The Debate Is Over: Fedor Emelianenko Is the Greatest Fighter Alive

Gary HermanCorrespondent INovember 30, 2009

Fedor is the best in the world.

The two most important elements when putting together such hypothetical lists are: the past three years, and the complete body of work.

There is nobody with his complete body of work, and there is no one who has beaten the same level competition in recent years.

I’m tired of hearing any discussion otherwise.

The first argument against Emelianenko comes on behalf of Anderson Silva. With all due respect (and more), Silva has just not fought the same class of fighters that Fedor has. Dana White constantly boasts that his champions fight the best opponents in the world three times a year.


Let’s take a look at Silva’s last four fights:

Most recently was Forrest Griffin. That was a tremendous victory. There is no doubt about it. Silva looked awesome, and he quickly disposed of the former light heavyweight champion.

Prior to that, Silva took on (in succession) James Irvin, Patrick Cote, and Thales Leites. I don’t think much needs to be said on James Irvin. The fact that Silva moved up a weight class doesn’t matter when he’s fighting a glorified jobber, and Irvin played his part well.

Patrick Cote? Umm...The only person who thought he was a deserving top contender was nobody. He only got the shot because he pulled a major upset and defeated Ricardo Almeida. Make no mistake, Almeida was the guy the UFC thought would make for a good fight with Silva.

Cote belongs nowhere near anyone’s top 10—unless we’re talking about 10 guys that had no chance to win the middleweight championship.

Thales Leites is just plain awful. He got the shot because he squeaked out a split decision (partially due to a point deduction) against Nate Marquardt. Leites proved he was completely undeserving of a title shot by uncorking what may have been the worst performance in the history of UFC title fights.

Before the Cote and Leites debacles, Silva amassed a very impressive run. He defeated Dan Henderson, Rich Franklin (twice), Nate Marquardt, Travis Lutter, and Chris Leben.

However, of those names, only Dan Henderson and Rich Franklin are likely to be remembered as all-time greats.

Before his UFC tenure, Silva did not have many notable wins. The best victories were against Carlos Newton, Roan Carneiro, and Hayato Sakurai.

I’m definitely not saying Silva isn’t a great fighter. He’s the second best mixed martial artist in the world. What I will say (and prove) is that there is a huge gap between No. 1 and No. 2.

The second man in the discussion always seems to be Georges St. Pierre.

First (and most importantly), St. Pierre lost to Matt Serra by knockout in the first round. Let that re-sink in for a while.

Ok, now let it drown.

Also, you could make a serious argument that Serra won the fight by submission. St. Pierre was clearly tapping at the end of the contest.

No fighter that is embarrassed by Matt Serra in recent history deserves to be ranked ahead of Fedor Emelianenko.

Since the loss to Serra, St. Pierre has looked awesome though. He’s torn through Josh Koscheck, Matt Hughes (second time), Matt Serra (in the rematch to regain the belt), Jon Fitch, B.J. Penn (second time), and Thiago Alves.

Prior to losing the welterweight title, St. Pierre did amass a notable list of victims. The list includes B.J. Penn, Matt Hughes, and Sean Sherk.

Of that list, Hughes and Penn are the likely hall-of-famers, but the loss to Serra did not occur at the beginning of St. Pierre’s career. It occurred about two-and-a-half years ago when St. Pierre was the champion.

In looking back at the bout, St. Pierre has used the excuse that he had personal problems leading up to the fight. To me, that means he was not focused.

The most important job of any fighter when he steps into battle is to be fully locked in on his opponent. He is fighting another man inside of a cage for goodness sake.

Has anyone ever said that about Emelianenko?

While St. Pierre has decimated the top contenders in the UFC welterweight division, the big question to look at remains: is the UFC welterweight division really any good?

Josh Koscheck is a solid fighter, but also a very beatable one. The losses to Paulo Thiago and Thiago Alves keep him from being a true championship contender.

Alves is a huge Muay-Thai specialist, but he is also somewhat overrated. His marquee wins are against Koscheck and the loony Karo Parisyan.

Sure, Alves also beat Hughes, but it’s hard to dole out too much credit when he came in four pounds overweight.

Fitch is a good, workman-like fighter, but I don’t really view him as a future champion. He also hasn’t finished a fight since his Jun. 2007 submission win over Roan Carneiro.

