Every era must eventually come to an end.

To some mixed martial arts fans, June was just another month. One in which we saw new contenders emerge, Brazil export a number of talented competitors to the UFC, and Joe “Daddy” Stevenson continue his steep decline. Yet, for those who follow more than just the UFC, and especially for those with a deep love of Pride, June 2012 will be remembered as the month in which one of the sport’s all-time greats gave us one last show and then bowed and exited the stage.

Fedor Emelianenko emerged from the Rings organization, joining Pride in 2002 and dominating the promotion’s heavyweight ranks for four-plus years. He battled the likes of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic and Mark Coleman. He was suplexed by Kevin Randleman, landing head-first but going on to submit the UFC veteran via kimura. He even became the UFC champion-killer after Pride’s demise, taking out former UFC heavyweight kingpins Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski under the Affliction banner.

Only his losses in the Strikeforce cage would tarnish “The Last Emperor’s” stellar record. However, the multiple-time World Combat Sambo champion bounced back to collect three wins before laying down his gloves for good.

You can never say never, and even Emelianenko has admitted as much. There could always be a return to the ring—or perhaps even an Octagon debut, though that seems highly unlikely—in the future should the right fight materialize. But if we’ve seen the last of Emelianenko, there’s hardly a better send-off than a knockout win and a nation’s leader bidding you farewell.

Now, along with “The Last Emperor,” let’s see who left the biggest mark on the sport of MMA in June…

1. Fedor Emelianenko

It’s not often that a nation’s president will step into the ring to honor a mixed martial artist. So, when one does, it’s obvious just how important the fighter being honored is to his fellow countrymen and the sport in general. Emelianenko has hinted at retirement for a while now, but in the lead up to his fight with Pedro Rizzo, it was obvious that “The Last Emperor” was preparing for his last fight. He could be a very polarizing figure within the MMA fan base, with some doubting his resume following Pride’s demise and others defending it vehemently.

However, it is hard to deny that during his time in Pride and his 31-1 run prior to three straight defeats in Strikeforce, Emelianenko truly was at the top of the sport. He never became a huge draw on U.S. shores, but in Japan and Russia he is a star. The Sambo specialist ended his legendary career with a knockout of Pedro Rizzo under the M-1 Global banner.

Despite his camp’s failure to ever come to terms with the UFC and fight inside the Octagon, if the UFC ever adds a Pride wing to its Hall of Fame, Emelianenko should be the first inductee.

2. Demetrious Johnson

Have you ever watched two fighters compete and thought to yourself, “The UFC could book these guys to fight each other three or four times a year, and it would never get old”? For fans of the UFC’s recently-added flyweight division, Demetrious Johnson and Ian McCall could fit that bill.

After their March 3 meeting ended with Johnson initially winning, only for it to be revealed that the fight was actually a majority draw, the two reconvened at UFC on FX 3 to determine who would finally advance to the UFC’s first-ever flyweight title bout opposite Joseph Benavidez.

Johnson proved to be the fighter that adjusted his game more effectively following the first meeting. The fight was still an entertaining and competitive bout, but this time McCall’s wrestling wouldn’t have the same impact as in the initial encounter. Ultimately, Johnson won via unanimous decision to move on to the title tilt and stake his claim to a spot above McCall in everyone’s flyweight rankings.

3. Ricardo Lamas

There was a lesson to be learned at UFC on FX 4, and Ricardo Lamas would be the one to teach it. The lesson? Never turn down a championship opportunity. His foe, Hatsu Hioki, sat near the top of the featherweight rankings and could have met UFC champion Jose Aldo in a title bout. Instead, Hioki turned down the opportunity in order to work on his skills.

The UFC answered by putting Hioki on a preliminary card against Lamas, who was working his way up the ladder. The wrestler was already undefeated through two contests since shifting to the 145-pound division, and he would add the biggest win of his career in his third outing within the weight class. Lamas emerged with the unanimous decision over Hioki, and knocked the Japanese fighter out of the title mix while inserting his own name into the hat for a title bid.

4. Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen

These two competitors don’t even step into the Octagon until July 7, but they definitely left their mark on June courtesy of their mouths. Sonnen is famous for being outrageously outspoken, but even Silva came out of his shell to promise a violent fight at UFC 148. As if the trash talk and the anticipation from fans and media weren’t enough, there is also an action comics series characterizing the two combatants as characters straight out of a Marvel Universe or DC comic book. This fight might just be one of the most hyped bouts in MMA history.

5. The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil cast

Alright, it could have been better marketed to the U.S. fan base, but there’s no doubt that the reality series’ first venture to an international location and cast was a huge success in Brazil. At UFC 147, we saw Rony “Jason” Mariano Bezerra take the featherweight trophy and Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira capture the middleweight prize, but it might have been performances from the likes of Rodrigo Damm, Vinicius “Vina” Borges and Francisco Trinaldo that truly cemented the inaugural Brazilian season’s place in delivering on of the most promising rosters of prospects in the show’s history.

6. Fabricio Werdum

How does a heavyweight jiu-jitsu specialist that submitted Fedor Emelianenko, but fell via unanimous decision to Alistair Overeem and won a controversial decision over Antonio Silva convince fans that he belongs in the short line for a shot at UFC’s heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos? Displaying improved striking is a good way to start. That’s exactly what Fabricio Werdum has done, first against Roy Nelson and now, at UFC 147, even more convincingly with a first-round TKO of Mike Russow.

Werdum made his argument for a rematch with dos Santos, who defeated him via TKO at UFC 90. Given the landscape in the UFC’s heavyweight division, Werdum’s chance might not be far off.

7. Gray Maynard

It wasn’t the showing Gray Maynard hoped for, but the top contender eked out a split decision over Clay Guida at UFC on FX 4. Guida kept moving—and at times running—which clearly frustrated “The Bully.” However, Maynard dropping his hands and walking through Guida’s punches was the ultimate statement that the former title challenger was the better man on that particular night. Maynard was coming off back-to-back title fights with Frankie Edgar, but with Edgar no longer holding the belt, Maynard could be headed for another title bid in the near future.

8. Martin Kampmann

Martin Kampmann started off the month of June with a win over Jake Ellenberger at The Ultimate Fighter 15 Finale. The TKO victory puts “Hitman” back in a familiar spot: likely one win away from a title shot. Kampmann already has his next fight, a UFC 154 match against Johny Hendricks. This will be a true test of how well Kampmann has been in adjusting strategy for fighters following previous missteps in that area. It’ll also be a true test of Kampmann’s chin.

9. Hacran Dias

Impressive UFC debuts tend to come against lower-level opponents. Dias, who now holds a 21-1-1 mark, didn’t get that memo, as he stepped into the Octagon against rising star Iuri Alcantara and put on a show. At UFC 147, the Nova Uniao product displayed takedowns unlike those of most of his Brazilian counterparts. The featherweight ranks just got a new potential threat to champ Jose Aldo.

10. Dakota Cochrane

With the fight coming under the Resurrection Fight Alliance banner, many expected Joe “Daddy” Stevenson to revive his flailing MMA career with a win over Dakota Cochrane. Only one problem, Cochrane had other plans. The former TUF hopeful punished Stevenson for coming in four pounds overweight, connecting with a flying knee in the second round and handing the former UFC lightweight contender his fifth straight defeat.

Photo: Fedor Emelianenko (Esther Lin/Strikeforce)