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« | Home | »

Julien Solomita: Will we see a Second Act from Fedor?

By Zach Arnold | September 9, 2011

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By Julien Solomita (StreetMade.com | @streetmadeteam)

“That which does not kill me makes me stronger”Nietzsche

People that have been the best, at whatever it may be that they do in life, have gained knowledge that others would die for. These champions know what it takes to earn a title, and to rein supreme in competition. They have seen the necessary sacrifices it takes to make them so successful, and the powers of hard work and determination at its finest.

What a lot of people forget when a champion loses or a king is dethroned is that this person is capable of once again becoming a champion.

Fedor Emelianenko has had one of the most decorated, and accomplished careers in the history of mixed martial arts. Throughout his professional fighting career, he has blasted his way through many opponents, even when he was outmatched. Fedor became the Pride Heavyweight champion at PRIDE 25 where he defeated the thought-to-be-invincible Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Nogueira had been dominating the division with his dangerous ground skills, and his powerful hands. Fedor came in and won the stand up game, while surviving Big Nog’s guard as well, earning him the unanimous decision that would crown him champion. He never gave up that title.

Fedor’s 2004 submission victory over UFC veteran Mark Coleman displayed the true versatility to his game that many people didn’t know existed. Brutally knocking out Andrei Arlovski was one of the most influential victories for Fedor’s career, as Arlovski was the former reigning UFC heavyweight champ, and Fedor planted him to the ground with an overhand right while he was backed up against the ropes.

Recently, Fedor Emelianenko’s career has sustained a rough patch. He is still fighting and is the same person, just with three more losses on his record, but in reality this means very little. As Dan Hardy recently stated, “records are for DJs.” 

His submission loss to Fabricio Werdum was the result of a careless and expedited approach when after knocking the Brazilian down; Fedor curiously pounced and was captured in a deep triangle choke. 

In his next fight, Emelianenko was (again) significantly outmatched in the size department when he fought Antonio “Big Foot” Silva. Any good fighter can get caught in disadvantageous positions, and will know how to escape them. But for Fedor, escaping the mount of the freakishly colossal Silva was just too much to overcome, and the doctor stoppage occurred when the heavy ground and pound swelled up the Russian’s eye, earning him his second straight loss.

Any sports fan knows the detrimental effects that a losing streak can trigger in an athlete’s demeanor. It can take a competitor out of his element, both mentally and physically. It can also impede an athlete’s competitive mindset as removing this vice that the losing streak holds subconsciously becomes the athlete’s new endeavor. The fight world witnessed Fedor Emelianenko become afflicted by this in his July 30th fight with Dan Henderson, in what was his last contracted Strikeforce bout. Fedor never shows even a hint of emotion, (refer to: the horrifyingly blank Russian stare down) and it wasn’t until the fight was under way that Fedor’s irritability manifested. Fedor thought he had dropped Henderson, but quickly realized it was a loss of balance and coordination that actually sent Henderson down into a semi-pulled guard. When Fedor pounced on top of the American, he was not as careful as he needed to be as he was promptly reversed, then put asleep by Henderson’s right hand.

This third straight loss was very frustrating for Fedor and all of his supporters. 

Many people, including Strikeforce’s blatantly inappropriate “Fan Poll” that night, for whatever reason assumed that the 35-year-old warrior would retire following his fight against Dan Henderson. A fighter who has won as much and lost as rarely as Fedor Emelianenko definitely has what it takes to move forward and reach even higher than ever before in his career.

Upon hearing the news of a Monson vs. Fedor M-1 fight set for November, I wasn’t quite sure how to react. I was unimpressed with Monson’s last performance and assumed Fedor deserved better. However, on second thought, I realized that Monson is one of very few fighters that has had a decorated and accomplished career and is still a relatively big name in the sport. 