Are these really top contenders that the sport will remember? Being a big fish in a little pond is nothing like being the big fish in a huge ocean.

On Inside MMA , St. Pierre even chimed in with his answer when asked who the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world was.

“Fedor Emelianenko,” he said.

Obviously, St. Pierre isn’t going to vote for himself, but he just as easily could have voted for Anderson Silva. That would have made much more sense since the two UFC champions seem to be on a collision course for sometime at the end of 2010.

So, now we come back to the real candidate for the top fighter in the sport—Emelianenko.

Let’s take a quick snapshot of some of his marquee wins: Andrei Arlovski, Tim Sylvia, Mirko Cro Cop, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (twice), Kevin Randleman, Mark Coleman (twice), Heath Herring, Renato “Babalu” Sobral, and Ricardo Arona.

Of that list, Arlovski, Sylvia, Nogueira, and Coleman are all former UFC heavyweight champions (so is Randleman, but I just don’t see him in the same class.)

Plus, Emelianenko beat Cro Cop when he was at the (ahem) top of his game.

Next, over the past three years, Emelianenko defeated Mark Hunt, Matt Lindland, Hong Man Choi (why did that fight happen?), Sylvia, Arlovski, and Brett Rogers.

Do not underestimate Rogers. He is a very talented heavyweight who belongs in the top 10. He is not the most technically sound, but who says you have to be in order to be a success? Whatever Rogers does inside the cage certainly does work.

People are also quick to knock down Arlovski and Sylvia.

“Arlovski has a glass jaw” is the popular comment.

Prior to the Emelianenko fight, Arlovski was knocked out once (by Sylvia) in the past seven years. So who is it exactly that shattered Arlovski’s jaw?

The answer is Fedor.

Sylvia is certainly not the most beloved fighter in history, but let’s give him some due. He has won multiple UFC championships. He also defeated Ben Rothwell, Ricco Rodriguez (when he still mattered), Arlovski (twice), and Brandon Vera.

Yes, he has had a rough time of late, but there is no question he was viewed as a top heavyweight when he fought Fedor.

Not to ever be understated is the fact that Emelianenko is undefeated. He has never lost. I’m not going to count the silly cut stoppage (if you have any doubts, please check out this link to the fight ).

The big argument against Emelianenko is that he does not fight in the UFC. As a writer and a fan of the sport, I would love to see him fight in the world’s top promotion, but no one can force him to. This is his job. He has the right to work wherever he wants.

His next opponent may very well be Fabricio Werdum. People are quick to knock Werdum, but is he really that much worse than Thales Leites or Matt Serra? No, he’s not. In fact, he’s a better mixed martial artist than both of them.

Also, keep in mind that evaluating Werdum is forward thinking. A true ranking system should not be based on whom you will fight, but rather on whom you have fought.

Finally, to think Emelianenko is ducking opponents is completely absurd. We’ve already identified the top-notch list of fighters he has beaten. Plus, there are certainly two big fights potentially in store for him.

The first and most likely fight would be a matchup with Alistair Overeem (I’d love to see Overeem pass a steroid test).

The second match could be a reincarnation of this summer’s disastrous Affliction Trilogy main event. Josh Barnett is still a highly regarded heavyweight, and he could serve as a quality opponent for Emelianenko. He’d be a challenger that many fans would certainly get behind.

But Overeem and Barnett have nothing to really do with Emelianenko’s current standing. Unfortunately, the fact that Emelianenko is not in the UFC does cloud people’s judgment.

“The Last Emperor” has ripped through 31 opponents, and no one has truly stunned Emelianenko since Kazuyuki Fujita. Oh yeah, that fight occurred in Jun. 2003.

He has beaten everyone thrown at him, and he has done it decisively. Not one of his matchups has gone to a decision since Cro Cop in Aug. 2005. That’s over four years. Neither Anderson Silva nor Georges St. Pierre can say that.

What more does Emelianenko have to prove? He has beaten the top fighters in the sport’s history. He has done it convincingly, and he has done it in the past few years.

When putting a pound-for-pound ranking together, please start at No. 2. Then, you can argue between Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre all you want.

Without a doubt, Fedor Emelianenko is truly the world’s best fighter. There is no argument—nor is there need for discussion.


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