Fedor Emelianenko vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson feels like a fight that could only happen in Japan. And it could only happen in 2019 in a Bellator cage. With all the stars aligning, the two MMA legends met in the main event of Bellator 237 from Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, the country where both men became superstars in the sport while fighting for PRIDE Fighting Championship in the early 2000s. Fortunes, as they have for decades, were good for Emelianenko as he fought — perhaps for the last time ever — in Japan.
While Emelianenko (39-6) always looks the same as he enters the cage, whether in 2003 or 2019, the physical transformation of Jackson (38-14) has been hard to ignore. The former UFC light heavyweight champion had to cut weight to come in at the heavyweight limit of 265 pounds, 60 pounds heavier than his heyday as one of the all-time greats at 205 pounds. Were there any questions if the added weight would hinder Jackson, it took little time for it to be proven he was not in any shape to compete at his normal level, even against a much faded version of “The Last Emperor.”
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Emelianenko pressed the action from the opening bell, unloading combinations of punches and kicks to the legs and soft body of the American. Jackson presented little resistance at any point in the contest before a heavy right from Emelianenko landed to the forehead, stiffening the legs of “Rampage” and crashing him face-first to the canvas where he began shaking his head. He was bleeding above the left eye, and whether Jackson was in protest of the referee moving in to stop the fight or to show he had no interest in further punishment was not immediately clear.
The finish came — somewhat mercifully — at the 2:44 mark of the opening round. The victory moved Emelianenko’s career record in Saitama to 14-0, seemingly providing him with the note he may have felt was right to end his career on.
“I’m very happy that one more time I was here and was able to entertain you guys and make you happy,” Emelianenko said after his win. “That’s where I became a real fighter, in Japan, here. That’s where I got your love guys. I’m very happy I got to entertain and make you happy again.
“Unfortunately, and regretfully, I have to say perhaps my career stops here on my win in Japan where I started. I’m finishing my career here. Thank you very much for supporting me over the years.”