Fabricio Werdum’s astonishing upset victory over long-time kingpin Fedor Emelianenko has thrown the Strikeforce heavyweight division into chaos. Although the stoic Russian deflected questions before this bout about a potential title shot against heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem, it was widely believed he would at the very least be offered that fight.
Now with Werdum’s gigantic monkey wrench being tossed into the plans, it’s anyone’s guess which way the promotion goes with their big guys.
Talk of an immediate rematch circulated the HP Pavilion during the post-fight press conference and Werdum was clear that he would indeed be willing to have a return engagement with Emelianenko.
“I want a rematch,” said Werdum right after the biggest win of his life. “I’m ready to fight anyone [Strikeforce CEO] Scott [Coker] wants me to fight.”
Coker was in no hurry to book that fight, and told Sherdog.com that the promotion had options in the heavyweight division.
“We’ll have to sit back and evaluate the situation,” said Coker following the press conference. “We can go in any number of directions.”
While Strikeforce does have options with Fedor, Overeem and Werdum, it seems likely that whoever is left out of the next big heavyweight bout will be forced to square off with a less than compelling opponent.
Strikeforce Matchmaker Rich Chou pointed to Antonio Silva and Coker added Sergei Kharitonov as potential foils for the trio.
Silva recently lost to Werdum and Kharitonov has not fought since being submitted by journeyman Jeff Monson 14 months ago. Neither seems a fitting challenger for Overeem, but could be an option for Fedor.
Emelianenko, speaking with the media before Werdum told the same roomful of reporters that he would grant “his hero” a rematch, said he would like another crack at the man who ended his nine-and-a-half year unbeaten run.
“Certainly I would like to have a rematch with Fabricio,” said the former Pride champion via his translator, “If he agrees, I would love to do that.
CBS executive Kelly Kahl was also on hand and, though he declined to get into any specifics, said he would “have to listen” if Strikeforce offered to bring a rematch to the network.
Another interesting angle that will play out over the next couple of months will be the manner in which M-1 Global, Emelianenko’s promoter, handles the sudden vulnerability of their top star.
The unexpected loss also has repercussions on the broader heavyweight landscape. With Fedor’s defeat, the July 3 UFC championship match between Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin will be for the unadulterated top spot in mixed martial arts heavyweight division.