Many Russian rulers have been suffixed with the term the Great. Peter the Great is considered one of Russia?s greatest Emperors, expanding the empire and modernising the state to play an important role in the politics and coming wars of nineteenth century Europe. Russia history is littered with transformations from the empires of the Mongols, Ivan the Terrible, the Soviet Union to today?s resurgence. And Russians have an abiding love of dominating power. You saw it in their military and their Olympic weightlifters for decades and now like Rasputin pulling himself out of the Neva River, one of it’s favourite sons, Fedor Emelianenko, the greatest and most dominant fighter in the MMA era officially returns.

Fedor has had many detractors of late for his failure to face top opposition over the last 3 years. Initially the breakdown and faux-sale of the Pride Fighting Championship in 2007 to Zuffa, the parent company of the UFC left Fedor and many other fighters in limbo. In a mess of, let?s be generous and call it ?miscommunication?, much to the surprise of the UFC, Fedor turned out to be no longer under Pride contract and was able to negotiate as a free agent. He and his ominous management will cite the failed discussions with the UFC?s President Dana White which led to White bizarrely claiming Fedor wasn?t even a top 5 heavyweight. White doesn?t like or trust free agents and the negotiating positions proved insurmountable. Fedor has flirted with numerous organizations without committing to a long term contract. But that was the ultimate stumbling block with the UFC.

Despite the spite and contrary to the ranting, Fedor has been in the ring 5 times since 2005. Of course that isn’t enough and he has been certainly fairly inactive compared to his Pride days when he fought 13 times in 3 years. The real issue which has led to calls of Fedor ducking fighters or wasting his talent is the quality of opponents. The list of detractions is long; Apparent BJJ purple belt ‘Triple Sized’ Zulu who somehow got subbed by Butterbean, was crushed by Fedor in 26 seconds of brutality. The Coleman fight was painful to watch for all especially including his daughters. Coleman was desperately out of his depth. Granite-headed kickboxer Mark Hunt put up a decent battle, bravely attempting to kimura Fedor before suffering the same fate. An under-sized Matt Lindland battled well until his takedown was controversially reversed by Fedor possibly clinging to the top rope and proceeded to routinely armbar the Olympic silver medallist. Fedor’s last bout was at Yarennoka in Japan at New Year where he armbarred the out-classed Choi Hong Man in under 2 minutes. That’s under 20 minutes action in 3 years from the supposed #1 P4P fighter in the world and none of the opposition have been world class heavyweights.

But maybe times have changed. The Emperor has returned and for now is dressed in the clothing provided by Mark Cuban?s HD-Net promotion. This July 19, he will face recently released former two-time heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia. Primarily a stand-up fighter, the Miletich trained fighter has good takedown defence for a 6-8, 260lbs giant. Unlike the previous few years, Sylvia is not the forgone conclusion or the simple armbar victory we have been disappointed by with Fedor over the last few years. His size makes him dangerous and his record puts him in the top 10 heavyweights in the world. The former two-time UFC heavyweight champion has been in with some of the best in the division and come out victorious over Arlovski, Vera and Rodriguez. Even in recent defeats to Randy Couture and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, he has shown durability and guts not previously recognised.

But what makes Fedor so special is his handling of various different kinds of fighters. The old adage is styles make fights but Fedor, along with Anderson Silva has proved you can train for any stylist and beat them as long as you are good enough. Few other fighters have shown they can do this; Frank Shamrock being the latest to fail. Fedor has beaten dominant wrestlers in Mark Coleman and Kevin Randleman (Fedor legendarily surviving a monster slam that would have crumpled King Kong), world class kickboxers like Mirko ?Crocop? Filipovic were out-struck and even the great Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, the present UFC HW champion and submission master was out-grappled on the mat.

Most of this versatility comes from Fedor?s training base. He is a reigning world champion in Sambo, a Russian form of judo, as well as holding a black belt in judo. Fedor is also willing to diversify his training and train with the best to be the best wherever that might be. He moved to Amsterdam to train in kickboxing with Golden Glory. The Dutch are at the vanguard of modern kickboxing, best seen in K1 and aided Fedor greatly in his destruction of K1 veteran Gary Goodridge and dominance over K1 grand finalist Crocop. When a submission isn’t likely, Fedor has redefined ground and pound to a brutal degree. Adding to Fedor’s aura is his calmness before and during a fight. Fedor sticks to a gameplan throughout, clinically taking apart the opposition without regard for the man. Maybe it’s indicative that the only fighter who disrespected Fedor was Ogawa and he lasted under a minute until he was…yes you guessed it, armbarred. Does he have a weakness? Only physiologically. He has been cut a few times, leading to his only defeat by Kohsaka, later brutally and easily avenged.

At present Fedor has only agreed to a one fight deal with HD-Net but it maybe the start of Fedor’s Big American Adventure and undoubtedly an aid to the fledgling competition to the UFC. Whether HD-Net, Elite XC and Strikeforce can build on this kind of exposure, time will only tell. I suspect the longer term aim is a match-up with former UFC HW champion Randy Couture whose attempt to leave his UFC contract appears to have failed. According to unconfirmed reports, his UFC contract runs up in October 2008 granting us the opportunity to see a Fedor v Randy match up in late 2008. That would settle any doubters and cement either or more probably both fighter?s places in the annals of MMA history.

The fervent speculation and chatter on the boards is an indicator of much. He may only have last fought last year but we have missed Fedor. There is no ‘will he be the old Fedor’ to worry about here. This is Fedor USM, the Unstoppable Stoppage Machine. In many ways, he is the best example of modern MMA. His rounded skills along with his stony ‘Russianness’ led some to jokingly compare him to a machine. No need to worry. His quiet yet smiling demeanour and his courtesy to his opponents both before and after the bouts assure his humanity. Fedor is all class, all world class. Welcome back Emperor.

приветствуйте обратного чемпиона – welcome back champ.


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