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Who’s Next For Fedor Emelienenko?

By Adam Underhill | January 7, 2006

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“Throw Him To The Russian!”
Who’s Next For Fedor Emelienenko?

By Adam Underhill

I do not think even PRIDE could have predicted their big ratings war win over fellow Japanese fight organisation K-1. Even though the percentage margins were tighter than the close fight between Mirko and Fedor back in August, are PRIDE the real winners after the end of 2005? Who’s next to be thrown to Fedor Emelienenko? Let’s find out.

First off let’s talk about possible challengers for Fedor and his Heavyweight title. Fedor has been through pretty much every credible fighter in PRIDE’s heavyweight division, and PRIDE are going to find it incredibly difficult this year to find other fighters who can match both his skills and size, and succeed in defeating him. Fedor will need to keep fighting this year to retain his image as a credible heavyweight champion, otherwise months of stalemate will destroy his reputation as the “Russian Experiment”, the machine, and in turn may damage his career for good. He only had three fights in 2005, compared with his ten fights throughout 2003 and 2004. I cannot see him retiring this side of the decade, but that might be the only option for the Russian if PRIDE are unable to find a match for him after investigating into all of the possible avenues.

The huge Brazilian Zuluzihno believed he had what it took to defeat the PRIDE champion, and so did the PRIDE management team if they insisted on the fight being a non-title bout, only to get knocked out early into the first round this past New Years Eve. It feels like that if PRIDE do find a possible match for Fedor, then they’re only going to commission the fight into the non-title bout. Maybe they’re trying to prevent an upset in the form of an underdog wildcard that would indefinitely kill Fedor’s reputation until they can find a more suitable fighter who has more of a connection with the Japanese fans. It’s understandable, but the fact is that PRIDE was scared of Zuluzihno defeating their champion.

PRIDE are only hurting themselves as well as Fedor’s reputation with non-title fights. If PRIDE management were so sure that Fedor was going to defeat Zuluzihno then why not commission it as a title fight? The title fight would only draw bigger numbers and would help build Fedor, as if he needs any more help, and support his reputation as an unstoppable machine. If the PRIDE Heavyweight belt was on the line then it would indefinitely bring in more interest, and this year the Man Festival needed all the interest it could get.

As of now the only possible competitors who could match Fedor Emelienenko in terms of size and fight skill, among other factors, are; Mark Hunt, “The Colossus” or “Megapunk” James Thompson, and Japanese pro-wrestler Kazuyuki Fujita. Sure, PRIDE could book rematches for Fedor and his title with Mirko Filipovic, Kevin Randleman, Semmy Schilt, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, but that is only regenerating old heat and the interest just would not be there. Fedor is a very intelligent fighter, adapting his style to the flow of the fight so this could prove difficult for past opponents who have attempted to take out Fedor before. Fedor vs. Fujita would be a rematch from their PRIDE 26 6/8/03 fight, but in my eyes no one has ever come closer to wiping out Fedor from the top spot. Fedor was clearly rumbled and all Fujita had to do was land a couple of successful shots to overthrow him. The upset of a Japanese fighter defeating the Heavyweight champion would mean huge business for PRIDE and would bring back so much interest in their product.

Great British talent “The Colossus”, or “Megapunk” as he is now formally known as in Japan, James Thompson in time could become a credible opponent for Fedor this year. Although with little experience, with only three PRIDE fights under his belt, Thompson is young and still has time to mature and blossom as an opposing force in the future of PRIDE. Right now he is very popular with the Japanese fans, with fans screaming “Dashu!” (derived from his “Gong and Dash” nickname, where he charges at his opponents right after the bell) so he already has that emotional connection with them that fighters like Zuluzihno lack. Thompson is huge. All he needs is time to develop and become a fighter to be reckoned with. Let’s see how 2006 treats Thompson and the Heavyweight title race.

