Fedor Emelianenko: The Numbers Don't Lie

E. Spencer KyteSenior Analyst IFebruary 8, 2010

I'm not going to spend more than a moment addressing what was an obvious attempt to fire up the Fedor faithful by resident fire starter Stoker over the weekend.

Saying that a man who is 10-18 for his career and whose most notable win came over Steve Jennum would clobber a man who is accepted by the best minds and voices in mixed martial arts as the consensus best heavyweight of all time is simply ridiculous.

Regardless of how hard David "Tank" Abbott punched, if Jennum can walk in off the street and whip that ass, Fedor Emelianenko from any time period would do the same.

What I will do, however, is something that needed to happen here a long time ago.

Those who call Emelianenko a fraud often cite the "weak competition" he faced in Japan during the glory days of Pride and the fact that he has never competed under the UFC banner as reasons to see him as nothing more than a mythical creation with an inflated record.

Well, it's time to put the numbers on paper and show them why Fedor is far from a fraud and deserving of being recognized as the greatest heavyweight in the history of mixed martial arts.

First of all, the "he's never competed in the best organization in the sport" stance is severely flawed.

Yes, since the fall of Pride, the UFC has been the dominant organization in the sport. They were probably closing in on that territory before the end came for the Japanese organization, in all honesty.

But at the outset of the new millennium and through Emelianenko's last appearance with the company, Pride was the foremost mixed martial arts organization operating on this planet.

In addition to having the best heavyweight division in existence (proof coming shortly), the Pride-equivalent of the light heavyweight division that created the UFC's two biggest stars was also far more formidable.

While Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture were gaining stardom in North America for their trio of fights, the best "middleweights" in the sport were fighting with Pride.

Wanderlei Silva was kicking the hell out of just about everybody.

Dan Henderson was making himself into the multidivisional champion who would come to the UFC after Pride closed its doors.

Mauricio "Shogun" Rua was considered the best 205-pound fighter in the sport.

And then there was Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, the man who laid waste to Liddell in the midst of his most dominant run in the UFC.

The UFC may be atop the mountain now, but it hasn't always been that way—and it most certainly wasn't when Fedor was steamrolling the competition.

During his run with Pride—from June 23, 2002 until Dec. 31, 2006—Emelianenko compiled a 14-0-0 record, with one fight being ruled a no contest. His 12 opponents, including the likes of Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, Mark Coleman, and Kevin Randleman, compiled a career record of 238-126-5.

Mathematically speaking, Fedor's opponents during that run won 64.5 percent of their career fights.

By comparison, 16 men competed at or near the top of the UFC Heavyweight Division during that time. For the sake of this piece, those 16 were identified as the four men to hold the heavyweight title (Ricco Rodriguez, Tim Sylvia, Frank Mir, and Andrei Arlovski) and the opponents those four faced during that stretch.

The additional 12 fighters were: Couture, Pedro Rizzo, Wesley "Cabbage" Correira, Gan McGee, Wes Sims, Tra Telligman, Assuerio Silva, Jeff Monson, Ian "The Machine" Freeman, the late Justin Eilers, Paul Buentello, and Marcio "Pe de Pano" Cruz.

That group has amassed a career total of 279 wins against 135 losses with six draws, which amounts to winning at a 66 percent clip.

Two things jump out at me:

  1. During the same time that Fedor was apparently beating up cans in Japan, Sims, Correira, and Buentello were in the title mix in the UFC.
  2. Fedor's opponents during his "beating up stiffs and cans in Japan" stage won two percent fewer fights than the entire upper echelon of the UFC Heavyweight Division combined for an extended period.

A group including five UFC champions and four additional bodies has just about the same record as the "cans and stiffs" Emelianenko steamrolled during his time in Pride.

Explain to me, if you can, how that makes him a fraud?

Is he fighting lesser opponents now, and probably for the last few years? Without question. But what Emelianenko accomplished during the glory years of Pride is undeniable.

In advance of the inevitable "but-he's-never-competed-in-the-best-organization" rant that should come—and despite the above paragraphs dedicated to debunking the UFC-has-always-been-the-best logic—I offer this:

Oscar Schmidt and Arvydas Sabonis are widely recognized as being two of the best basketball players of the '80s and '90s, despite Schmidt never setting foot on an NBA court and Sabonis only coming over in '95 after his prime had past.

While many of the best compete in the top organization a sport has to offer, it is not the sole standard by which greatness can be measured.

Emelianenko is the greatest heavyweight in the history of the sport, whether the UFC die-hards with tunnel vision in serious denial agree or not.