Fedor Emelianenko scores TKO win in comeback

ByBrett Okamoto ESPN logo
Thursday, December 31, 2015

Iconic Russian heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko successfully came out of retirement Thursday, in a fight that was essentially over before it began.

Emelianenko, 39, took out a blatantly overmatched opponent in Jaideep Singh via TKO at 3:02 of the opening round. The bout, which co-headlined Japanese startup promotion RIZIN Fighting Federation's inaugural event inside Saitama Super Arena, marked Emelianenko's first appearance since he announced his retirement following a first-round knockout over Pedro Rizzo in June 2012.

Within the opening minute, it was clear Emelianenko (35-4) intended to wrestle Singh to the floor. The 28-year-old has been a title-holder in professional kickboxing, but has limited experience in MMA. Prior to Thursday, Singh (2-1) had just two pro MMA bouts, one of which occurred back in 2013.

Singh managed to break away from Emelianenko's first takedown attempt, but couldn't maintain space. He moved forward behind a wall of punches and was eventually successful in pulling Singh away from the ropes and tripping him near the center of the ring.

Emelianenko's advantages on the ground were immediately apparent. Singh sat up awkwardly, which allowed Emelianenko to land punches as he worked behind him. Moments later, Emelianenko flattened Singh out and transitioned to full mount. Referee John McCarthy quickly stepped in after Emelianenko landed a series of unanswered right hands.

A former PRIDE heavyweight champion, Emelianenko announced he had signed with RIZIN in October after courting offers from several promotions, including the UFC. The move reunited him with his old promoter Nobuyuki Sakakibara, the former head of PRIDE. Details of Emelianenko's contract, including term, have not been publicly disclosed.

In addition to Emelianenko's return, the RIZIN event featured a two-day heavyweight grand prix. Former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Muhammed 'King Mo' Lawal, who is currently contracted by Bellator MMA, claimed $300,000 by defeating three opponents in 48 hours.

Lawal (19-4) advanced to the tournament semifinals Wednesday, knocking out Brett McDermott at 9:10 of the opening round. He followed up that performance with an easy unanimous decision against Lithuanian Teodoras Aukstuolis on Thursday before scoring a one-punch knockout over Jiri Prochazka in the finals.