Fedor Emelianenko still has some story left to tell.
“The Last Emperor” advanced to the semifinals of the 2018 Bellator MMA heavyweight grand prix, as he disposed of Frank Mir with first-round punches in the Bellator 198 main event on Saturday at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois. Mir bit the dust 48 seconds into Round 1, thus concluding the long-awaited showdown between two of the most accomplished heavyweights of all-time.
Emelianenko turned the former Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholder’s aggression against him. The 41-year-old Russian icon countered the oncoming Mir with a crushing left uppercut that put him on all fours. Emelianenko trailed him to the mat and unleashed a barrage of winging left hands to the side of the head that forced referee Mike Beltran to act. It was the fourth sub-minute finish of Emelianenko’s career. A winner in six of his last seven bouts, the resurgent Red Devil Sport Club lynchpin will meet Chael Sonnen in the tournament semis later this year.
In the aftermath of Bellator 198, here are four matches that ought to be made:
Emmanuel Sanchez vs. Patricio Freire-Daniel Weichel winner: Sanchez continues to surprise. The 27-year-old Duke Roufus protégé recorded his fourth consecutive victory in the co-headliner, as he put away “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 15 graduate Sam Sicilia with an arm-triangle choke 3:52 into the first round. Sanchez overwhelmed Sicilia with controlled chaos before he snatched the fight-ending choke in a standing position and dragged him to the ground to elicit the tapout. Freire will defend the Bellator featherweight championship against Weichel on July 14 in Rome.
Rafael Lovato Jr. vs. Rafael Carvalho-Gegard Mousasi winner: In Lovato, Bellator appears to have zeroed in on its next No. 1 contender at 185 pounds. The decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt kept his perfect professional record intact with a lightning-quick armbar submission on former Titan Fighting Championship titleholder Gerald Harris. Lovato, 34, brought it to a close 1:11 into Round 1, as he improved to 8-0 and became the first man to ever submit Harris, a late replacement for the injured John Salter. Carvalho will put his middleweight crown on the line against Mousasi at Bellator 200 on May 25 in London.
Neiman Gracie vs. Logan Storley: Gracie accelerated his ascent at 170 pounds, as the undefeated Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt moved to 8-0 with an arm-triangle choke submission on Javier Torres. The 29-year-old slammed the door on Torres 3:18 into the second round and has now submitted seven of his first eight opponents. Gracie seems poised for a step up in competition. A four-time NCAA All-American wrestler, Storley last competed at Bellator 197 on April 13, when he took a unanimous decision from Joaquin Buckley at the Family Arena in St. Charles, Missouri.
Dillon Danis vs. Kevin Ferguson Jr.: Danis started to bridge the gap between bravado and results in his professional mixed martial arts debut. An SBG Ireland stablemate of former two-division UFC champion Conor McGregor and a longtime understudy to Marcelo Garcia, the 24-year-old took care of Kyle Walker with a first-round toe hold in their catchweight feature at 175 pounds. It lasted just 98 seconds. Afterward, Danis went big-game hunting and called for a match with the retired Ben Askren, though Bellator figures to pump the breaks on his ambition. Ferguson, the son of the late “Kimbo Slice,” pushed his record to 3-1 by submitting Devon Brock with a rear-naked choke 1:35 into the first round of their Bellator 197 pairing on April 13.