Fedor is “Real Deal” in Triumph Over Coleman

By Josh Gross Oct 22, 2006
LAS VEGAS, Oct. 21 — Most American fight fans can’t name even one of the quartet of heavyweight Russian champions that currently dominate boxing.

That’s apparently not true of Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures), the Russian mixed martial arts king who is not only known here, he’s revered.

Fighting Mark Coleman (Pictures) in front of 10,527 diehard fans at the Thomas & Mack Center on PRIDE Fighting Championship’s anticipated American promotional debut, Emelianenko once again displayed his genius by stifling his 41-year-old foe before submitting “The Hammer” 1:15 of the second period.

Fighting under modified Nevada State Athletic Commission rules — PRIDE’s standard fair of knees and kicks to the head on the ground were subsequently prohibited, as well as the promoter’s unique scoring and round system — PRIDE opted also to remove elbow strikes on the floor to the head.

Needless to say, action in the five-roped ring suffered.

Marketing for PRIDE “Real Deal” centered on Emelianenko, the organization’s heavyweight champion, and its huge entertainment value.

Fighting for the first time in 10 months, all eyes were on the 24-1-0 (1 NC) Russian, who uncharacteristically stumbled en route to the ring — it would be his only misstep tonight.

By the time Fedor stepped between the ropes, the arena — which sacrificed a quarter of its seats to PRIDE’s elaborate staging and appeared 80 percent full by the main event — was abuzz.

As had been the case in the week leading up tonight, fans showered Emelianenko, 30, with applause. Coleman balked at this during Friday’s post-weigh-in press conference, wondering aloud if the bout was set in Russia or America.

Fedor moved well in spite of the layoff and it wasn’t long before he connected on a series of quick punches that forced Coleman (15-8-0) backwards. While it had surely been his game plan, the former U.S. Olympian now desperately attempted to bring the fight to the floor, even though it was there that Emelianenko won via armbar two and a half years ago.

The heavyweight champion, whose belt was not on the line tonight, used streamlined technique to counter Coleman’s determined effort.

Midway through the opening five minutes referee Yuji Shimada paused action to have a Nevada State Athletic Commission appointed physician take a look at Coleman’s left eye, which was hamburger.

Having earlier chanted “Fedor! Fedor! Fedor!” the crowd roared for the American when he finally put Fedor on the floor to begin round two. But with the Russian, there are very few comfort zones. As he did in 2004, Fedor showed his well roundedness by swinging a leg over the former UFC and PRIDE tournament champion’s head, locking in the submission.

“I don’t plans for next year yet,” Emelianenko told the media after his victory, “but I would really like to come back here and fight for you again.”

The Russian could have an opportunity as early as February of next year. Three weeks following the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s Super Bowl-weekend card, PRIDE will return to Las Vegas for it’s second American date.

PRIDE 205-pound champion Wanderlei Silva (Pictures), who called out UFC champion Chuck Liddell (Pictures) tonight, will defend his belt against a yet-to-be determined opponent.

“Shogun” submits Randleman

Thanks to one of the most vicious kneebars we’ve seen in quite some time, Silva’s Chute Boxe teammate Mauricio Rua (Pictures) finished Coleman’s longtime friend and training partner Kevin Randleman (Pictures).

Eight months after suffering a freakish arm injury against Coleman, “Shogun” Rua stepped in with the athletic Randleman looking for redemption.

A former UFC heavyweight champion and All-American wrestler at Ohio State University, Randleman opened with a low, fast double-leg takedown that put the 24-year-old PRIDE Grand Prix Middleweight champion on the canvas. Almost immediately Rua, equally proficient in striking and submissions, worked towards an ankle hold.

An anguished look came across Randleman’s face when Rua tweaked the hold. “I used a lot of strength when I was trying to do the heelhook,” Rua said.

The 35-year-old Randleman, who fell to a misleading 16-12-0, gutted through the potentially leg-breaking submission. Yet he could not match Rua when the Brazilian switched his focus from the wrestler’s left ankle to knee. Tucking the heel of Randleman’s left foot behind his armpit, Rua gave the wrestler few options as he arched his hips to the sky and hyperextended the joint.

“I was finally able to finish him when Kevin rolled,” said Rua, now 14-2-0. “I was able to get his leg and I was happy about that.”

Barnett enjoys return to Las Vegas

For Josh Barnett (Pictures), stepping into a Las Vegas ring to compete was a vindication of sorts. Having been suspended in 2002 by the Nevada State Athletic Commission after testing positive for steroids, the heavyweight grappler learned Thursday that he would once again receive a NSAC license to fight.

Now he had the task of taking on Poland’s Pawel Nastula (Pictures), a fighter much more dangerous than his pre-fight 1-2-0 record would indicate. Ten years removed from winning Olympic gold at the Atlanta Games, Nastula returned to the U.S. hoping he could once again find success.

For seven and a half minutes, the Pole was well on his way.

