Strikeforce: Fedor vs Werdum – The good, the bad and the ugly

Strikeforce: Fedor vs Werdum” did not just surpass expectations, it absolutely smashed them. Such was the aura of invincibility surrounding Fedor Emelianenko that many are calling Fabricio Werdum’s submission victory the greatest mixed martial arts upset of all time.

It is difficult to disagree with this description. Other results, such as Georges St Pierre’s loss to Matt Serra, might have been equally surprising but no figure in MMA history has ever attracted the same levels of adulation as Fedor.

Werdum’s surprise win was the good. It is a fantastic story which will dominate the MMA media for months to come and make this arguably the most memorable Strikeforce card in history.

Strikeforce’s decision to match Cristiane ‘Cyborg’ Santos with Jan Finney was the bad and referee Kim Winslow’s failure to stop the fight thereby allowing Finney to sustain a completely unnecessary amount of punishment was the ugly.

The bookmakers were under no illusions as to how competitive a contest the fight between Santos and Finney would be, Finney was a 15/1 outsider to win this fight. If this card taught us one thing it is that upsets do happen in MMA but there was only ever going to be one outcome from this mismatch.

Fights like this simply should not be allowed to take place on a promotion of the stature of Strikeforce. If the Strikeforce matchmakers really cannot find credible female opponents for Cyborg then perhaps they need to give serious consideration to allowing her to fight against members of the opposite sex.

This was a horrible match up which firstly, should have been stopped before it started, and secondly, should have been stopped a lot sooner after it did start. Refereeing might be primarily about enforcing the rules but as with any supervisory job involving potentially dangerous pursuits a degree of common sense is required.

It was immediately obvious from the opening exchanges that Finney was not going to win the fight. A sensible referee should have been looking for the slightest excuse to stop the fight from this moment onwards. Winslow seemed absolutely determined to allow Cyborg to batter Finney for as long as possible. Even Cyborg herself at times seemed to be reluctant to inflict any more punishment on an opponent who was clinging helplessly to her leg.

I have nothing against women fighters and I have nothing against women referees but this ‘fight’ seriously detracted from an otherwise excellent show and Strikeforce should take steps to ensure we are never forced to witness another debacle like this again.

The opening fight saw Josh Thomson get the reward he deserved for a series of ambitious submission attempts eventually forcing Pat Healy to tap due to a rear naked choke late in the third round. Healy spent the majority of the fight in dominant positions but never looked like coming close to finishing or even hurting Thomson.

Thomson showed great persistence in repeatedly trying to submit Healy and after coming close with triangles and armbars he finally found success with the late rear naked choke. Healy managed to withstand the choke for an inordinate amount of time but was finally forced to tap with just over 30 seconds remaining in the fight.

Cung Le’s first fight with Scott Smith came close to being stopped early as Smith seemingly had no answer for Le’s eclectic selection of strikes. Smith was given the benefit of the doubt and in this instance the referee was vindicated as he came from behind to knock Le out in an amazing comeback.

It was the first loss of Le’s MMA career and one he was anxious to avenge. Smith seemed determined not to leave it until late in the third round to land his first meaningful punch and came out swinging. Le was extremely composed and easily avoided Smith’s combinations while landing a few swift counters of his own.

It was one way traffic, much like the first meeting, but this time Le was actually able to finish the fight. Smith survived until early in round two when Le landed with a devastating back kick to the liver which left his opponent entirely incapacitated.

Earlier in the evening another Le victim Frank Shamrock announced his retirement from MMA. Le, at 38, is a year older than Shamrock and is surely approaching the end of his fighting career which is a shame because he is one of the most gifted fighters on the planet. He would surely have achieved even more in the sport had he started his MMA career a little earlier and not allowed himself to become sidetracked by acting opportunities.

The fight between Fedor and Werdum was over almost as soon as it had started. Normal service appeared to be underway when Fedor knocked Werdum to the floor but the Russian made an uncharacteristic error of judgement and was punished for it. Rather than letting the fight remain on the feet, where he clearly had the advantage, he elected to attempt a little ground and pound.

Werdum’s only realistic chance of victory was to secure a submission and Fedor should have seen the warning signs when he narrowly escaped an armbar attempt by the Brazilian. Instead the ‘Last Emperor’ chose to remain in and around Werdum’s guard and quickly paid the ultimate price as Werdum sank in an inescapable triangle choke.

