Matt Mitrione Beats Fedor Emelianenko in Round 1 at Bellator 180

Alex BallentineFeatured ColumnistJune 25, 2017

Matt Mitrione is seen during a weigh-in before Bellator 180 on Friday, June 23, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
Gregory Payan/Associated Press

Matt Mitrione capitalized on the opportunity of a lifetime at Bellator 180 on Saturday, defeating Fedor "The Last Emperor" Emelianenko in the evening's main event from Madison Square Garden in New York via first-round TKO.

Bleacher Report MMA passed along the official time of the knockout:

It was as shocking as knockouts in MMA get as the two wasted no time in getting after one another. Both fighters stepped in to massive overhands that resembled high-powered rams butting heads with one another. 

Both men went to the mat, but Mitrione was able to recover and swarm Emelianenko for the finish. 

After Fedor's lengthy career, it was a bittersweet experience to watch him go out in a fight so early. Josh Gross of The Guardian urged the Russian to retire after this loss:

The heavyweight division is about as unpredictable as any. Ben Fowlkes of MMAjunkie noted that if there's a division that could give us a double knockout, the big men of MMA are the ones to do it:

This is by far the biggest win of Mitrione's career. The 38-year-old was a perennial mid-tier heavyweight for the UFC but is now 3-0 since making the transition to Bellator. A win over Emelianenko is a considerable achievement considering that his most high-profile win before that was a TKO win over Kimbo Slice.

With Emelianenko's reputation for once being the most fearsome heavyweight of all time came a certain level of preparation for Mitrione. A preparation that apparently paid off. 

"I prepped for the early 2000 Fedor, and that's really what we expect," Mitrione said leading up to the fight, per Brett Okamoto of ESPN.com. "It may not be that way, and it will be a shame if it's not. I'm as good as I've ever been, and if he comes out and is not that way, it will be a shame. It will be a letdown."

Regardless of how Emelianenko performed, beating one of the all-time greats has to be the biggest achievement for the heavyweight. 

For Emelianenko, it would stand to reason this could be his last ride. The stoic Russian is one of the most dominant fighters of all time. He hinted that the result of this fight would go a long way in deciding his future. 

"I have a strong wish to continue fighting," Emelianenko said, per Mike Bohn of MMAjunkie. "But we'll be making decisions based on my feelings and health after the fight."

The 40-year-old is already the most accomplished heavyweight in the history of MMA. His career was marked by a 27-fight win streak that spanned from 2001-2009 and a heavyweight title reign in Pride that went from 2003 until the end of the organization in 2007.

That win streak was eventually snapped in San Jose when Fabricio Werdum beat him by submission as part of the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix.  

Emelianenko already walked away from the sport once. He had a three-year retirement from 2012 to 2015 but has now fought three times since then. Regardless of his decision, it doesn't sound like he'll be walking away from Bellator. 

"I would like to end my career with Bellator. I would like to work in accordance with my contract," he said on The MMA Hour (via MMA Weekly). "Relations with people is of great importance with me. I value highly the relations with myself and Scott. So I do want to end my career with Bellator."

Given the fall from greatest of all time to losing to Mitrione, now might be the time for the Russian to walk away from the sport to be remembered as the legend that he is.