; Joey Diehl submitted Nate Williams with a triangle choke 54 seconds into the first round of their flyweight tilt; and R’Mandel Cameron took a unanimous decision from P.J. Caijigas in a three-round welterweight confrontation, drawing 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 nods from the judges.