This loss does not make Fedor any worse a fighter than he was a week ago. It does not alter the fact that he had won his previous 18 fights beating a who’s who of heavyweight opposition in the process. It definitely does not make the prospect of Fedor fighting Strikeforce Champion Alistair Overeem, UFC champion Brock Lesnar, or any of the other heavyweights in the UFC for that matter, any less palatable.

What this loss does demonstrate is just how competitive the sport of mixed martial arts has become. At an elite level even the slightest hint of a mistake is likely to be ruthlessly exploited. Fedor learned this lesson the hard way against Werdum and I expect him to be a better fighter in the future because of it.

16 COMMENTS
  • sides666 says:

    The cyborg finney fight should have been stopped in the first when you stop intelligently defending yourself th fight is over. Cung le looked impressive against smith not that that says to much. And last but not least i have to disagree with you on the fedor issue i watched as the last emperor was easily submitted by werdum and i thought to myself its about time someone put him away just to shut the pride fans up. Fedor is an entertaining fighter to watch but its probably better he stays in strikeforce safe

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 24

  • egad81 says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Weak-Sauce. Thumb up 7 Thumb down 26

  • Rece Rock says:

    I guess the match wasn’t for the WAMMA HW Belt huh?

    So Fedor and Shinya just walk around with these belts for shits and giggles I guess… ?

    There slogan is- One Belt… One King.

    Umm ok… If you say so.

    Well-Done. Thumb up 26 Thumb down 8

  • Guthookd says:

    “#1 Cyborg should be DNA tested to see if she/he was always a woman. If she has been then there should be no complaints about the test. “

    #2 Go fuck your mother.

    She is the Queen.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 20 Thumb down 20

  • Jstew3785 says:

    #1 Cyborg should be DNA tested to see if she/he was always a woman. If she has been then there should be no complaints about the test.

    Dude, this joke is getting old

    Well-Done. Thumb up 29 Thumb down 5

  • Angry Mike says:

    Finney took a beating, but she was still intelligently defending herself until the ref jumped in. Maybe not as competently as she could have, but she was. And anyway, she could’ve tapped at any time. Didn’t Tito verbally tap due to Frank Shamrock’s strikes? (As an aside, does that mean Finney is mentally tougher? Discuss amongst yourselves)

    MMA is combat, and the fans want to see a serious fight between two skilled warriors who are trying to incapacitate each other. If women want to be taken seriously in MMA, they and their fans have to learn to love their beatings, too.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 9

  • James Goyder says:

    ‘MMA is combat, and the fans want to see a serious fight between two skilled warriors who are trying to incapacitate each other. If women want to be taken seriously in MMA, they and their fans have to learn to love their beatings, too.’

    This fight would have been uncomfortable viewing if it had been between two men. People getting hurt is an inevitably by product of professional fighting but the whole point of having referees and regulations is to ensure that it happens as rarely as possible.

    Finney was allowed to take sustained and unnecessary punishment for in excess of five minutes when there was clearly absolutely no prospect of her winning the fight. If the bigger stronger Santos couldn’t knock Finney out despite getting to basically use her as a punching back Finney was hardly going to finish the fight with a single shot was she?

    I can see the argument for giving a fighter every chance to mount a Scott Smith style recovery but there was simply zero prospect of that happening in this fight and the referee should have realized that much, much sooner.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 7

  • Angry Mike says:

    I repeat: Finney could’ve tapped at any time, and her corner could’ve thrown in the towel. I’ve seen a fair number of uneven fights between male fighters, and rarely do I see any criticisms. On the other hand, there have been a number of controversial early stoppages lately, and those have provoked a lot of criticism. Askren v. Thomas I is an example. The likelihood that a fighter will rally and when isn’t the criteria for a stoppage. It’s whether the fighter is able to intelligently defend himself/herself. The ref made a judgment call based on up-close observation. If women’s MMA is going to be taken seriously, there can’t be a double standard. I still think that gender plays a part in the reactions to this fight and whether the stoppage was too late.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 8

  • Rece Rock says:

    The Good = Fedor Losing…
    The Bad= Fedor Losing…
    The Ugly= Fedor Losing…

    Depends on which way you look at.

    Well-Done. Thumb up 17 Thumb down 5

  • Angry Mike says:

    “… rally and win..,” not when. Sheesh.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 6

  • egad81 says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Weak-Sauce. Thumb up 2 Thumb down 17

  • Guthookd says:

    Finney showed us why a fight shouldn’t be stopped prematurely. She was getting owned in the first and I’ll admitt I was starting to think the same thing. They, the second round started and she landed a hard ass punch on Borg and I thought to my self…ahah! That’s why a fighter needs the opportunity to fight until they’ve had enough. It’s not over until it’s over.

