Where have you gone, Alexander Karelin? A nation...turns its lonely eyes...to you.
It's hackneyed, but the occasion isn't. Alexander Karelin was the best wrestler ever, and undoubtedly influenced countless MMA fighters. But now, thanks to the International Olympic Committee, it soon will be much harder to follow in those massive ursine footsteps.
As the news of wrestling's Olympic demise continues to soak into the pores of the MMA community, perhaps a bit of wistful celebration is in order. In that spirit, welcome to a list of the biggest and baddest MMA heavyweights ever to walk the Earth: the Alexander Karelin Edition.
What does big and bad mean, exactly? Well, it means you're physically sizable. It also means you're accomplished, scary and perhaps crazy.
It doesn't necessarily mean only having the best record, though. So if you don't see your fave here, spare me the "but he won this and that" argument. If he's not here, he either wasn't good enough or wasn't bad enough. Let that soak in.
The three-time Olympic gold medalist and his Big Blue Ox, Babuschkakov, probably cried some big blue tears when the IOC's announcement reached them. And in each tear, five men drowned, and five forests grew.
If this list included sports besides MMA, you can bet Karelin would be a lot higher than honorable mention.
Top qualifying accomplishment: Two-time UFC tournament champion
Don Frye's the one on the right.
You don't just make a list of the biggest, baddest heavyweights ever and not invite Don Frye. He'd get mad.
Word to the wise: He also gets mad when there's no tequila. So you'll need tequila.
Top qualifying accomplishment: Created to bar fight as condor created to scavenge
You'll need a LOT of tequila.
I went back and forth on whether to put Abbott, Josh Barnett or Ken Shamrock here. Who, I thought to myself, was the bigger, badder man?
On the one hand, you've got Barnett. That is, the world-class heavyweight everyone loves to love, but whose focus hasn't always seemed solely on the kind of fighting that happens inside a cage and in between horns.
On the other hand, you've got Shamrock. Bad dude, great fighter, but ultimately someone who got a few too many heads shaking at him rather than with him.
On the third hand, there's Tank, the pit fighter who parties a lot and, at age 47, is still fighting. Because that's what he does. That, and party. And because he needs more partying money.
I'm going with Tank. He's not the best or biggest heavyweight, but he just might be the baddest.
(Full disclosure though: he almost lost it with this.)
Top qualifying accomplishments: Former UFC heavyweight champion, sword tattoo
I did have to go ahead and take a few points away from Brock Lesnar on account of him not being very, what's the word, accomplished, at least not in an all-time context.
But he still makes it for being Brock Lesnar. If an unknown alien species came to Earth and our lives depended on the outcome of a no-rules, hand-to-alien-phalange kind of battle and I had to pick the guy to represent Earth, I tell you what, Brock Lesnar's making the short list.
Top qualifying accomplishment: Former UFC heavyweight champion
All right. Time to get serious here. The great Junior dos Santos may not have as long of a track record of badassery as others, but he's already one of the division's all-time greatest violence makers, and as such more than deserves this spot.
I can't wait for May 25, when Dos Santos will drop Alistair Overeem like a burlap sack full of expired Axe cans.
Top qualifying accomplishment: Won 2000 Pride Open-Weight Grand Prix
I call this guy "The Godfather of Ground Striking." If you also want to call him that, you must ask me first.
Here, The Godfather is in the semifinals of the above-mentioned grand prix, glowering over Kazuyuki Fujita like the bad, bad man that he is.
Top qualifying accomplishment: Won 2006 Pride Open-Weight Grand Prix
The master of the high kick was bad for a long time.
And, because it never gets old, and is especially fitting for this list: Right leg hospital, left leg cemetery. Just the way it is.
Top qualifying accomplishment: Two-time (and current) UFC heavyweight champion
There aren't many bigger Cain Velasquez fans than me. I think he could someday be higher—maybe a lot higher—up this list. For now, he's still looking up at a few all-timers, but he's closing that distance every time he fights.
Top qualifying accomplishment: Winner of UFC heavyweight tournament and lineal belt (three times)
It's not just the belts, or the longevity that carried his career well into his late 40s. It's the sheer diversity of people he's beaten, from Liddell to Sylvia to Belfort.
Top qualifying accomplishment: 46 career stoppage victories
This guy was Cro Cop before Cro Cop was Cro Cop. Try saying that five times fast. "Ice Cold" could knock you out with river-stone hands or tree-trunk legs. He was dangerous with submissions, too, but when it comes to striking, he's one of the most dangerous ever to don the fingerless gloves.
And by the way, yes, I realize he lost to Coleman in the 2000 grand prix finals. And yes, I realize Coleman is ranked several spots lower. However, Igor boasts 29 knockouts as part of his undeniable body of work, which dates all the way back to the Vale Tudo era. Coleman can't claim that type of sustained dominance.
If that's not enough, he once TKO'd Gary Goodridge and Kazushi Sakuraba in the same freaking night. Check and mate.
Top qualifying achievement: Being Fedor Emelianenko
Yeah. This shouldn't be a surprise. In case it is, though—or in case you just like walking down memory lane—a few data points:
- Ten-year, 28-fight unbeaten streak
- Pride heavyweight lineal and grand prix champion
- Held three different championship belts
- Nearly stifled human resistance movement by murdering Sarah Connor
- Multi-time world combat sambo champion
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