Fedor Emilianenko: Is Saturday a Must-Win Situation for the Last Emperor?

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Fedor Emilianenko: Is Saturday a Must-Win Situation for the Last Emperor?
Tomokazu Tazawa/Getty Images

Fedor was once the most feared MMA fighter on the planet, hands down.

He went unbeaten for 10 years, winning the Pride heavyweight title and the WAMMA heavyweight title in the process and laying waste to five former UFC champions.

Awesome is almost a cliched word in the modern era, but Fedor Emelianenko was simply awesome to watch. He would enter the arena with a stone-cold stare that would have scared any fighter who has ever laced up the gloves.

He was calm, calculated, never intimidated, and always dangerous.

Fedor had a crippling right-hand punch, great grappling skill, and bone-breaking submission holds.

After Kevin Randleman suplexed him on his head, Fedor submitted him. Brett Rogers, the massive heavyweight striker, mounted the former champion and delivered devastating ground and pound, but Fedor survived the onslaught and then knocked Rogers out with one punch in the second round.

That aura of invincibility came to a sudden end in August 2010 when Emelianenko made a rookie mistake, jumping into Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt Fabricio Werdum's guard after stunning the Brazilian with a right hand. He was quickly caught in a submission hold and forced to tap out.

At that point most people, like myself, took his first true loss as a fluke. It was not as if the fans actually thought he could not beaten. They simply thought he beat himself in that fight.

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His next fight was far less of a fluke.

Fedor Emelianenko climbed into the Strikeforce cage to fight Antonio Silva in the opening round of the organization's heavyweight grand prix this past February in need of making a statement to his fans and his peers.

The fight ended after the doctor would not let Emelianenko continue after the second round.

He not only lost, he was battered.

This was much different than his loss to Werdum—Silva took Fedor down and beat him up. He not only looked beaten after that loss; he also looked vulnerable. For the first time, we saw that there could actually be holes in his game.

After his early exit from the heavyweight tournament, Fedor was still contracted to fight for Strikeforce in 2011. In the end the decision was made to pit the Russian Sambo fighter against current light-heavyweight champion, Dan Henderson, in a heavyweight super fight.

This matchup of two legends of the sport may not have made sense to many fans at first, but now the fight has started to garner a lot more interest.

It is the fight's dual storyline that makes it so intriguing.

Fedor is coming into this fight on a two-fight losing streak. In mixed martial arts that can be much more devastating to a fighter's career than in other sports, in which a losing streak is just another game.

Fighters take losses personally and as memories of physical pain.

If Fedor loses this bout, it could very well mean that he will decide to retire. He could easily find a job fighting for many years to come, but his stock would be greatly diminished.

Is his fight against Dan Henderson on Saturday July 30 a must-win situation for Fedor?

It is if he wants to remain relevant in the heavyweight rankings and become champion again.

Fedor can fight on after this fight even if he loses. Whether he will want to in that situation is unknown.

Either way his legacy will remain intact.

Fedor Emelianenko will always be remembered as one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all time.

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