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The Crafting of a Reputation, Part Deux

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Following UFC 111 and the swarm of debate around Georges St. Pierre, I wrote:

My reflection on the pound-for-pound status has drawn me to one comparison above others, that of St. Pierre and Fedor Emlianenko. More than any other fighter on that list including BJ Penn and Anderson Silva, we’ve witnessed the Russian great take on his greatest challenges with an audacity not previously nor since witnessed. This characteristic is essentially the opposite end of the spectrum from where GSP’s recent criticism exists...

But it’s the fact that St. Pierre has chosen to forgo any risk in these last few fights that has drawn the ire of fans. Because he is capable of imposing his will in the fight, he makes them into wrestling matches and battles of "positional dominance". He doles out punishment, but it simply hasn’t been spectacular. It’s smart, but unpopular. The one thing that separates GSP from a guy like the un-beloved Jon Fitch is that the champ is at least constantly working toward a finish, unlike "The Human Blanket" Fitch.

And this brings me to Fedor. Setting aside his recent reputation as a "promotion killer", the Last Emperor has a cemented reputation as the greatest heavyweight and possibly the greatest mixed martial artist of all time. In what is basically an undefeated career, we’ve seen Fedor go tit-for-tat with true greats at their own game, always coming away victorious. He had a kickboxing match with Cro Cop and his hand was raised. He played in the guard of Noguiera and was victorious. It’s this willingness to throw caution to the wind, to say to a critic "I don’t care if he’s ‘better’ than me at something on paper, I’ll go in to his comfort zone and destroy him."

It might be reckless abandon, but it could be the difference between being on MMA’s Mount Rushmore and having a state park named after you.

 

Anderson Silva's performance against Demian Maia at UFC 112 brought me back to these thoughts, and it reaffirms my opinion of Fedor Emelianenko. I do believe that Anderson Silva is currently the best fighter in the world, and should he face the Last Emperor I'd pick the Brazilian. But, that dream scenario aside, once both fighters hang up their gloves I think Fedor's legacy will shine brighter.

Silva is doing things in MMA that have never been seen before. His performances are artistry, but like most great artists he has shown a tendency to become disaffected and cynical. Personally, I don't mind his antics and find them entertaining. But then again, I sympathize with his disaffection and especially his cynicism even though I have never succeeded in any endeavour as much as he does in MMA.

It is Fedor, however, that retains the most sterling reputation in this writer's mind. He has often been decried as a willing participant in freakshow fights, which can't be dismissed. But I tend to view his matches with Hong Man Choi and Zuluzinho more as easy paychecks in a post-PRIDE Japanese climate that was not so welcoming to MMA as it once was.

In his greatest challenges, against the great Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera and the horrifying Mirko Cro Cop he dove into the lion's den head first and survived. He brutally dispatched two UFC heavyweights that dominated their era, Andrei Arlovski and Tim Sylvia. And everytime he's seen danger--the atomic suplex from Kevin Randleman, Kazuyuki Fujita's iron fist, Brett Rogers' deisel aggression--he has stood his ground, tasted the storm, and had his arm raised when it's all over.

While Anderson Silva has effortless outings against the Demian Maias and Forrest Griffins of the world, I'll always think of Fedor's bloody nose, broken hands, bruised body and raised arm as the embodiment of MMA consummation.