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Fedor Emelianenko knocks out ‘Rampage’ Jackson, announces possible retirement

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Fedor Emelianenko retires undefeated at the Saitama Super Arena.

Emelianenko made short work of a blown-up Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in the headliner of Bellator 237, stopping the former UFC light heavyweight champ with his trademark right hand at the 2:44 mark of the opening frame.

”Unfortunately and regretfully, I want to say that perhaps my career stops here on my win in Japan, and thank you very much,” Emelianenko told the audience at the storied arena in Saitama, Japan, which hosted the Bellator vs. Rizin fight card. “That’s the end of my tour.”

Jackson, who weighed in at the heavyweight limit of 265 pounds, teetered to the canvas after taking Emelianenko’s punch. He appeared to shake his head soon after hitting the canvas and then asked the referee what happened as his left eye bled.

What Emelianenko lacked in size, he made up for with functional hand speed he used to fire off quick combinations of punches. Jackson did little more than cover up and missed several counter opportunities.

The PRIDE veterans embraced warmly after the fight, which Emelianenko said marked the end of a “retirement tour” booked by Bellator President Scott Coker after signing a three-fight deal Coker said was Russian ex-champ’s sendoff.

At a media day for Sunday’s event, Emelianenko indicated he wasn’t necessarily on board with calling it quits at the end of the contract, saying he would re-assess his desire to continue after fulfilling his obligations.

At 43, Emelianenko’s retirement comes four years after he hung up his gloves. A disastrous three-fight skid in the now-defunct Strikeforce was followed by a trio of wins over overmatched veterans in Russia and Japan.

Jackson, 41, is now 1-3 in his past four Bellator appearances. Once a dominant force at light heavyweight, he moved up to the big man division as he struggled to deal with a thyroid condition that left him unable to cut weight.

Michael Chandler quickly puts away short-notice replacement Sidney Outlaw

Two-time lightweight champion Michael Chandler introduced Sidney Outlaw to the punch that cost him the belt seven months ago.

Chandler landed behind the ear with a straight right that sent Outlaw to the canvas, setting up a stoppage at the 2:59 mark of the first round.

From the outset, the former champ enjoyed a speed advantage and used it to attack Outlaw’s body. Outlaw had landed one significant shot before taking the punch that sent him down. Chandler pounced with several follow-up shots that forced referee intervention.

Asked what he wanted next in his career, Chandler deflected to thank his wife and family.

’Venom’ Page stings again

Michael “Venom” Page continues to run roughshod over unheralded opposition.

This time, former Pancrase middleweight champ and UFC vet Shinsho Anzai was cannon fodder for the British phenom, falling 23 seconds into the second frame.

Anzai was caught running straight at Page in a move that looked more instinctual than planned. After taking several flying knees and punches to the chin, he barely made it out of the opening frame.

A right cross sent the Japanse vet crumbling to the canvas, bringing Paige his third straight win since his first professional setback against current champ Douglas Lima.

Anzai’s original plan was to get the fight to the canvas, and he tried mightily to do so. A flying knee counter would be a low-percentage retort for most opponents. But of course, Paige is not that.

Midway through the first round, Paige had done enough damage and set his timing enough to plant his feet and use his fists to stop Anzai’s approach. He started to showboat. He briefly went inverted and threw a backward kick. The finish appeared moments away.

Paige went to the second round, but he didn’t need much time to put away another overmatched foe.

Lorenz Larkin batters Keita Nakamura over three rounds

Lorenz Larkin opened up Keita Nakamura with a punishing striking attack, dominating the action over three rounds to secure a shutout on judges’ scorecards.

The final scores were 30-26 twice and 30-27 for Larkin, who might have earned a finish with a few more minutes to work. As it went, Nakamura’s hard head saved him from a long slide that might have ended in a knockout with another shot.

With minutes remaining in the fight, Larkin fired down unanswered elbows as a dazed Nakamura grabbed in vain for his ankle, the result of two rounds’ worth of steady punches and kicks. The Japanese vet got back up, only to be knocked back to the canvas. A brief reprieve came from a reset from the referee.

Larkin now has won four straight bouts and gets closer to a coveted rematch with champ Douglas Lima, who outpointed him in 2017 at Bellator NYC. Nakamura, who competed in his 47th professional MMA fight, has alternated wins and losses for the past four years.

Kana Watanabe recuses herself from Ilara Joanne’s hit list

Ilara Joanne hoped a dominant win over Kana Watanabe would set up a title shot against champ Ilima-Lei Macfarlane. Instead, it exposed a gap in her grappling skills.

Judo specialist Watanabe reigned supreme on the mat before she secured a dominant position that allowed her to pound out a finish with 21 seconds left on the clock.

Referee Kevin MacDonald halted the action at the 4:39 mark of the third and final round as Joanne lay helpless taking unanswered punches. Watanabe had secured back mount after shucking off a triangle choke Joanne repeatedly banked on when the fight hit the mat.

Joanne, whose “Arya Stark” nickname is accompanied by a hit list of potential opponents, had success with her fists early on. A stiff punch prompted Watanabe to shoot in for a takedown. When that succeeded, the Japanese vet found the key to victory and extended her unbeaten streak to 8-0-1. Joanne sees a three-fight streak snapped.

Goiti Yamauchi adds another first-round submission to resume

Lightweight standout Goiti Yamauchi continues to distance himself from a high-profile setback against Michael Chandler.

Yamauchi picked up his second consecutive first-round submission victory with a quick tapout of UFC vet Daron Cruickshank, who tapped to a rear-naked choke at the 3:11 mark of the opening frame.

Cruickshank tried to keep Yamauchi off balance with hit-and-run attacks. But when he turned his back on a spinning elbow attempt, Yamauchi grabbed a body lock and hopped on his back. A nifty kick off the cage gave Yamauchi the momentum to put his foe on the mat, where he quickly cinched the choke.

The submission, which got Bellator fighters on the board opposite Rizin, was Yamauchi’s 13th career win by rear-naked choke and eighth under the Bellator banner.