When Fedor Emelianenko succumbed to Fabricio Werdum's triangle choke in June, many thought the former longtime PRIDE heavyweight champion simply got caught. All good streaks must come to an end, those people thought. After all, a 28-fight unbeaten streak while fighting at the level Emelianenko has for all these years is nothing to shake a stick at.
Saturday at "Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva," Emelianenko was stopped by Antonio Silva due to doctor's stoppage at the end of the second round, marking his second straight loss. Once again, Emelianenko couldn't rally. Now, the question must be asked: Has Fedor Emelianenko's luck simply run out the last eight months in his fights with Werdum and Silva?
In retrospect, though, it's incredible his streak reached the epic heights it did considering how many times he found himself or put himself directly in the line of fire. No great fighter has ever found themselves in as many of the tough predicaments as Emelianenko has. Look at the runs fighters like Anderson Silva and Georges St. Pierre are on. This isn't to downgrade Emelianenko at all. It's a testament to his skill and heart that he was able to overcome these situations.
He has toed the line for so long. He turned near disaster into overwhelming success on so many occasions. Try to think of another fighter who played with fire as many times as Fedor did without getting burned for so long.
My colleague Mike Fagan briefly touched on this following the show but I'd like to expand on it: Has Fedor's luck run out?
Let's take a look at some of these close calls Emelianenko had during his 28-fight unbeaten streak.
vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, PRIDE 25, March 16, 2003
Nogueira, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace, was renowned for his ground game and, at 19-1-1 coming into the fight, was considered the best heavyweight in the world when he defended his PRIDE heavyweight title against the 12-1 Emelianenko. In a sign of things to come, Emelianenko went right into Nogueira's vaunted guard. At that point, Nogueira had submitted six of his first seven PRIDE opponents, including four of them with triangle chokes. Emelianenko was fighting with fire but came out and busted Nogueira up with some vicious ground-and-pound en route to winning a decision.
vs. Kazuyuki Fujita, PRIDE 26, June 8, 2003
This is the famous Fedor "fish dance" fight. Fujita tagged Emelianenko with a big overhand right to the temple, causing the champion to stagger and Stephan Quadros to exclaim, "OH MY GOD! Fedor is in huge trouble here!" Fujita would complete a takedown, causing the crowd to roar, but Emelianenko would come back, severely hurt Fujita with punches and submit him with a rear-naked choke. A bloodied Emelianenko pumped one fist in the air in victory.
vs. Kevin Randleman, PRIDE Critical Countdown 2004, June 20, 2004
In the quarterfinals of PRIDE's 2004 Heavyweight Grand Prix, Randleman unleashed the greatest suplex in MMA history, dropping Emelianenko directly on his head. Of course, Emelianenko was completely unaffected and quickly rallied to submit Randleman with a Kimura.
vs. Mirko Filipovic, PRIDE Final Conflict 2005, August 28, 2005
It was one of the most anticipated and awaited MMA fights of all time. At 16-2-2 in MMA, Mirko Cro Cop was one of the most feared strikers in the sport. Many expected Emelianenko to take Cro Cop to the ground and work for a submission a bit more frequently than he did. Instead, the incredibly tanned Emelianenko took his chances and stood with Cro Cop, withstanding some hard shots and winning the fight, and retaining his title, handily.
We'll take a look at the rest of the close calls along with some analysis after the jump...
vs. Mark Hunt, PRIDE Shockwave 2006, Dec. 31, 2006
In his final PRIDE heavyweight title defense, Emelianenko found himself under the much larger but lesser skilled Hunt for a sizable portion of the first round. Hunt had MMA fans around the world holding their collective breaths when he worked on Emelianenko's arm from side control. Again, though, Fedor took over and submitted him with a kimura of his own late in the first round.
vs. Andrei Arlovski, Affliction: Day of Reckoning, Jan. 24, 2009
Three minutes into his WAMMA heavyweight title defense against Arlovski, many already were questioning Emelianenko. He looked lethargic against the speedy Arlovski. Arlovski, to his credit, looked better than ever and was gaining confidence at a rapid pace during the fight, landing straighter, crisper punches than Fedor's looping shots while continually kicking his leg. "I think maybe for the first time in his career, Fedor is a little flustered by the speed of Arlovski," commentator Jimmy Smith noted on the broadcast right as Arlovski stunned Emelianenko with a nice combo and sent him into the ropes with a push kick. Arlovski, who had been tight the entire fight, then came leaping in, only to be swatted down like a fly as Emelianenko connected on one of the more awesome punches in MMA history, dropping Arlovski out of mid-air with a right, sending him face-first to the canvas.
Emelianenko would make his Strikeforce debut just outside of Chicago against rising heavyweight Brett Rogers in the main event of Strikeforce's first CBS show. Rogers gave Emelianenko a greater run than anyone expected, drubbing his head with ground-and-pound in the first round, bloodying him up in the process, only to be knocked out flat on his face in the second.
After looking at all those fights, they are in stark contrast to his last two fights. Against Werdum, he jumped into his guara a la the Nogueira fight and got submitted. Against Silva, he couldn't get out from under the bigger fighter like he did against Hunt.
Many were expecting Emelianenko to pull the rabbit out of the hat again, to rally like he's done so many times in the past. Instead, it appears the well is dry. Like most every other fighter on this planet, it appears Fedor is a mere mortal now.
There's no doubt Emelianenko is one of the greatest fighters of all time. You aren't this lucky without being damn good, or in Emelianenko's case, damn great. Even though the cliché goes, "I'd rather be lucky than good," Emelianenko was both. He was lucky because he was so good. He was so good because he was so tough. Look at someone like Arlovski. He has a ton of natural talent but does not have the same type of toughness (or chin) that Emelianenko has shown. He lacks the ability and the necessary skills to work his way out of tough situations. That's why fighters like Emelianenko are once-in-a-generation fighters. They combine everything you need to be successful into one perfect package.
If Saturday is the last time we get to see Emelianenko, that fight was a typical Emelianenko bout: Extremely dramatic and entertaining. We were lucky to have witnessed such an outstanding career.