I don’t think there is any question that Fedor Emelianenko was the greatest heavyweight mixed martial artist on the planet from 2003-2006.
He ruled PRIDE with an iron fist, dominating Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira twice, who was the second best heavyweight in the world at the time.
In 2005, he beat Mirko Cro Cop at his own game in regards to striking, and who was also a top heavyweight at the time.
The only top heavyweight that Emelianenko didn’t defeat in his prime was Josh Barnett, whom he never fought.
Since 2005, Emelianenko hasn’t really fought the best competition and didn’t really have to since he had beaten everyone except Barnett.
The new generation of heavyweights in the world simply hadn’t emerged at this time, and Fedor chose to fight blown up middleweights and plain old freak-show fights.
However, as the sport has evolved, so has its athletes, and with the emergence of Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos, Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin in the UFC, there is a new front line of elite big men in today’s game.
Fedor dispatched Tim Sylvia in quick fashion after the UFC broke ties with their former champion after losing to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in 2008. Sylvia went on to get knocked out by Ray Mercer in his very next fight.
In 2009, Fedor then dispatched another former UFC champion in Andrei Arlovski, who went on to lose his next two fights afterwards.
That is no fault of Fedor, but the losses those two guys suffered after losing to Fedor certainly did not add to his case of defeating top tier heavyweights. On the flipside, maybe the destruction Fedor inflicted upon Arlovski and Sylvia caused their downward spiral?
Emelianenko was finally set to face-off against Josh Barnett after the win over Arlovski, but Barnett threw a monkey wrench into that beautiful scenario when he tested positive for banned substances which put a halt to the fight.
That’s no fault of Fedor either, but he had yet to defeat a top tier heavyweight since 2005.
After that fiasco, Emelianenko signed with Strikeforce and faced off against fringe top ten heavyweight Brett Rogers. Emelianenko was battered early, but rebounded with a highlight reel knockout.
The Fedor mystique of being in trouble to win emphatically lives.
However, all of that came to a screeching halt when Fedor succumbed to an armbar in just over a minute to Fabricio Werdum in his very next fight.
It’s not that Fedor lost his very first match (not counting the Kohsaka loss), but it is who he lost to. Werdum is a very good heavyweight, but he wasn’t considered to be top five at the time.
Still, he was probably ranked higher than the aforementioned Brett Rogers.
Werdum was looked upon as a UFC outcast of sorts. He was (2-2) inside the promotion, losing to Junior dos Santos before being released and picked up by Strikeforce.
This brings us to the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix that will start on Saturday night.
To win the grand prix, Emelianenko will have to win three fights spread out over three events.
Finally, he could potentially meet up with Josh Barnett in the finals to come full circle.
Silva, Overeem, and Werdum are all considered to be top 10 heavyweights at the moment by most. Barnett is as well, but the steroid debacle has impacted his ranking status on a couple of fronts.
He hasn’t been as active since that happened, and you have to ask was he as good without the drugs? Either way, it would be a signature win for Emelianenko harking back to the days he ruled the roost over in PRIDE.
Does Emelianenko’s body of work from 2003-2006 speak for itself, or does Emelianenko need to win the Strikeforce grand prix to solidify his legacy as the world’s best heavyweight?