by Steven Marrocco, MMAWeekly.com
St. Petersburg, Russia, April 14 – Nestled between cold rows of tenement complexes in the former capital of Russia, the Ice Palace hosted BodogFight’s second PPV offering, “Clash of the Nations”. In an unexpected twist of affairs, Russian premier Vladimir Putin confirmed his affinity for MMA by dropping in shortly after the event kickoff, sending a surge of excitement through the partisan crowd.

It was a small diversion from the true star of the evening, Fedor Emelianenko, who’s visage was plastered over the entire city in the buildup to the fight. Upon his arrival, the audience screamed their approval as he walked towards the ring, his Pride belt by his side. It was his first fight on Russian soil since becoming an international superstar.

Standing across from him was 2000 Olympic Silver Medalist Matt Lindland, who bravely stepped up two weight classes to face the feared heavyweight. Lindland had weighed in at 212lbs the previous day, Fedor had come in at 230lbs; certainly not a large heavyweight, but not the staggering 30lb difference that many expected.

“It’s not about the size, it’s about the skill,” Lindland declared at the pre-fight press conference. “A lot of people are scared of him, but I’m not intimidated. I’m going to come right at him.”

To his credit, Lindland delivered on his promise to a T. Right from the bell, the Team Quest original took the fight to “The Russian Experiment”, delivering a huge overhand left to the eye of Emelianenko, backing him into the corner. Seizing the window of opportunity, Lindland got double underhooks against the ropes and began to set up a takedown. Emelianenko’s right eyebrow had been cut decisively, bleeding generously.

It was the following moment that marked a crucial turning point in the fight. As Lindland began to hoist Emelianenko up to deliver him to the canvas, Emelianenko instinctively grabbed the ropes. Referee Troy Waugh quickly admonished the Pride champ, instructing him to let go, but as Lindland continued to crank Emelianenko over his shoulder, the rope grabbing continued.

It was unclear how many times Emelianenko grabbed them, but when Lindland finally took him off of his feet, Emelianenko quickly reversed him in mid air on their way to the canvas.

It didn’t take long for Emelianenko to spring to his feet from Matt’s half guard, hoping to land one of his missile-like hooks. Surprisingly, Lindland responded by trapping Emelianenko’s left ankle and looking for a heel hook. Emelianenko retorted by attacking Lindland’s legs, but quickly gave up on it, returning to half guard. Lindland seemed to have little answer for Emelianenko’s transition to mount position, and as Lindland attempted to roll out of danger, Emelianenko segued into an armbar.

Lindland gave his all to wrench free of the hold, but remained stuck as Emelianenko bided his time.

“I didn’t feel like the armbar was very close,” Lindland explained. “So I was waiting to make an adjustment to get on top rather than just counter the arm bar. He made a very nice adjustment to finish it.”

The finish, a joint popping crank of Lindland’s arm, brought the tapout at 2:38 of the first frame.

“I came out there with a serious game plan, Lindland said later. “I got into a nice position that I had planned on getting in to. We were told explicitly before the fight that guys would be penalized for using the ropes. I’d seen it all night. Referees were pulling guys hands off the ropes and takedowns were being finished because of that. That’s where I wanted to be: on top of that fight. I made a mistake and he capitalized on it. He’s a fantastic fighter and I would love to re-match him.”

Unfortunately, Emelianenko was unavailable for comment about his use of the ropes, as Premier Putin invited the lion’s share of winners back to his palace for a post fight celebration.

Post fight, ref Troy Waugh said he would be watching the replay to re-assess the infraction. “It was tough,” said Waugh. “He’s there, I’m trying to peel him off, it was a tough, tough call. I feel confident in the call.”

In the evening’s co-main event, challenger Nick Thompson played a smart game, using his reach and straight punches to sting MFC Welterweight champion Eddie Alvarez throughout their fight.

“I think Eddie expected I was going to try to take him down,” Thompson explained. “He’s really good at sprawling and brawling. So we decided I was going to use my length, using my jab to frustrate him.”

Though Alvarez was relentless in his attack, tagging Thompson several times with straight rights to the body and winging hooks, Thompson stayed in the pocket and countered with jab-cross combos. Generously using the ropes to lean out of harm’s way, Thompson took away Eddie’s fast hands and returned fire with a right cross that caused Alvarez’s eye to swell rapidly late in the first.

Alvarez quickly took the fight to the ground in the second, but was unable to capitalize before Thompson made his way back to his feet. After ringside commentator Colonel Bob Sheriden loudly declared “Alvarez is kicking it into second gear”, Thompson literally stopped in his tracks, crying out, “what about me, I’m about to kick it into third gear”, as Alvarez chased him backwards.

Kick it into third he did, dropping Alvarez with a short left hook after narrowly escaping a high kick. Thompson nearly connected with a kick as Alvarez met the canvas, but clinched the win by pounding on Alvarez at the edge of the ring. Referee Troy Waugh called a stoppage at 4:32 of the second, making Thompson the new MFC Welterweight champ.

In a super-heavyweight showdown, ink laden Aleksander Emelianenko and Eric Pele made a short go of it, as Pele desperately attempted to bob his way out of certain unconsciousness via Emelianenko’s right hook. Pele smartly took some of the spring out of Emelianenko’s step, landing several big outside leg kicks in the opening minutes, but was rocked early with said hook.

Emelianenko looked more like a Muay Thai fighter than ever, throwing a flurry of fast punches before clinching with Pele and firing off a devastating series of knees. Pele had one shining moment as he timed one of Emelianenko’s flurries, connecting with a big right hook as Emelianenko paused, but the punch didn’t leave a mark.

