With a third round submission victory over Gilbert Yvel at Affliction: Day of Reckoning, Josh Barnett looks likely to be the next opponent for Fedor Emelianenko's WAMMA Heavyweight Championship.
Fedor, having dispatched Andrei Arlovski with a highlight-reel knockout, continues to show why he is considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world (and I realize it is really a dead heat for No. 1 with Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre).
Should Fedor beat Barnett, which I except him to do with ease, what will be left for the Russian to do against the Affliction roster?
There is not another top heavyweight waiting in the wings for the Fedor/Barnett winner. After Affliction's first card, most people were proclaiming that the group of heavyweights was far better than what the UFC had.
Now that may have been true at first, as the depth of competition leaves much to be desired. So let's look at what is left.
Former IFL heavyweights Ben Rothwell and Roy Nelson have not measured up in their last fights to warrant a title shot. With Rothwell now fighting for Adrenaline MMA after losing to Arlovski, and Nelson's last fight also being a knockout loss to Arlovski, neither have proven that they deserve to be in the same ring with the best heavyweight on the planet.
Fedor has already beaten two former UFC champions in Arlovski and Tim Sylvia. Andrei Arlovski is looking forward to making his professional boxing debut, so an immediate rematch is not going to happen.
Sylvia has lost three of his last four bouts, and has become the guy that no one wants to watch fight anymore (I am yawning just thinking about watching another Sylvia fight). This means the two most deserving opponents currently signed to Affliction are not viable options.
There are only five other heavyweights that have fought for Affliction thus far. Gary Goodridge, Pedro Rizzo, Kirill Sidelnikov, and Gilbert Yvel have all lost their only fights with the company.
That leaves Paul Buentello, who is 2-0. In his two wins, he didn't look overly impressive. He also has called out Kimbo Slice, a fight he should be able to win.
It just does not seem to me that Buentello's mental approach is ready for a high-profile match the magnitude of a tilt versus Fedor.
Unless Affliction can bring in some big names from Japan or steal a major star from the UFC, the promotion may be in bigger trouble than it is rumored to be in already.
Affliction has centered both of its cards around Emelianenko, but they have been against former champions of the UFC. Josh Barnett is not a household name in the United States, but true MMA fans know this is also a very good opponent.
Should he defeat Barnett and run his record to 3-0 since coming stateside, it looks like Emelianenko will have to go elsewhere to find someone worth training for.
Whether he goes to Japan for possible fights with Alistair Overreem or Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, or finally comes to terms with the UFC for matches with the likes of Randy Couture, Brock Lesnar, or Frank Mir, I would hope that Fedor won't just wait for the next tomato can Affliction will throw at him.
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