Out of the two other probable opponents for Fedor, right now I feel Mark Hunt has more of a chance at beating him. The man has an iron skull, let alone an iron chin. His takedown defence is very good, he’s a great striker, he has the size, and he can take some horrible shots as we saw in his fight with Filipovic on 12/31. Right now Hunt seems like the only fighter that is somewhat ready to take on Fedor. PRIDE needs to book this fight. If they keep up their promoting and execute the right kind of marketing it could make a huge New Years Eve fight for 2006, but can either fighter, or even the fans of MMA, wait that long for them to go at it? I know I can’t. Book it sooner rather than later, PRIDE.

Topics: Adam Underhill, Japan, K-1, MMA, PRIDE | 9 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

9 Responses to “Who’s Next For Fedor Emelienenko?”

  1. Zach Arnold says:

    Who’s next to be thrown to Fedor Emelienenko? Let’s find out.

    The real issue for DSE is that Fedor is over with the crowds as the unstoppable monster. He’s the monster that New Japan wishes they could create with Brock Lesnar. The major difference between DSE & NJ is that DSE threw the best at Fedor, and he beat them. He won. NJ threw Lesnar some Japanese challengers, but the fans don’t necessarily believe that Lesnar has faced the best talent in the world.

    What makes the Fedor title run so intriguing is that nobody is in his level now. And that’s where the real booking fun begins. Because it’s real easy to book top challengers (Nogueira, Mirko, etc.) and use “the chase” as the way to build drama. It’s the key to long-term booking.

    Now the real problem DSE faces is who is out to face Fedor. Is Hunt capable? He’s almost, by default, with Yoshida as the only two men left who can stop him. And it’s likely that those two men will lose to Fedor when they face him.

    [I cannot see him retiring this side of the decade, but that might be the only option for the Russian if PRIDE are unable to find a match for him after investigating into all of the possible avenues.]

    Is UFC willing to pay Fedor? If they are willing to pay him big money, then yes he would probably work for them. However, the reality is that DSE is able to pay Fedor $300,000 USD or more a fight, and UFC pays their top guys at most half of that as a top main eventer. So UFC is unlikely. Cage Rage, at this point, seems unlikely because they wouldn’t have the cash to do it.

    It’s going to take a new player in MMA with serious cash to bring in Fedor. And let’s not forget, Fedor did work for Inoki in 2003. It’s not beyond him to work in another company’s ring. The question is who is willing to pay him and who his opponent will be.

    You named a very interesting name in Semmy Schilt. Schilt gave Josh Barnett all he could handle, and he would probably be the toughest test out of anyone left in the field in today’s fighting industry who could give Fedor a run for his money. Josh Barnett, based on his style, is also a potential challenger. However, Schilt would be the more immediate candidate. The question is whether or not K-1 would be willing to let him fight in the PRIDE ring for serious money. If I was K-1, I would let Schilt take the booking. His physical and mental toughness makes him probably the one real true test left for Fedor.

    Mark Hunt is very tough. You cannot knock him out. However, Yoshida proved that even with Hunt’s freaky strength, you can still submit him. Which brings me to what I think DSE should do – book Yoshida vs. Hunt II, winner gets Fedor. We all know that nobody is beating Fedor, so why not take the two challengers left and try to use “the chase” that way for booking? It would be the smartest move DSE could do at this point.

  2. I was going to investigate into the UFC and Cage Rage as different avenues, but the answer simply would be that they do not have the financial backing that DSE has. There is also this debacle regarding cage vs. ring fights that may play a part in whether or not if Fedor, or any other PRIDE star for that matter, would compete in other promotions. PRIDE has all the money, and Fedor is their big star. He has no reason to go elsewhere, unless another big MMA player comes along, as you said.

  3. Jarred says:

    The problem with Fedor fighting Semmy is that he has already defeated him in a fight. Sure, Semmy has gotten better since 2002, but so has Fedor.

    Personally, I think the best fight for Fedor will be against Sergei Kharitonov. Hell, there’s even talk of him facing off against his own brother, Aleksander.

  4. Kharitonov is another credible fighter that could quite possibly go over Fedor this year if the fight is ever made.

    Fedor vs. Aleksander needs to happen, but there are alot of factors that could get in the way of a decent fight. Either brother could refuse to hit eachother. Both agreed not to hit eachother before their combat sambo matches in the past.

  5. Green Hornet says:

    I think Sergei Kharitonov deserves a fight with Fedor more than Yoshida, the market doesn`t think so though.

