Take a little trip in history with me, back to PRIDE 2004, Fedor Emelianenko versus Kevin Randleman. Early in the fi ght, Randleman slipped behind Fedor and performed the most vicious, perfect, belly-toback suplex in history. Up they went in the air, turning, Fedor helpless in Randleman’s grasp. They were completely detached from the ground, momentarily free from gravity. In the slow motion replay, they seemed like astronauts fl oating in some deadly embrace. BOOM! They came crashing down on Fedor’s head, with Randleman on top. Fight’s over, right? Some friends ringside thought Fedor was dead, as in, deceased.
But Fedor barely hesitated. He gathered himself, reversed Randleman, and submitted him thirty seconds later. It was surreal. You got the feeling Randleman was so shocked Fedor was still alive he couldn’t resist.
That aura of invincibility is a draw – it both terrifi es and attracts. We loved watching young Mike Tyson demolish guys because it was frightening but also uplifting. We watched and thought to ourselves, I wish I could do that. Because if you could hit like Iron Mike, you would never be afraid of anything ever again. Instead, you tuned in to see who Mike demolished next.
Now we’ve got two fi ghters in MMA wearing the mantle of invincibility. They are not only winning, they are walking through tough, top-notch, world-class guys, blowing them out of the water in Tysonesque fashion. For now, let’s focus on one of them, the chubby guy. Think about it – an undefeated heavyweight champion? In MMA? (I’m not giving credence to his single “cut” loss).
Seriously, in his fi ght against Tim Sylvia, did Fedor’s pulse ever climb above seventy beats a minute? He walked in with his head down, never looking big Tim in the eye, and he smiled sweetly after the thirty-six seconds. His calmness moved past eerie and into the genuinely unnatural, and all the while he was brutalizing one of the top heavyweights in the world. You’ve been hearing it from fi ghters for years: the dude isn’t human. I don’t want to test him for steroids; I want to test him for vampire blood.
Did he make a deal with the devil? Is he from The Matrix? Was he created in secret KGB laboratories?
Well, hyperbole aside, what jumps out is the size differential between the two. Tim Sylvia is of ‘bigger is better’ heavyweight school. He makes it work, although I would have been happier to see Tim weigh in at 255, when he was at his fastest (like the 2nd Arlovski fi ght).
But as boxing has long known, size has a law of diminishing returns. You start sacrifi cing. As modern MMA continues to get more striking friendly – faster stand-ups, higher quality striking training – we’ll see the advantages of overwhelming size shrink. The big drawback is speed, but endurance is a factor too. Smaller heavyweights can maintain a good speed-to-strength ratio, and for a whole fi ght. The perfect heavyweight is ever evolving. Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali beat much bigger men.
Fedor is a small heavyweight, a rubbery 230 or so. In PRIDE he used his speed to demolish some freak-show heavyweights. I watched him toss Heath Herring around like a rag doll, and sling Nogueira to the ground like a little kid. He’s got speed and technique, which translates into power. There’s something satisfying about fi ghters like that, the ones without the six-pack abs…it gives hope to us fat bastards.
The heavens inch towards a possible Randy/Fedor showdown. On paper, it’s a bad fi ght for Randy. Fedor demolished a guy Randy beat by decision. Fedor hits like a train, and has yet to be submitted. Randy has trouble with speed, as shown in the last two Chuck Liddell fi ghts. And Father Time has to catch him someday…
But I warn you “Remember the underdogs.” Randy was supposed to get killed by the “Phenom” Vitor Belfort. Vitor came into that fi ght 4-0, surrounded by the aura of invincibility. Randy was also supposed to get smashed by Mo Smith, Chuck, an apparently unstoppable Tito, and certainly by Big Tim. Things ALWAYS look bad for Randy. He makes it a habit to slay giants and to perforate auras of invincibility. He believes in himself to the point that he always has a chance. He has the best game plans, and execution, in the business. There’s no one better than Randy at taking a fi ghter away from his strengths, and smothering him.
Still, when I think of cherubic Fedor and those calm, gunsight eyes staring across the ring, it’s hard to imagine anyone on the other side that I’d put money on. That’s my two cents, and that’s all it’s worth (but don’t tell FIGHT!).