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The Fedor Effect

By on June 30, 2010

Fedor EmelianenkoBefore we conclude what might as well be called Fedor Week here at Fightmania, I want to take a look at one more thing. Something that I noticed that was even before the Werdum fight, a surprising amount of people thought that Fedor Emelianenko was already unworthy of the top spot in the heavyweight division. Now, given that many of these fine folks were not watching Fedor during his Pride days, and are still relying on hearsay, or worse yet, the almighty Fight Finder to decide upon his worth.

This is one of my absolute pet peeves regarding MMA and specifically, MMA fans. So many fans seemingly refuse to consider fights based upon their original context. Wins against Chuck Liddell, even from three years ago, suddenly mean nothing because fans forget that when he fought Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, he was still the fearsome light heavyweight champion that no one had been able to beat. Instead, they allow their view of Rampage’s win to be tainted by all of the losses that Liddell suffered afterward.

Really, there is no better example of this type of flawed thinking than with the career of Fedor Emelianenko. This is due to something that I have oh-so-creatively dubbed the Fedor Effect. The Fedor Effect has to do with how fighters who were previously spoken very highly of will, for some reason, fall apart after having faced Fedor. In other words, someone will be in the top five or ten heavyweights in the world, face (and lose to) Fedor, then immediately go on a losing streak that devalues Fedor’s win after it has already happened. This is a large part of the reason why people like to say that Fedor “hasn’t fought anyone”. Well, that and that Dana White likes to say it, and UFC fans love to repeat what Dana says.

Let’s look at the Fedor Effect and how it particularly relates to five of the former Pride Heavyweight Champion’s best wins.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

This one is big, because by beating Nogueira soundly back in 2003, Fedor assumed the heavyweight throne for the first time, earning the number one ranking from just about anyone and everyone in the MMA community. Before losing to Fedor, Nogueira was 19-1-1, with his lone loss coming by split decision to Dan Henderson way back in February of 2000. He had since collected quality wins against Mark Coleman, Heath Herring, Semmy Schilt and the enormous Bob Sapp in a memorable matchup, and had also avenged his loss to Dan Henderson. Now, before you cry “foul” on my deeming those as quality wins, let me remind you that in that time frame, Frank Mir was just a promising young heavyweight who had lost to Ian Freeman, Brock Lesnar was still slamming people around in the WWE, and the UFC champs included Josh Barnett and Ricco Rodriguez. Coleman had just won the Pride 2000 Grand Prix and was a huge win for Nogueira at the time.

Anyway, so Fedor dominates Nogueira the way that no one had previously and assumes the top spot. Then, he beats Nogueira again a year and a half later, after Nogueira had rattled off five wins in a row, including an admittedly close decision win over Ricco Rodriguez and a submission for the ages against Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic.

Since then, Nogueira has had some success, including winning the UFC Interim Heavyweight Championship while Randy Couture was feuding with the organization, but he has definitely dropped from his days as an elite heavyweight. Most importantly, he’s just 3-2 in his UFC career, having lost to Cain Velasquez and Frank Mir, both by KO/TKO. This is a guy who hadn’t ever been put down in 36 previous fights. Therefore, a lot of newer fans to the sport don’t think beating Nogueira twice back in 2003 and 2004 was a big deal, since they know him as a decent heavyweight who hasn’t done a whole lot in the UFC, besides beating Randy Couture. Let’s not make that mistake, though. Nogueira was the consensus #1 heavyweight when Fedor beat him the first time, and either #2 or #3 upon their second meeting.

Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic

Filipovic, like so many of Fedor’s opponents, was red-hot when he stepped into the ring to face the legendary Russian. He had won seven fights in a row, catapulting himself from K-1 crossover to legitimate elite MMA heavyweight. He avenged a loss to Kevin Randleman, fought off takedowns from Mark Coleman en route to a dominating win, and defeated Fedor’s brother, Aleksander Emelianenko, who himself was in the top ten in most people’s view at the time.

He went on to give Fedor one of his toughest fights yet, though Fedor gave Cro Cop a great fight in what was supposed to be Cro Cop’s realm, battering him while the two were standing. Fedor earned a unanimous decision against Cro Cop, who was ranked number 2 or 3 by most at the time.

Since then? Not so much. Cro Cop dropped a fight against Mark Hunt two bouts later by split decision, then rattled off a four-fight winning streak (winning the Pride Open Weight Grand Prix in the process) afterward before Pride closed its doors for good as Zuffa bought them out. Then, he went to the UFC, where things haven’t gone well at all. Battling injuries and a lack of motivation to train and fight hard, Cro Cop has gone just 3-3 in the UFC, and 5-3 overall during the last few years. So there you go, another one of Fedor’s key victories was diminished in the eyes of many fans.

