Fedor Emelianenko and Matt Mitrione both connected with right hands good enough to finish their opponent and win a fight, but it was only Mitrione who was in any fit state to follow up and put the seal on the victory at Bellator NYC tonight (June 24) in Madison Square Garden, New York.
The two heavyweights, following a quiet start to proceedings, suddenly came to life and traded right hands a minute into round one and both shots achieved the intended result. Fedor’s right hand put Mitrione on the floor; Mitrione’s right hand put Fedor on the floor. The difference, though, was this: Mitrione, though decked, landed only on his backside, whereas Fedor went the whole way back, horizontal momentarily. This allowed Mitrione to spring back to life quicker and to capitalise on the impact of his initial right hand in the form of a further flurry of punches as Fedor looked to regain his senses.
The double-knockdown was enough to put Mitrione, 12-5, in the ascendency and give him the opportunity to hurt and finish Fedor, which is precisely what he did, ending matters at the 1:14 mark in round one.
If, however, we’re honest with ourselves, it wasn’t only Mitrione’s position upon landing that allowed him to regenerate faster than Fedor and hand the 40-year-old Russian his latest career defeat. There was more to it than that. Mitrione’s actions were the actions of an athlete still relatively fresh in the game. They were the actions of a sharp and ambitious fighter who believes he can one day win the Bellator heavyweight title. He might be 38 years of age, but he’s young in fighting terms and retains the attitude and enthusiasm of a man many years younger.
The same cannot be said for Fedor Emelianenko, perhaps the greatest heavyweight in the history of mixed martial arts. He, unlike Mitrione, can’t rebound the way he once did. This wasn’t Kevin Randleman. This wasn’t Kazuyuki Fujita. This was, instead, Fedor in 2017, a man who, in his previous fight, was beaten up by Fabio Maldonado for the majority of the three rounds they shared, only to get the benefit of the doubt from three judges in Russia. This is a former champion who has now lost his last four fights on American soil, each of them by stoppage.
“Will you continue fighting?” he was asked in the post-fight press conference.
“Yes,” replied Fedor, 36-5 (1 NC). “I am a fighter.”