While Monson may not be currently considered a top 10 Heavyweight, he was previously on an 8-fight win streak, submitting five out of eight opponents. The streak was snapped when he lost a decision to Daniel Cormier at Strikeforce’s heavyweight grand prix. Monson’s versatility and strength on the ground is second to none, and his pair of gold medals from Abu Dhabi’s ADCC grappling championship can vouch for it. He has some of the most experience with submission grappling of any active mixed martial arts fighter, and is an extremely taxing opponent to finish. Daniel Cormier’s heavy hands battered and punished Monson for three full rounds, at the end of which Monson was still standing. An efficient training camp that focuses on Monson’s stand up will be crucial for him to successfully stand and trade with Fedor. With a win over “The Last Emperor”, Jeff Monson would see a possible spot in the top ten rankings. Sure, Monson absorbed the onslaught by Cormier, but he must prepare for an even more overwhelming, and viciously relentless offense from the Russian. If Jeff Monson will be able to trade successfully enough to get Fedor to the ground or in his guard, he will have found his best prospect for victory. Fedor’s relentless striking attack, and his stealth jiu-jitsu match up enticingly with Monson’s ground skills and toughness. There are few heavyweights in the world that are permitted by contract and willing to take a fight with Fedor at this point. I believe Fedor is still dangerous as he is learning how to pinpoint and fix the mistakes responsible for his recent defeats. Fully grasping what led to his minor collapse could tremendously improve Fedor’s game.

One last point that will be critical in the outcome of this bout is the homecoming for Fedor. This fight takes place in Russia. He will have the clear home field advantage. He has been roughed up in his last three fights, all of which took place in the United States. Could Fedor be hungrier than ever to snap this losing streak and do so in front of his Russian faithful? This could be either an amplified edition of Fedor fighting for his country, or a hindering added pressure.

Should Fedor defeat Monson; there are a number of things to consider. First of all, where does he go next? If he puts Monson away with ease in an impressive finishing victory, maybe he will have rediscovered the innate passion that he seemed to have lacked in his last few fights. There is much speculation as to what Fedor is fighting for now. Has his motivation become for the paycheck rather than the passion that originally got him so far in the sport? If Fedor truly still loves fighting, and can still lay it all on the line, he will be more successful than if he has lost sight of his true love for the sport.

A win in this fight for Mr. Emelianenko will open up only a small amount of prospective worthwhile heavyweight fights. These potential fights will skyrocket should Fedor make the drop to light heavyweight. “The Last Emperor” has fought his whole career at Heavyweight and he has used his superior speed and technique to beat bigger opponents. He would be facing a new side of competition should he drop to 205. This may be new territory for the Russian veteran, but a drop in weight class during a struggling point in a fighter’s career can often unearth new opportunities. Kenny Florian dropped from lightweight, and after just one featherweight victory, a title shot presented itself. Whether or not Florian actually deserves the shot, the point is that people want to see the athletes challenging themselves with a new set of opponents at a different weight. A new exciting “Kenflo” ready to make a run at 145, grabbed the UFC’s attention after what they believed was an impressive win over Diego Nunes at UFC 131. Florian was rewarded.

Beating Jeff Monson could very well put Fedor in a similar situation as the UFC could become excited at the prospect of new weight class for the Russian legend.

There are endless 205-pound possibilities for Fedor in both Strikeforce and the UFC. A fight with Roger Gracie or King Mo after their fight in Cincinnati on September 10th could be an intriguing opportunity for Fedor, should he re-sign with Strikeforce. Winning his next fight decisively could get Fedor back under the Zuffa umbrella and could lead to multiple big name fights.

What will be interesting to see in such a situation where Fedor makes the cut is how will he have changed as a fighter? He may find a new ability to use his grappling as a bigger factor in fights, as he wouldn’t have to worry about a 265-pound behemoth smothering him. The size differential has always been a burden to Fedor who has handled it incredibly for the vast majority of his career. This would no longer be an obstacle for Fedor.

Joe Rogan, during his Tapout Radio interview discusses Fedor not having a chance to be the best at heavyweight because of his size, and hits it on the head,

“If there was a 225 pound weight class you know he might have been one of the greatest of all time. But as a heavyweight? I think there’s always going to be guys that are like just going to be able to beat him.”

By fighting guys his own size, Fedor could evade some of the positions that he has been unable to escape from at heavyweight, and reveal an improved flow to his ground attack. Handling the strikes of the largest competitors in MMA is what Fedor has been used to for many years fighting at heavyweight. Although the light heavyweights will be quicker than his previous opponents, the overwhelming strength and power are lesser in the hands of a 205-pound fighter compared to the monsters at heavyweight. With a drop in division, Fedor has the capacity to be lighter, quicker, and for the first time, bigger than his opponents.

The comeback of a losing fighter is something everyone, both fans and skeptics, get excited over. The upcoming bout between Jeff Monson and Fedor Emelianenko strikes me as something that will end up being what a lot of people don’t expect: a great fight. Should Fedor stand and trade with Monson, there will most likely be someone going down and after losing three straight.

