Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
The opening round of the Strikeforce World Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament may have served as the final moment in the career of one of mixed martial arts' most storied fighters.
Fedor Emelianenko (31-3) suffered a humiliating TKO defeat to Antonio Silva (16-2) Saturday night in East Rutherford, N.J., that had him contemplating retirement moments after the fight.
“Maybe it’s the last time,” Emelianenko said through a translator in his post-fight interview on Showtime. “Maybe it’s my time. Thank God for everything. I’ve spent a great, beautiful, long sport life. Maybe it’s God will.”
Doctors stopped the fight after the second round because the 34-year old Emelianenko was unable to see with a swollen shut right eye. Two of the three judges scored a close first round in favor of Emelianenko. There was no debate over who won the second.
Silva swarmed Emelianenko and took him down within five seconds of the second round bell. Silva, who weighed in at 264 pounds Friday but came into the fight at more than 280, imposed his size advantage on the 226-pound Emelianenko.
Silva unleashed a ground-and-pound attack that nearly knocked out Emelianenko. Silva was also on the verge of a submission victory when he secured a choke around Emelianenko’s neck.
Silva, who came in as nearly a 4-to-1 underdog according to local sports books, re-iterated his thoughts of feeling unappreciated coming into the bout after he won.
“All the people say Fedor, Fedor, Fedor before I say I was not in my home eating pizza, watching movies and drinking soda,” he said. “I was training too hard and I showed the world.”
Silva advances to the semifinals of the heavyweight tournament, where he will meet the winner of the Alistair Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum fight. That bout is scheduled April 9.
In the other World Grand Prix quarterfinal match Saturday, Sergei Kharitonov defeated Andrei Arlovski. Kharitonov knocked out Arlovski at the 2:49 mark of the first round and will face the winner of the Brett Rogers vs. Josh Barnett fight, also scheduled for April 9.
“I could care less what the experts think,” Kharitonov said. “I know I’m going to win this tournament.”
Emelianenko’s ouster undoubtedly lessens the prestige of Strikeforce’s tournament. Emelianenko, who hadn’t lost a fight in 10 years before dropping his last two, was the top draw of the Grand Prix. Strikeforce even bracketed the tournament around the most intriguing matchups involving Emelianenko.
Not only will fans be deprived of seeing those fights, they may never see Emelianenko in the cage again.
“Something went wrong from the very beginning and I didn’t readjust myself,” Emelianenko said. “Maybe it’s the time to leave.”