Tim Sylvia

This was a tough one anyway, because people were already inclined to not like Sylvia for whatever reason, including for his awkward style and reputation for fighting boring, “safe” fights since regaining his heavyweight championship. Still, he was just two fights removed from the UFC Heavyweight Championship when he faced The Last Emperor, and was still a mainstay in the heavyweight top ten at that point. After all, he had only ever lost to Nogueira, Randy Couture, Arlovski and Frank Mir in his career- all UFC Heavyweight Champions!

We all know what happened after. Fedor decimated Sylvia in under a minute in Affliction’s short-lived promotion, and Sylvia made the dubious decision to not only fight a former pro boxer in Ray Mercer for his next bout, but to stand and strike with him, as well. He got knocked out by Mercer, who had just one pseudo-MMA fight to his name prior to that bout, and plummeted out of respectability. Since then, Sylvia hasn’t lost, but has struggled to regain relevance by fighting regional-level fighters and a former World’s Strongest Man winner. When people say Fedor hasn’t beaten anyone recently, they are including Sylvia, because he’s become a bit of a joke. However, let’s remember again that before the Fedor Effect took hold, Sylvia was a top ten heavyweight and multiple-time UFC Heavyweight Champion.

Andrei Arlovski

In January of 2009, Arlovski was a popular pick for the number 2 spot in the world in the heavyweight division, and was ranked in everybody’s top five. He had only lost twice in seven years, both to Tim Sylvia in consecutive defeats in 2005 and 2006. Since then, he had won five in a row (four by KO/TKO), including wins over Ben Rothwell, Roy Nelson and, wait for it…Fabricio Werdum. He had worked with Freddie Roach on his boxing, who claimed that Arlovski had what it takes to be a heavyweight champion in that sport, as well. He was a fairly popular pick to upset Fedor, as the false perception that Fedor hadn’t fought anyone lately had already started working its way into people’s brains.

He did very well, seemingly having Fedor literally and figuratively on the ropes before unleashing an ill-advised flying knee that was countered by a perfectly-timed right hand from Emelianenko. Arlovski was out cold, and the Fedor Effect had begun. After that, Arlovski was knocked out by Brett Rogers in a huge upset before taking a year off and returning to lose to Antonio Silva in a lopsided decision. Voila! A win over a top five opponent for Fedor turned into a win over a guy who was no longer even sniffing the top ten of the division.

Brett Rogers

Our last victim of the Fedor Effect is Brett Rogers. He earned a shot at Fedor by beating Arlovski in the upset mentioned earlier. His record was built mainly on fighters most haven’t heard of prior to the Arlovski bout, but solidly beating a fighter like Arlovski, who was still a top ten heavyweight at that time, legitimized Rogers and launched him into the top ten, as well. He took that momentum into his fight with Fedor, which few gave him a chance to win.

He did well against the Russian, however, right up until Fedor landed another perfectly-timed right to put Rogers down suddenly in the second round. Following their bout, Fedor had another quality win devalued as Rogers was completely manhandled and destroyed by returning Strikeforce champ Alistair Overeem. That’s the only bout Rogers has had so far since the Emelianenko fight, but if the track record of the Fedor Effect holds, the immediate future doesn’t look too bright for Rogers.

So, there you have it. A total of six career-making wins that have been crapped upon by revisionist history and short-sighted fans who refuse to consider them in the original context in which they took place. It’s crazy. In twenty years, when Angelina Jolie is pushing 60, wouldn’t you shake your head if your kids (or grandkids, maybe?) said to you, “What?!? You thought she was hot?” Of course you would! Sure, she’d be an older woman by then, but you were talking about when she was young and ridiculously sexy, right? (And anyway, she probably still will be hot by the time she’s 55, but whatever.)

My point is that when you look at Fedor’s record, you shouldn’t be seeing two guys who didn’t do well in their UFC runs late in their careers, a guy who lost to Ray Mercer, a former UFC champ who became a bit of a head case and lost three in a row, and an overly-hyped fighter who was manhandled by Alistair Overeem. You shouldn’t see those guys, because those aren’t the guys Fedor fought. When Fedor fought them, they were all top ten heavyweights, with most of them ranking in the top two or three in the world at the time. That’s why Fedor was number one for so long, and why he still is the only legitimate choice for the greatest heavyweight of all-time.

E-Mail Jon Hartley

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