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Fedor Emelianenko knocks Jaideep Singh from the land of unbeatens (ahem)

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Esther Lin, Strikeforce

Though the scouting report was of course incomplete, it turns out that Fedor Emelianenko isn’t just another Carlos Toyota, and nor is he anything like the great Aliriza Tavak, each of whom took their beatings like penances. Toyota, it might be remembered, courageously kept his torso upright against Jaideep Singh — the legendary heavyweight — for two full rounds before succumbing to what everyone knew was inevitable. Singh made Toyota pay the price of admission with all eight limbs back in October, in what was a classic performance.

Singh’s cultural transcendence took on new meaning that night in Tokyo. Yet how far that glorious moment seemed from what happened on the eve of the New Year. As the old saying goes, the jaws were dropping from the rafters on down.

The set-up for the inaugural Rizin show was meant to be an eye-catching, showroom variety glistener — it was a foregone conclusion that the hero of the eastern theater, Singh, would remain very much intact. He was not thought to be risking his undefeated record against the upstart Emelianenko so much as dangling a cruel carrot for the young Russian to snatch at. Besides, Singh was fighting in the hallowed city of Saitama, where he has a rabid following. The evidence was in the ticket sales. It was standing room only at the Super Arena just to catch a glimpse of his rugged 6-foot-5 frame, which didn’t disappoint upon his grand entrance to the ring.

Still, this is the fight game, and all the old clichés held true. The four-ounce glovesthe puncher’s chanceevery dog has his dayhope is a four-letter word the same as sh*t…etcetera. The exhibition soon took a shocking turn.

The barrel-bodied Emelianenko, whom the gaming book gave 8-to-1 odds, fell open like an old accordion before letting his hands go. He advanced with a volley of high-flung heaters that rocked the great Singh back on his heels, somewhat to the astonishment of those assembled. Singh, who has never been challenged in a pro fight, still flashed in vintage form. He strafed the Russian with his jab, and toyed with the space — the kickboxer’s sanctuary — in landing inside leg kicks. At times the young Emelianenko looked bewildered as the great fount poured forth with his offensive.

Still, Emelianenko showed little reverence for the royalty he was swinging at, and it was him that carried the menace behind his punches. He began landing heavy shots through the thicket of forearms, eventually attaching himself sidecar to Singh’s lean frame. A gasp of uncertainly played over the ringside spectators as Emelianenko forcedly sent Singh tumbling to the ground. Singh, who’d made a name for himself as an air-bender, found himself abob the deep waters from his back. In the frenzy of the moment, it was all he could do to pinch himself as if to wake up in his sudden predicament, which was this: There was a Russian on top of him, trying to draw little x’s over his eyes with mean businessmakers.

Then it happened. The Russian Emelianenko, sensing the proverbial "blood in the water," chopped away with right hand, which carried the weight of an anvil. The great Singh slowly curled, assuming finally a turtle-like posture, an unlikely scene that signaled to the referee a kind of concession. The referee bent down to call Emelianenko off of the iconic figure, now prone on the canvas and scrambling for his whereabouts. Just like that, the jewel of the fight game had been plucked before a disbelieving public.

The crowd sat mouths agape as the largely unknown Emelianenko stoically made his victory lap. Whether his feat was slow to dawn on him or he was simply rendered numb in the moment, either way Emelianenko showed no outward emotion in victory. In his historic moment, he merely accepted the shift in momentum coolly — a shift that he himself administered — and stored away any accompanying hoopla for another day.

As for the great Singh, who sat crestfallen amid all that had fallen with him to the ring’s apron? Time will tell, but the hero no longer lay claim to the ranks of the unbeaten. The fight game can be cruel, yet there’s solace to be found in the old cliché: Every dog has his day. Dec. 31 in Saitama was a reminder of that.