Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva: The King Is Dead...Long Live The King
Everyone just relax. Everything is going to be OK. The sun's going to rise tomorrow.
Showtime’s ratings may never be the same for MMA after Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva, but that's not the end of the world. Dana White may be grinning ear to ear, but that's not the....wait a minute. That actually might be a sign of the apocalypse right there.
Seriously though, take a chill pill, and let’s just put everything into perspective.
There’s a lot of hysterical crazy talk in response to the question: What does it all mean? Anti-Fedor guys are coming out of the woodwork (it's funny we hadn't heard much from them until now), and on the opposite end of the spectrum, plenty of still loyal Fedor-ists are acting like the world has ended.
Here’s the simple truth of the matter:
Take a cue from Antonio Silva, who bowed at Emelianenko’s feet last night, not solely out of pure heart and respect, but out of true and unbound knowledge that he had just beaten the best there’s ever been.
The fact is, Fedor looked far from right tonight. In hindsight, something was wrong even before the first bell rang.
Fedor looked especially out of shape (even for him) and he did not have that aura he so famously carried for essentially a decade.
Fedor simply did not look that confident.
Was he reminded once he was inside the cage of the actual size of Antonio Silva? Did he have second thoughts about how seriously (or not) he had taken the fight? Did Fedor even want to be there at all?
The former champ has been making a bit of noise about leaving it all behind this past year (grumblings eerily similar to those that coincided with Mirko Cro-Cop’s disappointing nosedive).
Maybe we were just not listening.
It’s one thing to continue to defy gravity as Fedor has done for years...it’s a whole other thing entirely to do so while your heart is not in it.
Maybe this is the realization that hit Fedor when his name was announced for the umpteenth time as “the greatest of all time." He’s clearly embarrassed by that title, no matter how deserved it might be. Maybe the realization that his heart wasn’t there is what led to (what seemed to me) a very apparent lack of confidence early in this fight.
Not only did the swipe Fedor took at Antonio right off the opening bell smell of desperation, but it missed badly, and his resulting balance and position was not what it has historically been after a powerful miss. His confidence seemed to sink immediately with that first miss, and subsequently with every power punch thrown to no effect, and every little thump delivered by Silva.
While it is quite obvious that Silva won this fight with his size, it seems equally apparent that Fedor lost this battle before he even made his initial charge at his personal Goliath. Fedor’s real mistake may have been in signing his last contract at all.
Regardless of the weight difference, the old Fedor was simply not there tonight.
What does it mean for his legacy? Honestly, to me...nothing.
Except for the blindly devoted cult followers of the "Emperor," I’m probably in a small minority...but I don’t think this fight hurts Fedor’s legacy much at all. Had he run the table in the tournament and called it quits, he may well have been considered the best P4P fighter of all time, and remained there easily for a decade or more.
But folks, here’s the reality:
We can say definitively that the era we all loved so much, of our standout heroes (Royce Gracie, anyone?) giving up forty and fifty pounds to no real visible detriment is over. Long over.
In hindsight, I’m really annoyed with myself for having bought into those ridiculous odds...between +400 and +550 against Silva. This is not Hong Man Choi!
There are a ton of us (the whole MMA community, really) that should be embarrassed for not having called out those odds last week or earlier.
For here is the bottom line: The era of giving up a ton of weight did not end tonight, it ended five years ago.
Think about it...other than Fedor and one other aberration (Cain vs. Lesnar), who has been successful at giving up more than 25 pounds in the last five years in an important fight?
There are exceptions: Frank Mir winning by the skin of his teeth vs. Brock Lesnar in their first battle, and then Fedor himself against Brett Rogers less than a year ago…but who else?
In a big fight, it’s just not happening the way it used to happen, and the cause is easily identifiable.
What has happened in the evolution of every major professional sport is happening in MMA before our eyes.
But it’s happening faster.
How else do you explain the moves from weight class to weight class (of highly regarded names) that we’ve been witnessing extremely regularly now?
Randy Couture’s initial moves (now five years removed) should be seen in hindsight as a road marker rather than the insignificant whim of a great champion that believed he could fight in any weight class.
Does anyone want to see Randy get in there with Antonio Silva? I don’t. Certainly not at 47 years old.
I really don’t.
Does Antonio Silva even belong in the same sentence as Randy Couture or Fedor Emelianenko? Come on.
But I still don’t want to see any of these legends of a previous era stepping up in weight again.
That time has passed.
As in basketball and football, the sheer skill level of the very big men is rising.
It’s a simple matter of math.
There were plenty of 300-plus pounders playing football in the 1950s and earlier. Not many of them made it to the professional lines, though, because they were too slow and too awkward.
Now, they are quicker, agile and mobile, and they dominate the sport.
As awkward as he may seem, the modern big man has skills.
The simple numbers in the 2011 version of MMA tell the same story. Many more big men are playing this fight game now, and apparently they are taking it very seriously as a route to fame and fortune.
As this progression happens, there is a very logical result—we are more and more likely to have bigger and bigger guys with some actual speed and athleticism and skill.
What we may be witnessing in MMA is a freakishly fast evolution of this nature...an evolution developing at a pace that is beyond our ability to understand it easily. It's very difficult to grasp something like this while it's happening, but it may appear to be a simple equation when we fondly look back on this change of eras years from now.
So how terrible did Fedor look last night? To put it honestly…it was just brutal to watch. It was sad, actually.
But how sad will Fedor’s legacy appear to be 10 years from now, when just the thought of giving up even 20 pounds is considered prehistoric? Our view of Fedor might be a little different if, on that hypothetical day in the future, we look back, and Fedor’s win over Brett Rogers turns out to be the very last victory (in a top-tier fight) where the lighter man went in with a 50-pound noose around his neck.
Rogers weighed 285 pounds that night (if he weighed a pound), as did Silva tonight. Will anyone at a high level in MMA ever beat a man with that kind of weight advantage again?
I hope you’re not terribly nostalgic, because you're likely never to see it.
There are going to be a lot of calls for Fedor to fight at 205 pounds, and that’s just nonsense.
The man should walk away, still the living legend that Antonio Silva bowed purposefully to after very likely beating him into retirement. Silva knows as well as anyone that Fedor is as great a P4P fighter as anyone that has ever played in this game.
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