Mailbag: Debating Fedor’s place in pantheon

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There is a lot to talk in mixed martial arts, with the legendary Fedor Emelianenko coming off a shocking submission loss to Fabricio Werdum at Strikeforce on Saturday and Brock Lesnar getting ready to defend his heavyweight title against interim champion Shane Carwin this coming Saturday in the main event of UFC 116. So, let’s get to your questions and comments in this week’s edition of the MMA mailbag.

Fedor Emelianenko's long unbeaten run is over.
(Jeff Chiu/AP Photo)

Overrated Fedor?

Now do you agree with us that Fedor Emelianenko has slightly been overrated lately? As I’ve said before, he was an amazing PRIDE fighter, but he hasn’t done squat in three years. Hopefully, this opens people’s eyes that he isn’t a god. I still want him to go to the UFC for no reason other than to see some good matchups. Hopefully, this loss will help that become a reality. If he would have won this and then beaten Alistair Overeem for the Strikeforce heavyweight title, he would have had too much bargaining power with Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White. Hopefully now Dana can land him so he can fight the top UFC guys. Don’t crown someone the greatest of all time until he fights the greatest. If Fedor goes to the UFC and beats the majority of the top guys and wins a belt, he, despite this loss, is deserving of being on top of the pound-for-pound list. However, he should have to go do it before all his fan boys just hand him the title of greatest MMA legend ever.

John Lewis

I feel pretty much now about Emelianenko the way I did before the fight. He’s one of the greatest of all time, but like you said, he’d faced weaker-than-average competition since PRIDE folded. He seemed very nervous to me, too, and made a rookie mistake in getting submitted. I believe he’s a terrific talent and will rebound, but I doubt he’s going to wind up in the UFC. Fedor’s representatives clearly overplayed their hand. And look at what happened Saturday: The show sold only 11,757 tickets and produced a live gate of just $1.07 million. It was only the sixth-highest attendance for an MMA show at the HP Pavilion. Fedor didn’t have as much bargaining power with the UFC as his representatives or M-1 Global thought.

Fedor still the best?

I’m not a fan of Fedor; in fact, I’m a big fan of UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, but I appreciated Fedor’s effort in the fight against Fabricio Werdum on Saturday. He went to his opponent’s strongest point for the sake of the fans, not like GSP and Anderson Silva, who didn’t take a risk. Doing that, he gained a lot of respect from me and I still consider him at the top of the pound-for-pound rankings. Do you agree?

Gerald Iso

No, not in the least. I thought Fedor looked amateurish, frankly, in the loss to Werdum. I don’t know how he can be praised for immediately going to the one area in which he was vulnerable. Given his lack of wins over top opposition recently – when was the last time he beat a quality opponent who was on top of his game? – and his loss to Werdum, I expect he’ll fall out of the Top 10.

Loss’s impact on Strikeforce

Will Fedor’s loss have the same effect on Strikeforce as Kimbo Slice’s loss had on Elite XC? Fedor is no longer unbeatable and its middleweight champion, Jake Shields, is probably gone. Can Cung Le, Nick Diaz and Dan Henderson, among others, keep them afloat and keep fans interested?


I don’t think Strikeforce is in any imminent danger, but that’s because Strikeforce wasn’t in any danger going into the Fedor fight. Strikeforce’s future will depend largely upon how much time and money Showtime wants to continue to invest in it, in my opinion.

Late stoppage

I understand that MMA referees have a very tough job, so I rarely complain too much. We have all seen stoppages we thought were too quick, but most of us understand the need to protect the fighters. With that in mind, what is Kim Winslow’s problem? I thought her hook was very slow in the James McSweeney loss to Travis Browne a week earlier in the UFC, but Saturday at Strikeforce, I was truly concerned for Jan Finney’s well being against Cris “Cyborg” Santos. Jan showed a tremendous amount of heart, but I believe the referee and her corner failed her in allowing that fight out of the first round. Thanks.

Josh M. Casey
Lexington, Ky.

I agree 100 percent with your take on the Cyborg-Finney fight, Josh. It was not just a bad stoppage; it was egregiously bad. I thought Winslow had handled herself well at The Ultimate Fighter Finale on June 19 in Las Vegas, but she was horrendous in failing to stop the Cyborg-Finney fight. I usually give referees the benefit of the doubt, but this was beyond horrible. But the corner justifiably has to take some blame, as well. It was clear Finney couldn’t win the fight and was just taking unneeded abuse. The corner’s job is also to look out for the fighter’s safety and in this case, the corner people failed miserably as well.

Do fighters pick their weight classes

Can a fighter in the UFC decide which weight division he wants to participate in at any given time?

Batangas, Philippines

By and large, yes. If a fighter decides, say, that he can no longer make 155 and wants to compete at 170, the UFC will allow him to do it. However, if the fighter is a champion and wants to move up, UFC president Dana White will have a say on it before acquiescing. And they’re not going to let a lightweight move up to heavyweight. But in most reasonable moves – up a class or down a class – the fighters do as they wish.

