Fedor Taps Out

Fedor Taps Out

Photo by Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

Fedor Emelianenko, the Russian heavyweight mixed martial artist, has been arguably the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world over the last decade (though in the last three years, I would vote for Anderson Silva or George St. Pierre over Fedor). Now, I’d have to guess that if you’re reading this post, you probably don’t know who Fedor is and there’s a good reason for that. He doesn’t fight in UFC, he’s only fought marginal opponents for the last few years, and he’s only fought sporadically, generally basking on his 10 year unbeaten streak. Without regular pay-per-views promoted by a major, American-based organization, Fedor’s fights were generally limited to the MMA intelligentsia and purchasers of after-the-fact fight DVDs. I’ll be honest: I’ve never seen Fedor fight live and I did not see the fight this past Saturday night.

Part of the reason Fedor never fought in the UFC was a clash of massive egos – his own and Dana White of the UFC’s. Fedor chose to fight in Strikeforce and his presence there made it have a heavyweight division that was arguably better stocked with talent than the UFC. This being the fight business, promotion and hype are key to growth and fan attention. As such, Dana White has waged a war on Fedor, his opponents, and Strikeforce for a long time. Being a heavyweight champion, Fedor and his camp were always offended by the lack of deference by White to him. I had hoped that with the solidification of the UFC’s heavyweight division following the upcoming Brock Lesnar / Shane Carwin fight, White would begin to look for ways to bring one of the most dominant mixed martial artists in the world to the UFC to test his mettle.

I simply cannot see that happening now, after Fedor Emilianenko lost his first fight in ten years on Saturday night, taping out to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master Fabricio Werdum in the first round.Werdum is truly one of the top BJJ practitioners in the world and probably the best in the heavyweight division. But Fedor’s appeal, for years and years, was that his fight IQ – his ability to see what opponents are doing and get himself out of trouble – allowed him to defeat top-notch submission specialists by capitalizing on opportunities.

Jonathan Snowden points out that Fedor’s physique was the worst it has ever been, though I’m not sure that ice cream and love handles caused him to get caught by Werdum’s triangle choke. Snowden thinks Fedor should drop to down and fight at the 205 pound light heavyweight class, though I think the challenge for Fedor is less one of shedding pounds and more of one of getting into top shape. When you don’t lose for ten years, it’s not surprising that you get a little soft before your downfall. What that really says, though, is that Fedor was not and is not the best pound for pound fighter in the world, let alone the best in the heavyweight division.

It’s sad to me that Fedor’s streak was broken outside of a fight in the UFC. The draw on a Fedor v Lesnar or Fedor v Carwin fight could have been tremendous, though I don’t see how it happens now. Unless Fedor shows us otherwise in a rematch against Werdum, I doubt the UFC would ever pay him to come fight against the cream of their crop.

It’s unfortunate that so much of the Fedor/UFC soap opera was about personalities, arrogance, and business competition, as opposed to competition within the Octagon. Yes, UFC fans who haven’t gotten to see Fedor fight lose out, but I think the real loser is Fedor Emelianenko, for failing to stay at top form and failing to recognize that the UFC has been the ascendant MMA organization for some years now.

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One Comment

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