  6. frankie j cameron says:

    I find you analysis to be flawed.
    The reason that it was a non title bout is because it would not have been fair to the other top heavyweights who want a shot, this match was about Fedor wanting a(spectacularlooking) can to walk over, because his hand is still in need of surgery.
    NOBODY(even Zulu)thought that he had a chance…
    Thompson is a big clumsy fool who would get destroyed by Fedor. Mark Hunt would do well until fedor took him down, then it would be over.

    The key to fedors’ success is his MENTAL preparation and his lifetime of training as part of the Russian sports complex.Ask someone like Randy Couture or Ruon Gardner (both have wrestled many such products)-They will tell you noone on the horizon will beat the Russian superman soon.

  7. BIF says:

    Thompson, Hunt, looks the two names than DSE manages to build, with matchup favorable,

    Personally i consider the world HW division as very weak, Why?
    There is only two categories of fighter, the grappler/submission fighter with decent stand-up level and the stricker with a “ground survival level”,
    A real mixed fighter ? Only one and his name is the main object of the question,

    I don’t see any ground fighters beating Fedor on the HW class, and for strickers, a better chance, but not a great one.

    In my opinion, the light heavyweight division offers the more serious contender,
    I’m talking of Shogun who can be considered as the Fedor of the LHW, like Fedor he’s very well rounded, he has great ground escape, very good stand up, the weight difference isn’t enormous so………………………
    After two or three fight against heavy bag opponent, for make the transition my pick is Shogun


  8. Zach Arnold says:

    For those who want to see Kharitonov vs. Fedor, I think it’s a question of (as Hornet pointed out) whether DSE thinks there’s any money in it. Compared to Hunt, Yoshida, and most other challengers, Kharitonov at this point isn’t as marketable as the other choices.

    Plus you have to throw in the politics of RTT & DSE and how Kharitonov certainly was this close to jumping to Maeda. I don’t think DSE will put Kharitonov in such a position to be pushed until they can trust him. Even then, he needs at least one or two more impressive showings against top quality fighters before he should be considered for a push with PRIDE’s marketing machine.

    My gut feeling says that while Kharitonov could be dangerous on the stand-up, he would likely lose to Fedor – just as everyone else would. If you believe in the thesis that nobody is left who can beat Fedor, then the next equation is who will draw the most money as a challenger. And on that list, Kharitonov is low at the moment.

  9. Mike Davis says:

    here’s my take.

    as an mma fan, the fights i think make the most sense would be vs. kharitonov and vs. hunt. kharitonov is the one guy fedor hasn’t faced that would honestly give him the biggest run for his money, in my eyes. kharitonov’s standup is much more clean and orthodox than fedor’s, and their submission games are pretty close. fedor’s ground and pound is his biggest advantage in that fight, and i think it would be close, with fedor winning a decision.

    hunt is another challenge. hunt obviously has the better standup, and if he works on his takedown defense, he could have a better shot than most to win. the few times filipovic tried to take hunt down were from the clinch, and hunt nullified those pretty easily, even if they were almost half hearted from the cop. the only time hunt went to the ground was when he was overzealous in his aggresiveness and slipped. fedor’s takedowns are almost exclusively from the clinch, so if hunt were to work on that, he could have a great fight with fedor. if they stood the whole time, i’d have to think fedopr would be ko’ed at some point, but fedor would change his gameplan and get hunt to the ground and sub him. could be a better fight than most think.

    the bigger draws against fedor in japan, in my eyes, would be vs. yoshida and vs. fujita II. fujita has been out of the mma scene for a while, and i think the fight would be a mirror of the first, with fujita possibly scoring in the standup before being taken down and subbed. yoshida is more interesting, because he has a great chin himself, and, of course, excellent subs and sub defence. this would be the best case scenario for a japanese fighter taking fedor to the limit.

    for curiousity’s sake, i’d also like to see two of the middleweights fight fedor, shogun and arona. shogun, as already mentioned, would be a great match, and arona would be a great rematch from rings, where people think there was some dispute over who won. both these brazilians would lose, imo, but would both be great to see.

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