In many respects, the Fedor Emelianenko on display Saturday night at Strikeforce/M-1 Global's inaugural event was every bit the vintage Last Emperor. By that, I don't mean it was one of the Russian's best fights or most convincing victories.
Understand, as impressive as Brett Rogers looked for the round plus, the Grim still can't be considered one of Emelianenko's most sincere challengers.
The 6'5", 265-pound monster with genuine striking skills simply doesn't have the experience, resume, or well-rounded skill-set to be put on Fedor's mantel alongside warriors like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mirko Filipovic, Mark Coleman, and their ilk.
Consequently, it wasn't "vintage" Fedor as far as the caliber of opponent was concerned.
However, the action itself was very much reminiscent of the Russian Experiment's most glorious of glory days. For that, Brett Rogers deserves a ton of credit.
The native of Chicago used his superior size—the American had about 30 pounds and over five inches on his adversary, since apparently Emelianenko is shrinking (from 6' to 5'11")—to put Fedor in a couple bad spots.
Even more impressively, the Grim looked to be beating the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world to the punch.
Unfortunately, Fedor Emelianenko often starts slowly against particularly dangerous opponents and uses his calm to his advantage—much like fellow terror Anderson Silva.
The Last Emperor never panics and never presses, using his stoicism to coldly assess the situation and adapt as appropriate.
That's what you saw with the finishing blow.
Rogers was coming in to fire that same jab that bloodied and possibly broke Emelianenko's nose in the opening exchange of the first round.
Sadly for the Grim, Fedor had other ideas—subtly setting up as if he would repeat the same left-jab, right-hook from the opening exchange (effectively duping Rogers), but instead loading up and casting the heavy right that ended the contest.
In between, the audience witnessed the complete majesty of the Last Emperor unfold.
You saw the tremendous power in and unorthodox approach to his striking. You saw his uncanny ability to be accurate with those seemingly wild bombs.
You saw his unflagging will as he kept stalking through an increasingly gory visage (my man cuts like tissue paper).
Most importantly, you saw his apparently inexhaustible gas tank and his frenetic precision.
Not to belabor the point, but Brett Rogers is substantially bigger than Fedor Emelianenko. Furthermore, the younger American spent a good deal of the roughly seven minutes imposing his girth on the older Russian—whether in the clinch against the cage or from on top while in Fedor's guard.
Toss in the jab that opened the champ up, the brief orgy of ground-and-pound that progressed the carnage, and you have a final picture of a fight that should've been thoroughly fatiguing to the smaller gladiator.
Except it wasn't—Fedor just kept coming like he always does.
Which brings me to the frenetic precision.
This was on display perfectly after the Last Emperor wobbled Rogers with a big left paw about two minutes into the first.
Most fighters in that scenario, when they have an opponent rocked and a full energy tank, rush in with abandon and waste a ton of energy attempting to haphazardly finish the issue. There's a flurry of activity that really doesn't amount to much.
Not with Fedor.
The cold-blooded killer rushes in with the same ferocity, but there doesn't seem to be much wasted movement. You saw him land a few more strikes to the disconcerted Grim while making technically sound takedown attempts.
Once on the ground, Emelianenko peppered his prone opponent with shots while maintaining position, eventually transitioning into a kimura.
When that failed and put Fedor in a bad spot—with Rogers pounding from above and splattering his face—there was still no desperation.
Despite the size and power raining fists from above, Emelianenko merely bided his time until he caught one of those big arms for a chance at an armbar and escaped trouble.
Mind you, this all happened in about 60 seconds.
From there, Brett Rogers was on fumes and it was just a matter of time. When you're locked in a cage and exhausted, the LAST person you want to be staring at is Fedor Emelianenko.
Of course, one last entry needed to be made for a complete exhibition of what makes Fedor so special. It came during the post-fight interview with Gus Johnson—the astounding quiet and humility of the man.
No nauseating self-aggrandizement, no tedious bombast—only thanks and respect.
And that's why the Last Emperor is a force worthy of adulation.
Long may he reign.
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