Fedor Emelianenko: Four Things Fedor Must Do to Stay a Legend
Before losing two straight fights, Fedor Emelianenko was more than a legend, he was a demi-god. Since his fall to earth, his many fans are wondering what he can do to revive his mythical career...or if it's too late.
Here are four things "The Last Emperor" could do to feasibly return to top-tier status in the ever-evolving world of MMA as it coalesces into the black hole of the UFC machine...
1. Drop into Light Heavyweight Division
In his prime days of PRIDE dominance, Fedor fought opponents close to his 230-pound frame. Those who were in the 250-plus category were slow-fisted freak shows who posed no serious threat. If their chins proved too much, they left plenty of limbs hanging for Fedor to bend into submission.
Today the heavyweight class seems to start at 260 lbs. And the new behemoths are fast and skilled. Alistair Overeem is 260. Antonio Silva is 264. Brock Lesnar is 280 and both Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos are nearly 250.
For Fedor to continue in heavyweight makes as much sense as asking 165-pound GSP to move up two classes to light heavy's 205. And it will have the same effect: nullify an otherwise dazzling talent.
As a mid-sized heavyweight, Fedor spent years not having to watch his diet. His frame is not a bona fide 230 pounds but is an undisciplined 230.
If he hired a nutritionist and moderately increased his conditioning regimen, he could at least drop to 220 before having to cut to the 205 light heavy limit. This is exactly where Jon Jones is, and he is very comfortable.
Speed training and cardio do not add bulk and would not only assist in Fedor's natural and permanent weight loss but would help him in the faster, crisper light heavyweight class.
2. Kick More
Lyoto Machida, Anderson Silva and Jon Jones are devastating strikers and the new standard for future MMA success. One of the primary reasons for their high strike landing rate is their ability to mix footwork into their combinations.
Fedor used to mix kicks into his pugilism (case in point the Mirko Cro Cop bout pictured above) and this unpredictability has always and will always increase the effectiveness of hand strikes.
Nowadays, it is becoming increasingly difficult for boxing-heavy fighters to become and stay champions.
3. Take Opponents Down to the Mat Again
In his earlier days, Fedor used his sambo to take opponents to the ground. Since taking on the likes of Tim Sylvia, Antonio Silva and Brett Rogers, we've seen less from this region of Fedor's arsenal. But contingent on him dropping to light heavy, this will become increasingly feasible for Fedor to do.
Smaller, weaker opponents will have a hard time submitting or choking Fedor à la Fabricio Werdum and he can return to the ground and pound of his Nogueira and Heath Herring beatdown days.
And if he is reversed, Fedor is historically excellent from the back (if you don't place a 265-pound yeti named Antonio Silva on top of him), and submissions comprise 16 of his 31 victories. Most came from his back.
4. Psychological Re-Training
Domination was once the norm for "The Last Emperor." The last opponent that tasted Fedor's true fierceness was Tim Sylvia in July 2008. Since then, Fedor's victories have become increasingly less dramatic and the final two outings have seen the Emperor appear as though he had no clothes.
Two defeats is a speed bump on a 31-fight, decade-long win streak. But to someone used to nearly divine status, it can seem like The End. And it most certainly will be if Fedor does not have an Apollo Creed to yell "what's the matter with you?!" into the Rocky 3 stage he finds himself in right now.
At 34, Fedor is six years younger than his next opponent, Dan Henderson. He's two years younger than Randy Couture was when he was on top of the light heavy division 10 years ago. And he's 10 years younger than Randy when he returned to heavyweight champion status in 2007. Chuck Liddell was a year older when he finally won the UFC light heavyweight belt.
In short, he is young enough and if he should decide to swim in the light heavy waters, he only has motivation as an obstacle.
It can be surprisingly difficult to fall from grace and then head up the hill again. But it has been done countless times before. Fedor has to want light heavyweight dominance. If he does, he will have another streak to dazzle us with.
Even if it does not equal the brilliance of the past decade, a strong UFC era run will enrich his legacy more so than bowing out with plenty of youth and vigor left in the tank.