A new Fedor.
That was the way the great Fedor Emelianenko described himself after his unanimous decision victory over Jeff Monson at M-1 Global this weekend. A new Fedor. And he was right. The Fedor we saw defeat Monson was a different fighter from what we have seen lately, resulting in his first win in two years. But what exactly is this "new" Fedor all about? And are these changes good?
There were two fundamental differences Fedor showed in his defeat of Monson. The first was his increased emphasis on technical kickboxing. Fedor has always been a technically sound striker, but in this fight he chose to remain outside for the duration of the bout, utilizing leg kicks to weaken Monson's base, and mixing in punches that caused The Snowman a lot of damage. The big bombs Fedor has used for KO's were mostly gone - so much so that when he threw one of his patented overhand rights it stuck out as an anomaly in the otherwise technical performance.
Which leads us to the second big change - patience. Fedor was extremely patient in the fight, picking his opponent apart slowly and steadily. He refused to get into a wild slugfest, refused to go to the ground with his submission specialist opponent, refused to push the pace. He dictated the pace and arena of the fight, and never found himself in trouble.
This is all a good thing, right?
After those three straight loses, fans were clamoring for Fedor to adjust his style and learn from his mistakes. And that's exactly what he did. Against Monson, Fedor no longer fought like a young man, willing to be thrown onto his head just so that he could grab a submission. He learned from Henderson, Silva, and Werdum that he could be caught, and he came in with a well thought out and perfectly executed gameplan that played to his strengths. In short, he came in fighting like the crafty veteran that he is. It was a technically superb performance.
And, sorry to say, it was kind of boring.
Fedor's refusal to get into any trouble positions led to a Werdum-esque showing from Monson, as the grappler flopped to the mat while The Last Emperor watched on. Fedor never charged in recklessly, never took the fight hard to his wounded opponent, never truly threatened with a finish, instead coasting to an easy decision in what ended up being a rather lackluster fight.
There's no doubt that Monson shoulders the majority of the blame here, and there's no doubt Fedor made a wise decision to stay on his feet and not engage Monson in his preferred area. But the end result was a performance that, yes, put Fedor back in the win column, but also failed to reignite the lost Fedor mystique.
Time will tell how this plays out, but for now it does seem we have a new Fedor. It's a better Fedor then the one who lost those last three, and it's a Fedor who I would love to see against other wise pros like Josh Barnett or Frank Mir. But it's not a Fedor that has that inhuman aura, and this fight showed that the aura is likely irreversibly gone.
The question then becomes, what does the future hold for a technically sound, but all too human Fedor? We'll get our next answer on New Year's Eve against Satoshi Ishii. And I will absolutely tune in.
But maybe with just a little less excitement this time.