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MMA Squared: How should we remember Fedor Emelianenko?

The Last Emperor faces Ryan Bader in the finals of the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix this Saturday. Regardless of the results, the Russian fighter’s legacy was established over a decade ago. Hear me out.

Welcome to MMA Squared! MMA is one of the grand experiments of the 21st century and Fedor was our first glimpse of an answer to the eternal question: who is the best fighter in the world? Out of the petri dish, a chubby hypothesis arose.

He was good on the ground, good on the feet, and cool under pressure.

Over the course of a 10 year unbeaten streak, his notable wins rival any heavyweight before or since. First, by diving into Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera’s vaunted guard and unleashing a dynamic form of ground and pound that is rarely replicated even today.

As a strategist & technician he neutralized the deadly kicks of Mirko Cro Cop (ne: Filipovic) by stalking him down and we still see this strategy used against dynamic strikers like Anthony Pettis and Edson Barboza. (pictured here: the Stary Shell defense)

While never fighting in the UFC, in both PRIDE and Affliction Emelianenko finished four UFC heavyweight champs, Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, Tim Sylvia, and Andrei Arlovski.

Jon Jones, GSP, Mighty Mouse, and Anderson Silva have all been anointed with GOAT status at one point or another, and Fedor’s legacy has faded over the past decade, but let me offer a more nuanced perspective: he represents a pivotal moment in the evolution of MMA:

The sport will continue to evolve, and his place in the Pantheon of Fighters may emerge this way.

For a certain fight fan, he will always remain the greatest fighter to achieve Absolute Victory. No one truly held that mantle before him, and you never forget your first love.

Hey all, Chris here. It’s the one year anniversary of MMA Squared and I’m starting a new project called The Year in Fighting, a purely artistic storytelling of MMA in 2019. I’ll put little bits here on MMA Squared. Take care of yourself and I’ll talk to you tomorrow.