There, I said it.
This is not to take away from Fedor’s win over Brett Rogers tonight. The Grim acquitted himself exactly as one would expect a top ten heavyweight – he landed the first punch and drew blood, swept Fedor from the bottom (!) and dropped some pretty decent punches from guard. However, it appeared that Roger’s cardio began to fail him during the first round, and despite holding his own on the feet, in the clinch and, yes, on the ground against The Last Emperor, he was caught with a vicious punch while throwing a hook from below his nipples. Fedor was in trouble a couple of times, caught Rogers with some haymakers that didn’t finish the fight, and was able to cinch his second straight stoppage.
This fight, however, demonstrates a couple of reasons why Fedor chose to sign with Strikeforce. The bones in Fedor’s face may well be made of adamantium, but the skin covering them is more akin to tissue paper or cut-rate condoms (cheap guys will know what I’m talking about here) – there is no doubt in my mind that Rogers, had he elbows on the ground at his disposal (banned in Strikeforce, in direct contradiction to the Unified Rules), would have bloodied the cham… oh wait, he’s still not the Strikeforce champion, but he did keep the WAMMA trinket (did that thing make the air? If so, I mercifully missed it)… even more than he did. And with a little more cardio, maybe Rogers reclaims his top position after escaping the arm bar, and who knows?
What else did we learn? That Fedor is a tiny, tiny heavyweight. He is one half inch taller and about five pounds lighter than Pat Barry. His vaunted Sambo was enough to keep Rogers off balance, but I was very, very surprised by how well The Grim handled himself in the clinch. Rogers, at 6’4 and 262 pounds, represents the new breed and size of heavyweight contenders, exemplified by the oft-delayed but still upcoming Shane Carwin/Brock Lesnar title fight. With a style described as ‘boxing/Muay Thai’ by the CBS graphics department and a history of simply banging his way to victory, Rogers was able to, for a near if not outright majority of the fight, dictate where the action took place. If he had a wrestling background, one imagines he would have been able to clinch and take down Fedor at will.
These three facts – cardio is a necessity at the upper echelons of MMA, Fedor is impossibly small at heavyweight and Grimm’s grappling, while sufficient, left a lot to be desired – make my previous stance on Fedor/Lesnar unsustainable. I’ve given Fedor the edge in that fight. I can’t anymore. I will stick to my previous stance that Lesnar is not the #1 heavyweight unless and until he defends against Shane Carwin, but I will add an amendment – I will have the winner of that fight, whomever it may be, at #1. I believe Carwin and Lesnar present similar punching power and size to Rogers, which are clearly enough to damage and trouble Fedor, while filling in the gaps (cardio and wrestling acumen) that Fedor exploited to win. I now pick Lesnar and Carwin over Fedor, and whenever that fight happens, the winner knocks Fedor to #2… assuming, of course, that Overeem hasn’t done it already (huge size, better striking than Rogers and better cardio could make up for the grappling mismatch – and I don’t even have Alistair in my top ten).
And if Cain beats Nog, I’ll give him the edge, too.
Update: Here’s a little something for everyone that disagrees with me.