That’s right everyone, for my article this week I’m once again kicking the Fedor Emelianenko beehive.
For a man who is almost non-communicative and seemingly incapable of human emotion, no one is more polarizing among MMA fans. I’m probably going to stir up some anger from someone just by mentioning his name.
Or maybe your one of those casual readers who just skims the title - and if your read the title of this article and thought “well, no duh,” I don’t blame you.
The logic of this fight seems simple: Alastair Overeem, the Strikeforce HW champion and a legitimate top 10 fighter, defending against Fedor, the world’s #1 ranked HW and Strikeforce’s P4P giant. It would establish a strong and legitimate champion, draw a ton of interest, and silence (some) critics of Fedor’s less then stellar dance card of late. From every direction this fight makes complete sense.
But for some reason, it hasn’t happened yet.
Alright, so let’s get the obvious out of the way - common wisdom says the biggest roadblock to this fight having already happened is Overeem’s, uh, rather Hulk-like increase in body mass over the last few years. Not surprisingly, this has raised more then a few eyebrows in the sports world. Either Overeem really is a physical specimen who dedicated himself to a strenuous program of lifting in order to massively bulk up - or he’s on roids.
Yep, I said it - make that two beehives I’ve kicked in this article so far. Now personally, I don’t put much stock in rumours and second hand accusations of steroid use. Far too often, it comes off as sour grapes, after the fact excuse making of a really low character. Rumours circulated by fans on the internet are just that - rumours. They can be kicked up by a 12 year old kid in his basement with no grounding and the barest shred of circumstantial evidence and become legitimate stories the next day. Until I see a positive test, I give the benefit of the doubt.
In “Ubereem’s” case though, even I’m inclined to raise an eyebrow or two.
See, there’s the troubling fact of his not having fought stateside since 2007 - where he won the Strikeforce heavyweight championship he has yet to defend. For those just skimming, that’s 3+ years since a title defence, which really begs the question of why he hasn’t been stripped of his belt?
I suppose Scott Coker doesn’t want to sacrifice the only other legitimate bright light in Strikeforce’s HW division, but Overeem holding up the belt this long has created one headache after another for the San Jose promotion. For his part, Overeem has been competing in Japan, where the anti-doping policy ranges somewhere between “laughable” and “non-existent”.
Again, I’m not hurtling any out and out accusations - Overeem has mainly been competing in K-1, where he has become a legitimate star and top 10 fighter for the promotion. He hasn’t completely walked away from MMA either, but he level of competition falls between pretty much the same two benchmarks that I just used to describe Japanese drug testing. Fighting guys we mocked Kimbo Slice for facing is not a good way to maintain elite status.
I guess I’m wrong about that, though. Overeem’s K-1 career and dips into the really shallow end of the MMA pool have kept his options open and created just enough interest and hype to make a bout vs. Fedor marketable.
So how does this fight happen? In Scott Coker’s perfect world, it happens in the United States, on CBS Primetime at the earliest possible opportunity. However, rumours are already circulating that Fabricio Werdum will be Emelianenko’s opponent for Strikeforce’s next network television offering in April - which, like Brett Rogers, is another lose/lose fight for Fedor. Ok, maybe not totally lose/lose - he’ll make his usual boatload of cash thanks to M-1 taking half of the pie as per usual.
But in terms of his record, the status of the Strikeforce HW division, and his legacy in the sport, a bout vs. Werdum gains him nothing. Hey, I’m not knocking Werdum, a top 20 HW with a well balanced skillset. But Top 20 is about all Werdum is. Win, and he will have defeated yet another UFC washout, and still won’t either be the HW champion or silence any critics who claim he pads his record. Lose, and the Fedor mystique is ruined by someone who American audiences last saw either barely squeaking a decision out of “Bigfoot” Silva or being absolutely destroyed by Junior Dos Santos.
It is a definition of a pointless fight, and the fact that I keep saying that about Fedor’s fights the last few years (Arlovski was an exception - when that fight happened, it was a legitimate, serious top 10 HW contest) when the man should be the king of the freakin’ world is endlessly frustrating.
But back on topic - how does this fight happen? First, the timing of Fedor’s fight against Werdum on CBS and Overeem doing whatever the hell he’s got planned means we won’t see this fight until second half 2010 at the very earliest. The key to making this fight happen lies in Strikeforce’s promotional partnership with the Japanese DREAM promotion. The idea is a routine exchange and sharing of talent, in order to bring about cool fights that otherwise would not have happened (Aoki vs. Melendez, anyone?).
So assuming Fedor is still an unbeatable Russian cyborg after Werdum, set up Fedor vs. Overeem for the Strikeforce HW title at a DREAM event in Japan. This fight would be an even bigger sell there then it would here, with both men being massive draws in the land of the rising sun. Overeem wouldn’t have to worry about athletic commissions and urine samples ruining his day. DREAM has even switched to using the cage, so for all intents and purposes this would be a Strikeforce bout transplanted oversees. Air it on tape delay in the US on Showtime and watch the magic happen, one way or the other.
Plus we could ideally trade Mauro Renallo and Frank Shamrock for Bas Rutten and the Australian K-1 announcer - easily the best non-Joe and Goldie broadcast team in combat sports.
Who takes it? Who knows - but the safest bet in MMA is Fedor, so I’ll stick with him to pull it out in his usual workmanlike fashion.
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