Winning an early battle in the clinch, Nastula put Barnett on his back. An unnecessary stand-up by referee Herb Dean (Pictures) appeared to give Barnett time to recover, but Nastula again put the pressure on and scored another takedown from the clinch.

With round one in his pocket, Nastula did not back off the gas, connecting with a flurry of punches that appeared to hurt Barnett. For a third time Nastula put Barnett on his back, but the 28-year-old former King of Pancrase muscled his way into a better spot.

Having reversed, Barnett attacked Nastula’s right ankle by figure-fouring his arms around the delicate joint. The judoka looked like he was in fine shape, but in a flash his head snapped back in pain and he tapped out at the 3:04 mark.

With the victory, Barnett moved to 20-4. The hard luck Nastula now stands at 1-3, with losses to Barnett, Aleksander Emelianenko (Pictures) and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (Pictures).

Henderson wins first U.S. bout in eight years

Fighting in front of an American audience for the first time since 1998, PRIDE 183-pound champion Dan Henderson (Pictures) (21-5-0) was dominant against Vitor Belfort (Pictures), who despite his name and status has not shown a real desire to return to the form that to this day has fans rooting for him.

Henderson, outweighed by nine pounds, opened the three-round contest with a powerful takedown that reflected poorly on Belfort’s chances. On the floor, the Brazilian performed adequately, but despite getting the top position several times he couldn’t hurt the 36-year-old wrestler.

The PRIDE champ increased his output in round two. Aided by Belfort, who pulled guard along the ropes, Henderson unloaded with seven right hands to the head. A referee stand-up gave Henderson yet another opportunity to put the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt on the floor, which he did rather easily.

Up two rounds to none on each of the three judges’ scorecards, including a 10-8 second period in the eyes of Jeff Collins, Henderson came out slugging in the third and final stanza. Refusing to answer, Belfort, 29, flinched at Henderson’s attacks before suffering yet another takedown.

Henderson, who grew up just two hours outside of Las Vegas in Victorville, Calif., bombed away with right hands. Though Belfort (14-8-0) showed some life towards the end, he couldn't do enough to take a round.

The judges at ringside scored it a sweep across the board. Nelson Hamilton and Marcos Rosales had it 30-27, while Collins tallied a 30-26 judgment.

Undercard results

Heading into the bout pitting Phil Baroni (Pictures) and Yosuke Nishijima (Pictures), fans wondered if the American brawler would trade punches against a former boxing cruiserweight champion.

It didn’t take long to get the answer.

Off the opening bell the powerful Baroni, who was matched at a contracted-weight of 194 pounds instead of his usual 183, drove Nishijima to the canvas with a double-leg.

Though he’s shown himself to be a capable ground fighter, Baroni looked world-class against the neophyte grappler. Had elbows been allowed, he most likely would have pummeled Nishijima from the same position Matt Hughes (Pictures) famously dominated B.J. Penn (Pictures) in September.

Instead, Baroni (10-7-0) returned to side-control and locked in a shoulder lock. It took some time, but eventually referee Yuji Shimada saw enough and separated the fighters at 3:20 of the opening round. Having refused to tapout, Nishijima (0-4-0) appeared frustrated at the Japanese referee’s decision.

Judoka Kazuhiro Nakamura (Pictures) stopped late replacement for Marvin Eastman (Pictures), Canada’s Travis Galbraith (Pictures), with a sneaky knee to the chin in early in round two.

The first stanza was closer than most would have expected. Nakamura, now 11-5 in PRIDE competition, traded punches with Galbraith in the center of the ring. The Japanese veteran scored first, plastering a left hook to the chin that dropped the King of the Cage veteran.

To his credit Galbraith survived, moving for a leg submission before reversing to the top. However, the Japanese grappler was never in danger and he tossed Galbraith into side-control to close out the round.

While Galbraith (10-4-0) appeared game heading into the second period, Nakamura never showed signs of cracking. Following a quick takedown, the fighters stood and clinched in a corner. It was then that Nakamura snuck in the knee that put Galbraith on the floor. A series of punches followed before referee Herb Dean (Pictures) stopped the contest at the 1:16 mark.

Lasting not quite as long as tonight’s pre-fight pyrotechnics, Robbie Lawler (Pictures) opened “Real Deal” with a spectacular 22-second knockout over New Mexico’s Joey Villasenor (Pictures).

The American middleweights met at the center of the ring, where Lawler (12-4-0) moved in with a leaping high kick that forced Villasenor (22-5-0) backwards. The 24-year-old Iowan pressed the King of the Cage champion before connecting with a vicious leaping left knee to the chin that put Villasenor, 31, down.

Lawler unloaded undefended punches until referee Yuji Shimada halted the contest.

Also on the bill, Eric “Butterbean” Esch needed just 29 seconds to finish former pro wrestler Sean O’Haire. Esch, two pounds shy of 400 pounds, stood in the center of the ring waiting for O’Haire to move within range. The six-foot-six, 275-pounder absorbed a digging right hook to the body before taking five clubbing shots to the head.
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