Much has been made of the heavyweight rankings of late. Grown men play hot potato with the prestigious title of “Baddest Man on the Planet” as the number one slot has shifted three times in the last 9 months. We find ourselves at a crossroads as the marquee division of the sport is in flux. Much of what we believe is based on theories and guesses. Just as Jon Snowden suggested that we forget what we think we know of the Featherweight division, I call for the same treatment toward the Heavyweight division. Here’s why I know that I don’t know a damned thing about the StrikeForce Heavyweights.
Fedor Emelianenko stands in the eye of the storm of any heavyweight rankings discussion, and his standing in StrikeForce is just as mysterious as his persona; let’s take a look. Simply put, while Fedor’s leaves a legacy of highlight real finishes against top flight competition that have kept me on youtube late into the night on more than one occasion. Unfortunately, his recent past is up for debate.
It’s not a simple matter of whether Fedor has blatantly dodged respectable competition. At the time of his fights with Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski, and Brett Rogers, each of his opponents were held in good standing. Arlovski in particular put together a series of wins that understandably earned him the rank of number two heavyweight in the world before their fight. However the lustrous shine of the moment may reveal itself to be nothing more than gilded junk. Preceding his own back to back losses, Fedor’s last three opponents went on to lose their next, or in Arlovski’s case, every single fight since. At what point did Fedor’s career begin to decline. It’s an important question, as we consider Fabricio Werdum.
At the moment Fabricio Werdum can make a solid claim at number one in StrikeForce. His recent wins include former number one in the world Fedor Emelianenko and the only other man to beat Mr. Emelianenko, Antonio Silva. While Werdum’s win over Antonio Silva is the cut and dry type affair between two solid heavyweights an MMA can only hope for, it is important to consider which what sort of fighter showed up across the cage from Fabricio Werdum on June 26, 2010. Had Fedor’s past victories come against aged relics and a propped up journeyman? Were they the ferocious top ten fighters the promoters would have us believe? Somewhere in the middle? The simple truth is, we just don’t know. No solid validation or criticism can be found for Werdum in either his win against blown up light heavyweight Mike Kyle or during his UFC run where he had mixed success. His 3-2 record ended in a loss to one of the most consistent and active heavy weights from 2008-2010, Junior Dos Santos.
While Fedor Emelianenko draws on a storied history, and Fabricio Werdum boasts the most impressive recent record in StrikeForce, Alistair Overeem has the potential to blow everyone out of the water – he just hasn’t done it yet. Any conversation with B.J. Penn or Vitor Belfort will quickly remind us what seems to ail these past phenoms and prodigies so greatly; grabbing your destiny is much harder than the ardent fans would like to acknowledge. Alistair Overeem’s win against Brett Rogers faces much of the same criticism as Fedor’s. One key exception being that Fedor beat Brett Rogers first. However not much can be said of Alistair Overeem’s MMA career of late other than the fact that he has performed as expected against subpar competition. Confusion surrounding Overeem’s status in the division involves accomplishments made in the world of Kickboxing, and how relevant they are to his MMA career. Traditionally Kick boxers fair poorly in Mixed Martial Arts, but Overeem was an MMA fighter first, and his proponents are confident in his ability to adopt his successful standup to his home sport. Ultimately, Dana White said it best when he stated that Overeem simply needed to prove his ability against some name opponents. Avenging his loss against Fabricio Werdum is the best step he could take in doing that.
At a cursory glance, it may seem that each of these heavyweights is just plain bad, or that I just dislike the lot of them. Neither is true, and in all honestly I like just about every fight each of these gentlemen have put out during my time as an MMA fan. Each of them is talented, and at the moment they all belong in the top ten of the division for their skills and accomplishments. What I wish to express is a sense of uncertainty, shades of gray on in which the truth lies between extreme possibilities for the place of each of these fine fighters.