After another flurry caused Pele to turn his back to Emelianenko, Pele squared up to meet a straight left that dug into his skull and sent him down. After a few right hand bombs, the bout was called at 4:04 of the first.

Middleweight Jorge Santiago rebounded from a bad stretch in the UFC, overcoming Andrei Semenov’s heavy hands to unload a perfect combo that dropped Semenov. After nearly succumbing to a series of big hammerfists and an extended armbar at the hands of the Russian, Jorge gave him a taste of his own medicine.

Jorge quickly gained top position in the second, extending an armbar and later a rear naked choke before Semenov hoisted Santiago off his back. While working his ground and pound, Santiago connected with an upkick that badly disoriented Semenov. After a restart from their feet, the American Top Team product landed a picture perfect right cross, left hook, right uppercut combo that felled the Russian at 4:28 of the 2nd.

Heavyweight slugger Roman Zentsov was taken down at will by Canadian Kristof Midoux, but endured no punishment from the bottom. A missed armbar attempt and subsequent scramble gave Midoux the mount, but it wasn’t long before his lackadaisical attack brought the two back to their feet. After catching a leg kick from Midoux, Zentsov peppered him with punches as Midoux dove for his leg. As the bell rang, Midoux slumped over a la Mark Kerr, incapacitated. Unable to answer the second bell, Zentsov walked away with the TKO victory.

In undercard action, Bill “The Butcher” Mahood relentlessly attacked Steve Steinbess, never allowing him to use his kickboxing skills. Time after time, Mahood cinched the takedown and flung punches at Steinbess, who was forced to play defense. Despite reversing Mahood at the last moment of the bout, Steinbess was too far behind in the scorecards to compete, giving Mahood the Unanimous Decision victory.

Brazilian Rodrigo Damm’s aggressive style put him ahead early, backing up lightweight Santino Defranco with winging hooks. After Santiago ate one of the hooks, he rushed to clinch and quickly found himself mounted by the jiu-jitsu ace. Damm inventively trapped Santiago’s right arm between his legs and snaked his way to Santiago’s upper back. Though it wasn’t a classic rear naked choke, Damm slapped it on with his arm lock still in place, bringing the tapout at 1:58 of Round 2.

In a lumbering, Toughman-like bout, heavyweights Josh Curran and Jarno Nurminen completely shot their proverbial wads in the first round. The rest of the fight, a series of toe-to-toe slugfests and unsightly views of Curran’s down-sliding trunks, caused more laughter in the stands than exhilaration. Holding his hands above his head in utter exhaustion, Curran let out a barbaric yawp and took Nurminen down, mounting him easily. Pounding away from the top, Nurminen tapped from the strikes at 2:53 of the 3rd.

Julie Kedzie stood and traded with the game Julia Berezekova , but took the fight after catching a few shots in the first. A slick transition from guard to mount saw Kedzie lock up a triangle from the position, where she pounded her foe until the ref rescued Berezekova at 2:49 of Round 2.

Ray Steinbess also used his superior jiu-jitsu skills to negate opponent Dmitry Oganov’s crisp strikes, hip tossing the new-comer shortly after clinching. Scooting his hips to the right, Steinbess first worked for an armbar, then used his legs to pull himself to Oganov’s back. Oganov briefly fought to get out of the ensuing rear naked choke, but Steinbess had already sunk it in, bringing the tapout at 3:00 of the 1st.

In a major miscommunication, referee Troy Waugh misheard UFC vet Derrick Noble as he attempted to defend welterweight Eric Oganov’s strikes. After narrowly missing a guillotine choke, Noble found himself on the wrong end of a flurry of strikes from his Russian counterpart. According to Noble, Waugh asked him if he was okay to continue. When he said yes, Waugh stepped in to stop the bout, claiming he had heard no. Afterwards, Waugh acknowledged his mistake, but the bout went to Oganov at 2:55 of the 2nd.

Middleweight Andy Foster didn’t have much of a chance as opponent Amar Suloev caught his low kick attempt, KO’ing him with a right hand that put him out on his feet. After four late blows, the bout was called at :26 of the first.

Bodog “Clash of the Nations” Full Results

-Josh Curran def. Jarno Nurminen at 2:53 of Rd. 1 by Submission (Strikes).

-Rodrigo Damm def. Santino Defranco at 1:58 of Rd. 1 by Submission (Rear Naked Choke).

-Bill Mahood def. Steve Steinbess at 5:00 of Rd. 3 by Unanimous Decision.

-Roman Zentsov def. Kristof Midoux at 5:00 of Rd 1 by TKO (Midoux unable to answer the bell).

-Amanda Buckner def. Hitomi Akano at 5:00 of Rd. 3 by Unanimous Decision.

-Jorge Santiago def. Andrei Semenov at 4:28 of Rd. 2 by TKO.

-Aleksander Emelianenko def. Eric Pele at 4:07 of Rd. 1 by KO.

-Nick Thompson def. Eddie Alvarez at 4:32 of Rd. 2 by TKO.

-Fedor Emelianenko def. Matt Lindland at 2:38 of Rd. 1 by Submission (Armbar).

-Julie Kedzie def. Julia Berezekova at 2:49 of Rd. 2 by TKO (Strikes)

-Ray Steinbess def. Dmitry Samoilov at 3:00 of Rd. 1 by Submission (Rear Naked Choke)

-Eric Oganov def. Derrick Noble at 2:55 of Rd. 2 by TKO.

-Amar Suloev def. Andy Foster at :26 of Rd. 1 by KO.