Fedor Emelianenko’s heavily promoted fight with Fabio Maldonado at EFN 50 in Russia on Friday night almost turned out to be a complete disaster for the heavyweight legend, though he eventually was able to salvage a majority decision victory.
Maldonado had been released from the UFC late last year after losing three of his last four fights at light-heavyweight, while his only previous heavyweight bout had lasted 35 seconds against Stipe Miocic before he was TKO’d, so no one gave him much of a chance against ‘The Last Emperor’.
In the opening seconds Fedor looked to assert his dominance with a flurry of strikes as Maldonado stood up against the cage defending himself as best he could.
Just a minute later the durable Brazilian shocked everyone watching when he landed a short right hook as Fedor pressed forward, then followed it up with a left hook that sent him toppling forward onto the mat.
Maldonado got on top as Fedor struggled to get up and started to drill him with repeated left hands to the face, and for a moment it seemed that the Russian star was practically motionless and the verge of suffering a brutal knockout.
Some referees would probably have stepped in to end the fight by that stage, but on this occasion the official gave Fedor every chance to recover, and mid-way through the round he did manage to get upright.
However, it immediately became obvious just how badly rocked Fedor was as he reeled across the Octagon on wobbled legs, barely able to stay on his feet.
The 39 year-old showed tremendous will and determination to keep fighting, but he would eat more punches before the end of this extremely one-sided opening five minutes, which looked like a classic case to be scored 10-8 round.
To his credit, the battered and bleeding Fedor regrouped as best as he could inbetween rounds, and looked steadier on his feet heading into the second. In the ten minutes that followed he showed flashes of his former self as he unleashed some hard-hitting combinations against the cage, but Maldonado took it all and kept on going.
Maldonado had expended a lot of energy in that opening round however, and so he was never able to consistently put his opponent in trouble after that, despite Fedor undoudbtedly still being in something of a weakened state.
And so the fight went to the judges, with a draw seeming like a reasonable result under the circumstances, but only one judge scored it 28-28, with the other two not placing more weight on Maldonado’s utter dominance in the first round, leading to two 29-28 scorecards in Fedor’s favor, handing him a majority decision victory.
Controversial stuff, and with the 39 year-old Fedor having made such heavy weather of a journeyman fighter who’s not even a natural heavyweight, much of the interest from fans in seeing him compete in the UFC, and indeed the promotion’s interest in paying out the cash to sign him, may just have faded away.