Following double knockdown, Matt Mitrione KOs Fedor Emelianenko on wild Bellator card

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Referee Dan Miragliotta tends to Fedor Emelianenko after the Russian was stopped by Matt Mitrione in the first round Saturday at Madison Square Garden. (The Associated Press)

Fedor Emelianenko, arguably the greatest heavyweight in mixed martial arts history, was finished in 74 seconds.

Matt Mitrione, the ex-New York Giants’ lineman who finished him, cursed out the NBA champion Golden State Warriors for refusing to go to the White House and said he’d accept an invitation from President Donald Trump.

Michael Chandler, the face of the promotion, lost his Bellator lightweight title to Brent Primus in just 82 seconds when he inadvertently rolled his ankle and it kept repeatedly giving out on him, forced the doctor to stop the bout.

To add insult to injury for Chandler, he got off his stool as he was being examined to encourage the crowd to cheer. As he went to sit back down, a member of the state athletic commission pulled it away and he fell ignominiously to the mat.

Aaron Pico, hailed by many before the event as the greatest prospect in the sport’s history, was knocked down and choked out by unheralded Zach Freeman in just 24 seconds.

And as the Brazilian and American national anthems were played prior to the main event between Chael Sonnen and Wanderlei Silva, ex-Bellator star Tito Ortiz stood outside the cage shouting and making obscene gestures at Sonnen.

The main event was then a dreadful affair in which Silva, who hadn’t fought in more than four years, showed no semblance of cage presence and no ability to defend a takedown, while Sonnen seemed wobbled by nearly all of the handful of punches that the Brazilian landed. Sonnen won a unanimous decision as disinterested fans streamed for the exits.

It wasn’t the kind of night that Bellator president Scott Coker might have wanted for his promotion’s Madison Square Garden debut.

It was fun at times and dreadful at others, particularly in the main event.

Two titles changed hands – Primus took the lightweight belt, and Ryan Bader won a split decision over Phil Davis to take the light heavyweight title – while Douglas Lima won a decision over Lorenz Larkin to keep the welterweight belt.

Matt Mitrione (R) moves in to battle Fedor Emelianenko Saturday at Madison Square Garden. (The Associated Press)

This show, though, will probably be most remembered for Mitrione’s quick finish of Emelianenko. About 45 seconds into that bout, both men threw, and connected, on right hands to the chin.

They each went down, but Emelianenko was hurt worse. Mitrione got up, got on top of the legendary Russian and pounded on him until referee Dan Miragliotta stopped it at 1:14.

“He started to engage and I engaged, and I didn’t know we both dropped,” Mitrione said in the cage later. “I looked up and I said, ‘Oh [expletive], he’s on his back,’ so I jumped on him and started punching. I just remember looking up and going, ‘Oh [expletive], I’m about to jump on him.’ ”

That might be the end of the legend, who barely escaped a bout last year with light heavyweight Fabio Maldonado.

And while Pico may yet live up to all the hype, he got a rude welcome to MMA from Freeman. Pico, who barely missed a spot on the 2016 U.S. Olympic wrestling team, insisted before the fight that he is a better boxer than he is a wrestler.

He came out confidently and fired at Freeman, who cracked Pico with an uppercut. It dropped Pico, and as he got up, Freeman caught him in a guillotine and choked him out.

Zach Freeman (R) catches Aaron Pico in a guillotine choke in the first round of their lightweight fight Saturday at Madison Square Garden. (The Associated Press)

It was almost as stunning as what had happened to Emelianenko later in the card.

At least Mitrione and Emelianenko provided fireworks. The nominal main event between Sonnen and Silva, two faded fighters, was horrific. In each round, Sonnen took Silva down with a double leg and then spent most of the rest of the round holding him there.

Silva offered no resistance and acted as if he hadn’t once considered the fact that Sonnen might try to take him down.

Sonnen tried to gin up the crowd afterward by saying, “I hate New York,” lying about having a win over Ortiz and then calling out Emelianenko.

It’s probably time for Coker to let these so-called legends fights go and to focus on building the overall talent depth in the promotion. There is a good bit of talent already on hand and intriguing matches to be made and it would be best to focus on them instead of trying to force phony rivalries.

MMA is a young man’s game, though as Pico discovered, sometimes not even youth and oodles of talent is enough.