Fedor Emelianenko is the greatest heavyweight in the history of MMA. Since MMA is the purest form of fighting that exists, that makes Fedor the greatest heavyweight fighter ever — not just in this sport but in all forms of combat. And since the heavyweight class consists of the most dangerous fighters due to their size and power, that makes Fedor the greatest fighter ever. Holy fuck.
But you already know this. One look at his perfect record (his sole loss in 32 fights was due to a cut that would have resulted in a different outcome under the unified rules) tells you as much. What needs to be reiterated, however, is that “The Last Emperor” is still human. There’s an old saying that has floated around the fight world forever: if a fighter is undefeated, he’s simply not facing the right guys. No matter how good you are, there will always be a day when somebody comes along and beats you if you consistently face challenging opponents. Such is life at the top of the fight game.
The biggest crutch Fedor’s critics have had to fall back on over the years is that the man wasn’t fighting top competition on a regular basis. Now, after dispatching of Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski — the biggest players in the UFC’s heavyweight division from 2003-2007 — consecutively, Fedor is set to face another former UFC heavyweight champion in Josh Barnett, who also happens to be a perennial top 5 contender and a close friend to the Russian phenom.
Probability and common sense indicate that if Fedor keeps up this habit of actually facing men worthy enough to fight him, eventually someone will take him out. After all, the majority of Fedor’s 30-1 (with 1 NC) record is padded with guys who shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Before you get your panties in a bunch, let’s analyze the facts.
Looking at Fedor’s pre-Affliction career spent in the PRIDE and RINGS organizations, Minotouro Nogueria and Mirko Cro Cop are the only two names that stand-out as legitimate elite-level opposition. Heath Herring is tough but is a perennial gatekeeper who has had a lot of trouble against the upper echelon of the division. Semmy Schilt is a dangerous K1 kickboxer, but has also had trouble with well-rounded MMA fighters. Both Ricardo Arona and Babalu Sobral are dangerous to anyone on any given night, but are undersized in comparison to Fedor — and both of those fights went to decision. Mark Hunt has virtually no ground game whatsoever. Kazuyuki Fujita had showed signs of greatness with victories over Ken Shamrock and Mark Kerr, but by the time he fought Fedor he had been battered on two separate occasions by Mirko Cro Cop. Finally, pals Mark Coleman and Kevin Randleman were both hitting the downside of their careers by the time they each stepped in the ring with the former PRIDE heavyweight champ.
Despite that, Fedor has still been more dominant than any heavyweight ever. The point of this is not to knock his accomplishments but instead to put in perspective how many elite opponents Emelianenko has beaten. If the list currently consists roughly of Nogueira, Cro Cop, Sylvia, and Arlovski — with the addition of possibly two or three of the aforementioned names, depending on your opinion — then there is no doubt that Fedor will eventually meet his match if he continues to fight high-level opponents.
Josh Barnett is no joke, and if Fedor comes out victorious, we could see him in the deep waters of the UFC sooner rather than later. Everybody has to lose eventually, and someday — possibly soon — the wrecking machine that is Fedor will be stopped. It could be Barnett, but then again it could wind up being Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir, or Shane Carwin. Yeah, it sounds unlikely that any of those men could take out the most dominant heavyweight fighter in the history of the world, but if Fedor continues to fight high level opponents (as he should), somebody will eventually have his number. Hearing that Fedor will eventually lose isn’t fun to hear but it’s a necessary truth, like discovering that Santa Claus isn’t real or that that hot chick from last night wasn’t exactly a girl — not that I would know anything about that.