FedorÂ EmelianenkoÂ is returning toÂ MMA, and his first order of business is to defeat the man who knocked him from his throne five years ago.
The former Pride heavyweight championâ€™s decade-long undefeated run was a phenomenon unlike anything else in MMA history. I can remember gathering around the television with family and friends to watchÂ EmelianenkoÂ make the long trek to the Pride ring.
There was always a mystical aura surrounding him. In the ring, he was the Russian nightmare. He was judge, jury and executioner.
But that all ended at a Strikeforce event on June 26, 2010.
EmelianenkoÂ stepped into the cage withÂ Fabricio Werdum, a heavyweight contender at the time. Back then, the Brazilian submission specialistÂ didn't possess the well-rounded skills he has now.
Coming into the fight, it was obviousÂ Emelianenkoâ€™s best chance for victory was to keep the fight standing. But years of competing against some of the bestÂ grapplersÂ in the world can create recklessness. After dropping Werdum with a flurry of strikes,Â EmelianenkoÂ pounced on his opponent without any regard for submissions, desperately looking to end the fight.
And then the unthinkable happened. Werdum isolated an arm and transitioned into a triangleÂ armbar, which initiated the tap in the first round.Â EmelianenkoÂ went on to lose his next two fights in Strikeforce before finishing his career with three wins in M-1.
But the retirementÂ wouldnâ€™t last.