EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Fedor Emelianenko had been considered the best heavyweight fighter for the better part of a decade, an aura of invincibility growing around him.
Those days might be over, along with his sterling career.
Brazilian jiujitsu star Antonio Silva (16-2) beat the mixed martial arts icon when the ringside doctor refused to allow him to continue, Emelianenko’s right eye swollen shut from numerous blows after a wild second round Saturday night in the Strikeforce heavyweight Grand Prix.
In the co-main event, Sergei Kharitonov stunned a crowd of more than 11,000 at the Izod Center by knocking out Andrei Arlovski (15-9). It was the fourth straight loss for the former UFC champion, whose career also may be barreling toward a disappointing conclusion.
Kharitonov (18-4) advanced to face Brett Rogers or Josh Barnett, who meet in the second batch of quarterfinals on April 9. Silva will face Fabricio Werdum or Alistair Overeem.
“Something went wrong from the very beginning and I didn’t manage to readjust myself,” Emelianenko (31-3-1) said. “Maybe it’s time to leave.”
The crowd responded by pleading for the 34-year-old Emelianenko to continue, despite his second straight loss after nearly a decade of perfection.
“Yes, maybe it’s the last time. Maybe it’s high time,” Emelianenko said. “I spent a great, beautiful, long sport life. Maybe it’s God’s will.”
It was a big night for Strikeforce, which has slowly grown in the shadow of the more popular and more established UFC. The promotion has arguably the better heavyweight division, headlined by Emelianenko, and that’s why officials decided to stage the ambitious eight-man tournament.