    Seeing as this was going to put her at 8-8 and effectively end her career I also thought it was befitting to let her take it as far as she wanted to go for her fairwell fight. I will not soon forget her heart. She’s a warrior in my book.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 12 Thumb down 3

  • Dufresne says:

    “#1 Cyborg should be DNA tested to see if she/he was always a woman. If she has been then there should be no complaints about the test. ”

    Wrong. There are plenty of reasons to complain about that statement. The only reason you could justify a test like that would be if you’re assuming she’s actually a male. That’s insulting and degrading to a champion athlete. Look up Caster Semenya as a recent example. I can’t honestly believe you believe this and I’m assuming you meant that as a joke, because otherwise it is the most foolish and demeaning thing I have read on here in a long time.

    Finney is one tough woman, but that fight should have been over at about the 4 minute mark of round one when she completely turtled up and wasn’t even trying to defend herself or improve her position. That’s not “intelligently defending oneself” and is one of the main justifications for a referee stoppage. Yes she came back in the 2nd and landed a nice shot, but from there it was just more of the same until Winslow came to her senses and ended it. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a crowd boo because a fight was stopped too late before this one. Yeah she could have tapped, and yes her corner could have thrown in the towel, and if I had been her cornerman I would have thrown it the moment it became apparent she wasn’t going to tap. At least when Scott Smith was getting beat on in his first match with Le he was moving and trying to avoid shots, Finney spent almost a solid minute on her knees with her hands by her ears not moving. You also have to take into account a fighter’s history. If it’s someone like Couture or Big Nog, maybe you give them a little extra time to see if they can recover, but if you’re reffing a fighter that you either don’t know much about or who has a tendency to get finished (half of Finney’s losses are finishes by the way) you should probably step in a little early just to be sure. It may have been a judgment call for Finney, but her judgment sucked.

    I remember very few controversial early stoppages after a few months, I can guarantee I’ll remember this terrible late stoppage though.

    Scott Smith is known as a tough guy to put away and he took quite a beating from Le both times they fought, but it seems to me that the beatings are finally getting to him. He looked dazed and wobbly off of shots that I don’t think would have fazed him a few years ago.

    The fight with Fedor was shocking when it happened, but looking back on it now and really looking through Werdum’s record, it shouldn’t have been near as surprising. He’s probably one of the top 5 grapplers in all of MMA and a world champion BJJ practitioner whose only losses have been to the very top of the HW division. I know Fedor and Werdum are both wanting a rematch immediately, but honestly I would rather see Werdum and Overeem go at it for the belt as was promised. Either after that, or if somehow Overeem gets “hurt” again and will be out for a while, I would love to see a rematch. I can guarantee you that Fedor will make sure Werdum is really hurt before jumping into his guard again though. He’s too intelligent to let that happen twice against the same guy.

    Well-Done. Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  • Guthookd says:

    I agree wtih a lot of what you’re saying Duf but the comparison between Borg and Semenya is just not a good parallel my friend, as far as looks are concerned. I’d lick C.Borg from head to toe and ask for an instant rematch, but Semenya………to be polite……… NO THANK YOU.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 5

  • danw84 says:

    To be honest, I kinda thought Winslow didn’t end it earlier because she was a woman, reffing women, and wanted it to last a bit longer to show they belonged there and it could be competitive.

    Unfortunately it was the opposite of competitive, and she ended up looking incredibly unprofessional and borderline incompetent. The last time I can think of a fight not being stopped that needed to be stopped this bad was Matt Brown vs Pete Sell when Yves Lavigne just would not stop the fight as Brown wanted to quit hitting Sell.

    But, I also don’t think Finney was as hurt as most people are saying. She is tough as hell. Busted up face from those punches, but she clearly wasn’t as rocked and messed up as Sell was as Lavigne kept making Brown beat on him.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  • jarginmania8 says:

    first of all werdum is a good fighter but hes not that great if he had to face fedor ten more times fedor would win all, all he did was get a little careless any decent fighter with submissions would have gotten him,and for him to get all cocky and want another fight with fedor in 6-8 months in russia is stupid on his part hes going to get knocked out for sure,fedor isnt going to make the same mistake twice against the same guy, im pretty sure he’ll keep it standing this time which will be all fedor.

    As for Finney and cyborg yes cyborg did beat the crap out of her but she wasnt really badly hurt until late she just wasnt fighting back she kept covering up and avoiding cyborg because she didnt have an answer for pretty much anything that was thrown at her she was severely outclassed

    Cung Le’s the man…

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

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