Fedor Emelianenko’s dreams of a fairytale finale to his fighting career were dashed in just two and a half minutes by heavyweight champion Ryan Bader at Bellator 290, but “The Last Emperor” ended the cage smiling after an emotional in-cage retirement in Inglewood, California.
Emelianenko was easily overpowered by Bellator heavyweight champion Ryan Bader, who battered the 46-year-old Russian to claim a one-sided TKO victory and become the only fighter to defeat the Russian icon twice.
But, despite Bader’s impressive performance in victory, the night was all about Emelianenko, who had announced months ahead of the event that the fight at The Kia Forum would be his last.
In attendance to watch Fedor bring the curtain down on his legendary career was a who’s who of MMA royalty from years gone by, with Royce Gracie, Chuck Liddell, Mark Coleman, Randy Couture, Matt Hughes, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Josh Barnett, Frank Shamrock, Dan Henderson, Renzo Gracie, Benson Henderson and Chael Sonnen were all in attendance to show respect to the former Pride FC heavyweight champion, and they, along with former Pride FC boss and current Rizin FF president Nobuyuki Sakakibara, entered the cage to greet Fedor as he completed his final in-cage interview and laid down his gloves in the cage in the traditional gesture of retirement.
It was an emotional moment, and one that marked the end of an era, with the sport of today markedly different from the one that saw Fedor rule the world in his heyday.
Emelianenko retired with a career record of 40 wins, seven losses and one no-contest.
Eblen stars in dominant title defense
Bellator middleweight champion Johnny Eblen faced a tough test in Russian middleweight challenger Anatoly Tokov, but showed his immense talent as he dominated the former ACB champion to defend his 185-pound title for the first time in the co-main event.
Eblen looked a step ahead of Tokov through all five rounds as he outstruck and outwrestled the challenger to earn scores of 50-45, 49-46, 49-46 and cement his position as Bellator’s premier athlete at 185 pounds.
Ward blasts past Homasi
Brennan Ward’s remarkable career renaissance continued in the opening main card bout of the night as he won a back-and-forth war with Sabah Homasi with a resounding second-round TKO finish.
Ward and Homasi went toe to toe through a thrilling opening five minutes that delivered enough action to fill three rounds.
But, as the fighters returned to action at the start of the second stanza, it was Ward who had more pep in his step.
Ward pushed the pace and hurt Homasi with an array of strikes as he threw the kitchen sink at “The Sleek Sheikh”. Eventually the power and volume of strikes sent Homasi to the mat where he was finished with additional shots to give Ward his third successive second-round TKO victory since his return from a five-year hiatus in February 2022.
And, after his eye-catching stoppage win, Ward set his sights on the Bellator welterweight title as he called on Bellator president Scott Coker to grant him a title shot next.
Bellator 290: Official results
- Ryan Bader (c) def. Fedor Emelianenko via TKO (ground strikes) – Round 1, 2:30 – for heavyweight title
- Johnny Eblen (c) def. Anatoly Tokov via unanimous decision (50-45, 49-46, 49-46, 49-46) – to retain middleweight title
- Brennan Ward def. Sabah Homasi via TKO (strikes) – Round 2, 1:34
- Lorenz Larkin def. Mukhamed Berkhamov via knockout (elbow) – Round 1, 1:41
- Henry Corrales def. Akhmed Magomedov via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Ali Isaev vs. Steve Mowry ruled a unanimous draw (28-28, 28-28, 28-28)
- Chris Gonzalez def. Max Rohskopf via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 1:22
- Grant Neal def. Karl Albrektsson via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
- Diana Avsaragova def. Alejandra Lara via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Nikita Mikhailov def. Darrion Caldwell via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)