The Last Emperor, Fedor Emelianenko, is quite a polarizing figure. Only the greatest of fighters can divide the MMA community and create a frenzy of analytics and opinions, even if both sides may never admit it.
The Fedor arguments are unique as they tend to break down more than just a liking for the fighter. Many of the discussions surrounding Fedor are regarding talent or ranking amongst the best in the sport.
Many will tell you Fedor has been less than ambitious in pursuing the best competition on the market. Those same people may tell you he actually is going out of his way to avoid it.
Others might tell you Fedor earned his crown when he was beating some of the best mixed martial artists the sport has known while in their primes. And they will state it with authority.
Some would love to break down for you the questionable striking ability of the Russian competitor. They may even go so far as to say his punching is sloppy and even lucky in some cases.
The counter to the accusation of sloppy stand up is to point to his victories that ended in knockouts or opponents being rocked or defeated, starting with a punch. How could they all be lucky?
And for the record, is there such a thing as a lucky punch? If you got knocked out by a punch in a fight, maybe you should have ducked. Does that take away from the guy who happened to put you to sleep while swinging to do so?
That is always a topic for another article.
Of all the points and insults that can be made in the same breath as Fedor Emelianenko, one thing people rarely talk about is instinct. In this writer's opinion, instincts are what makes Fedor the man and the fighter he is.
The latest argument is how can this guy be so highly revered? He isn't the best technical fighter out there, he's not necessarily athletically gifted like Georges St. Pierre. He didn't really look that impressive in his two latest victories. But they were victories.
Gameness and instincts are what make Fedor Emelianenko plain and simple. Its not about what he doesn't do or what he can or can't do, it is how he does what it is that he is doing that sets him apart.
Fedor is always in the fight, but rarely does it guide him. He allows it to happen and he moves accordingly. Sometimes he pushes, sometimes he pulls, but more often than not, he is dictating the fight.
This is a common trait amongst some of the greatest fighters the sport has known. Fedor's ability to not only be within the moment but influence the moment ever so slightly is what truly sets him apart.
It is his instincts regarding his opponent, the flow of the fight, and the results of his actions that guide him to move through that and emerge victorious.
It is not the man's striking, it is not his ground game, nor his grappling that solely lead him to win. It is his command and control that lead him to victory. It is hard to point to the intangible assets a fighter may have when talking about their worth.
Some things are measurable, or can be visibly presented or displayed. The striking he may or may not posses can be seen, his chin can be tested, his skin may cut, his submissions can be felt.
The man has not won 31 professional fights by being sloppy or second-tier. This is not to offset the arguments against him, as there are some interesting and even valid points to be made.
The point is only to say if the man was not as good as he is, he wouldn't be worth arguing about in the first place. But while fight fans are busy making their efforts to share their perspective, it is worth noting there is more to the story than punches and take-downs.
His instincts are hard to put into words, or supply upon demand. That being said, if you have spent more than five minutes on YouTube watching Fedor Emelianenko, like him or hate him, you know exactly what I mean.