In your column urging New York to legalize mixed martial arts, you wrote, “There is no rational reason to keep MMA illegal, a sport that is made up largely of widely accepted Olympic events.” Isn’t this statement a little over the top? What about the aspects that are banned? I like MMA, but certainly there are some reasons people would want to ban it: cuts, broken bones, other blows that do irreversible damage, etc. Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini contributed to the death of a guy in the boxing ring. MMA could easily do the same. It’s not for everybody, so a state has its choice how to proceed rationally.

Kenneth R. Schmidt
San Francisco

While I agree it’s a state’s choice, Kenneth, I couldn’t disagree with your more. One life lost is a tragedy. I’m the first to say that. But in sports, particularly contact sports, that’s one of the risks that are taken. If you noted in the column, MMA’s safety record is far superior to that of boxing and football, in particular. There have been only two deaths in sanctioned MMA fights – Sam Vasquez in Texas in 2007 and Michael Kirkham in South Carolina on Saturday – and there is no record of any fighters having traumatic brain injuries. But did you see the excellent report about former Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chris Henry’s brain in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Monday? According to the report, Henry’s brain showed signs of “late-in-life dementia or Alzheimer’s.” He was only 26. I’m not suggesting MMA will never have such an injury, or another death, but it’s no greater risk to the athlete than boxing, football (which has broken bones, torn knees and cuts all the time, not to mention concussions) and hockey, among many others. If we were to ban all sports in which the athletes got cut or broke bones, we might only have tennis, golf and swimming left.

Better finisher: Brock or Shane?

Shane Carwin has finished his fights much quicker than Brock Lesnar has. In 12 fights, Carwin has never gone past 3:49 of the first round. Brock is taking until midway through the second round to finish his fights. Do you think it’s Brock’s lack of experience or is there another explanation as to why Carwin seems to get the job done quicker? Also, what is your prediction?

Mark Wright

I like Carwin by stoppage, Mark. To answer your question, Carwin is more of a standup fighter who relies on his pulverizing punching power. Lesnar is a wrestler who tends to maul his opponents on the ground. However, you can’t look simply at time. There are a number of factors that go into how long a fight lasts. I think both men are terrific finishers.

Lesnar one of the best?

I enjoy your articles and I can’t fault you for writing about Brock Lesnar because writing is a business and Lesnar sells. But to call him one of the best is an insult to the sport. He succeeds simply because of his size, which is obvious by his lay-and-pray method. The guy shows no skill and is the perfect example of how size can truly dominate. He will win the majority of his fights, naturally so, but along the way he will lose now and then to those who are truly skilled. Praise him for learning but don’t hype him unjustly.

Arthur Cook
Hanford, Calif.

Thank you, Arthur, though I’m going to disagree with you. It’s easy to say size is the reason he wins, but how many other 6-foot-4, 265-pound heavyweights are there who don’t have the UFC heavyweight title, who haven’t won an NCAA Division I wrestling championship and who were such great athletes that they nearly made an NFL team despite having next to no football experience? I’ll tell you the answer: none. Stefan Struve is 6-11, 248. Lesnar’s teammate, Cole Konrad, is 6-5, 265. Gonzaga is 6-2, 255. There are a ton of large heavyweights in MMA, but few have the overall talent of Lesnar. And when he refines that talent, he’s really going to be a monster.

Wand’s future

Wanderlei Silva is my favorite fighter and I have pretty much been watching him for most of his career. It makes me sad to ask this but, do you think due to his recent string of knockouts and injuries he has suffered that it might be time for him to hang it up?

Salem, Ore.

He’s getting near that point, Chris. The body can take only so much punishment and Wanderlei is showing signs of breaking down. He got a badly needed win over Michael Bisping, but then broken ribs and a torn ACL contributed to him having to pull out of his fight with Akiyama on Saturday at UFC 116. He has been one of the greats of the game and has always been entertaining. He’s a tremendous ambassador for the sport. The sands of the hourglass, though, are rapidly filling on the bottom.

Sugar Rashad hardly outstanding

I rarely ever write because I mostly agree with you. Nevertheless, calling Rashad Evans “outstanding” is a stretch. It’s a very strong word you’ve used. “Good” is more appropriate. If not for his opponent’s reluctance (Thiago Silva) or inability (Quinton “Rampage” Jackson) to finish, it would be three straight knockout loses for Evans. I suspect that an in-shape Mauricio “Shogun” Rua will demolish “Suga.”


Well, Jacob, I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying about if your aunt’s anatomy was different, she’d be your uncle. Well, don’t you think that Rashad played a part in Silva’s reluctance or Jackson’s inability? He did things in each fight to take away his opponent’s strength. I’m not saying he’s the most crowd-pleasing guy in the world, but he is an outstanding talent. I guess we’ll agree to disagree.

Kevin Iole covers boxing and mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Kevin a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Monday, Jun 28, 2010