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Werdum's Victory Was Throwback to Sport's Roots

<! mediaid=3125105 AP: img vspace="4" hspace="4" border="1" align="right" alt="" src="" />Every once in a while, we need a reminder of where we came from. In the modern mixed martial arts family tree, the deepest roots are those of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, the art that spawned the original Ultimate Fighting Championship tournament back on Nov. 12, 1993, that art that was essentially showcased on that night.

Unbeknowst to most of us at the time, the tournament was essentially designed as an infomercial. So confident were the Gracies that BJJ would reign supreme, they chose the smallest of the fighting family, Royce, as their representative. It took him five minutes to win three matches that night. His striking was, shall we say, rudimentary, as he tapped out all three opponents with submissions.

Fabricio Werdum's win over Fedor Emelianenko may not have the far-lasting historical ramifications of Gracie conquering of the tournament field -- that remains to be seen -- but it's in many ways an homage to the sport's roots in this: Werdum beat the man most consider the sport's greatest all-time heavyweight without landing a single strike.

If you haven't seen the fight, you read that correctly. Werdum did not land a single strike. Not a punch, not a kick.

So how did Werdum win? On guile and skill, baiting Emelianenko to the ground, where the BJJ black belt and two-time ADCC submission grappling world champion trapped him with a brilliant triangle/armbar combination.

Let's get one thing out of the way quickly: whether or not you feel Emelianenko is the greatest heavyweight of all time or just one of the top 10 heavyweight fighters of all time, you still have to admit he's been very good over his career, right?

I mean, we have to agree on that, don't we? People who hate Fedor or Strikeforce or M-1 don't want to give any quarter on the Fedor debate, but the numbers don't lie. Thirty-two wins against two defeats in this sport is amazing, no matter who or where you're fighting.

If you accept that, you have to accept this: what Werdum did was pretty incredible. In fact, it's why you watch this sport: to see things that seem improbable. Matt Serra upsetting Georges St. Pierre in a shocker for the ages, Randy Couture coming out of retirement at 43 to beat up Tim Sylvia for five rounds. And now, Werdum defeating Emelianenko without landing a single strike.

In today's evolved MMA world, that sounds almost improbable. It's like saying a football team won a game without completing a single pass or a baseball team won without having a single hit. But it also goes back to the truth of the sport, and that's that MMA is much deeper than its rough exterior.

This fight is just more evidence that technique means something, that the sport's detractors could not be more wrong when they say it's a simple show of brute force that could be seen in a street fight. It's more proof of the strategy, skill and execution that can and often does rise above pure aggression.

So whatever you think of Fedor, at least he provided you with what's come to be a called a "teachable moment." Next time someone tries to diss MMA as a glorified bar brawl, just calmly pull them aside, and start your comeback with this: "Did I ever tell you about the time the sport's all-time greatest heavyweight lost a fight without once being hit?"

Somewhere, Royce Gracie is smiling.