I believe that Fedor is, still, in fact Fedor. He has always been relatively undersized for his weight class but his exceptional hand have proven to possess devastating power, and will once again be tested. The outcome of his next bout could possibly spark the manageable weight cut that has been put aside for years. Will Fedor Emelianenko resurge as the great fighter he has proven to be and catch a second wind in his career?  

After all, it is the second act that people really love.

Julien Solomita is a student at Chapman University. He can be reached on Twitter @JulienSolomita. His personal web site can be accessed here.

Topics: M-1, Media, MMA, Zach Arnold | 11 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

11 Responses to “Julien Solomita: Will we see a Second Act from Fedor?”

  1. 45 Huddle says:

    People cheer for an emering star…. hate a veteran who is stagnant…. Feel sorry for a legend that is on his way down… and absolutely love to see a great comeback story…

    Fedor isn’t making a comeback. The sport has passed him by, just like everybody else of his generation. If he changes his training and actually cares to fight, he can be competitive. He will never be #1 or even close again.

    The way he acts lately, he should probably retire, but M-1 probably won’t let him… I sort of feel bad for him…. Then again, he is a grown adult.

  2. RST says:

    Nice article, I agree with a lot of it, but in the end…no.

    Fedor isn’t going to make a comeback, IMO.

    Of course I do not in fact read the future, nor am I privy to the intricacies of mind control technology.
    But Fedor has not looked even interested in making any changes for at least 5-6 years.

    And he is surrounded by people who are not interested in him making any changes.

    After 2 acceptably excusable loses to good HWs (but which could also have been avoided via changes), he caps it off with a loss to a part time middleweight making it 3 in a row.

    And he STILL will not make any changes.

    Fedor is sleepwalking as far as MMA at this point.
    When he is questioned about potential opponents and responds that he doesn’t make those decisions, he’s telling the truth.

    He’s not making any decisions regarding his career.

    His mind is far away from MMA worshiping his God, and that is what fulfills him and makes him happy.

    I dont know why he continues to go through the paces of this sport at all.

    Personally I wish he would just stop it already.

  3. Kelvin Hunt says:

    No…you won’t see a second act…because he will not be fighting anyone near the top ten from here on out.

  4. nottheface says:

    I wouldn’t hold my breath. Fedor is going to be 35 in a couple of weeks and with the exception of Henderson, Silva,and maybe Rampage, none of his compatriots from the early days of Pride and the UFC are making big splashes anymore. Or from other sports for that matter. He’s fought 36 times in 10-years, and. is looking more doughy as he ages. He’s never liked MMA and his sole motivation now is probably trying to help promote m-1.
    While I’d love for him to retire and preserve his legacy I also have no problem with him headlining cards in Russia if it means it will be broadcast live on national TV (and with Putin present no less) That’s great for MMA even if this was a much better match back in 2007. If he continues fighting Kharitinov, Barnett, Gulam, Ivanov are all fights that make sense for one reason or another.

  5. Nepal says:

    People talk about him being better off at 205 (which he could easily make). The truth is LHW has more talented fighters than HW (historically) and I would argue still does.

    Who would be favored Jones or Machida vs Fedor? For sure Jones and Machida would be favored. How about Shogun? Evans, Rampage?

    I don’t think LHW would be a cakewalk for Fedor at all.

    • RST says:

      Thats true.
      205 is the most stacked and talented weight class right now. Followed by 170 IMO.

      Those guys are even faster and more versatile than the new HW’s that are already giving Fed fits.

      But thats all academic because Fed isn’t even interested enough to expand his training or seek out legit competition.

      Fat chance of him going on a diet.

  6. Vic Mackey says:

    This guy is a an awful writer. Is English his second language?

    • david m says:

      I couldn’t make it through the first paragraph. It is pretty embarrassing that something that looks like it was written by a fourth grader is on an mma site considered to be the home of “smart” mma commentary and discussion.

  7. Steve4192 says:

    Is Fedor capable of making a comeback?

    Sure.

    Will he?

    Probably not. While he might still be physically capable of competing with the best, he has checked out mentally. The guy doesn’t give a shit anymore and is just playing out the string because M-1 needs him. He’d rather be at home in Stary Oskol going to church and banging his pretty young wife.

  8. spacedog says:

    Fedor’s is a story of poor management. I just hope we don’t find out he is broke soon. Sadly, I could see Fedor’s handlers having “handled” his money with as much care as they handled his career.

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