The Uncrowned Emperor | Fedor Emelianenko | Early Reign: 2002 to 2004

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The stoic finisher. The Heavyweight King. The stone cold killer. The Last Emperor. Known for his striped sweater and aloof demeanor, Fedor Emelianenko has mystified MMA fans and analysts all over the globe for the better part of 25 years. Like a lot of guys I will cover in this series - Fedor started fighting top guys early in his career. Fedor was accomplished in both Sambo and Judo before transitioning to MMA - which he joined in order to achieve better financial stability. He was a Master of Sport in both arts (as well as a Black Belt in Judo), was an International gold medalist in Sambo, and had won multiple bronze medals in both National and International competitions in Europe and Russia. Fedor Emelianenko is widely regarded as one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time - a distinction no other heavyweight can be agreed upon consistently. He is revered for his skills and outward display of budo, possessing a skill set that would rival ANY active Heavyweight today.  His ability to fight through adversity and come back to win is extraordinary, and is one of the reasons he is so widely respected. Matched only by his sheer aggression in pursuit of a finish, all of these attributes encompass an individual as humble as he is terrifying.

Scoring the Best Resume

This article is part of my "Uncrowned King" series. In these works, I will use a mathematical approach to analyzing the resume of some of the best fighters in MMA history. I will only be covering wins over ranked opponents during a given fighter's career, so no losses or unranked wins will be counted. Every ranked win will be given a score that, together, will become a collective sum for that particular fighter. For this series of articles, I will be using a specific set of criteria that you can look at here.

Organizations: PRIDE, Strikeforce, RINGS

Weight Class: Heavyweight

Years Active: 2000-2023

MMA Record: 40-7-1 (NC)

Win Percentage: 83%

Finishing Rate: 78% (16 KOs, 15 submissions)

Best Wins: Andrei Arlovski, Mirko Cro Cop, Ricardo Arona, Mark Coleman, Mark Hunt, Renato "Babalu" Sobral, Antonio "Big Nog" Nogueira x2, Semmy Schilt, Heath Herring, Kevin Randleman, Tim Sylvia, Matt Lindland, Pedro Rizzo, Frank Mir

The Basics

Fedor Emelianenko has been criticized over the last two decades (both reasonably and unreasonably) due to some of the names on his resume. He has also been hammered by MMA fans because of the fact that he never fought in the UFC. I can understand these criticisms, however - despite these lingering blemishes, Fedor fought, and beat, some of the very best of his time. His wins in RINGS will be omitted from this article simply because RINGS has not historically been considered a major organization. Although it is worth noting that Fedor had wins over Ricardo Arona and Babalu prior to his run in PRIDE.

His Wins

When Fedor made his Japanese MMA debut in 2002, he was a rising talent. He was known as a formidable groundfighter who wasn't afraid to exchange big shots. He also had the power to hurt, and even stop bigger heavyweights. his fights in RINGS helped him develop his own style leading up to his fight against Semmy Schilt at PRIDE 22. According to historical rankings, Schilt has the number one heavyweight in the world at this time. I personally wouldn't have had him at number one, nor do I think many others. I'd say that would probably be Igor Vovchanchyn or Mark Coleman. However, I do still believe that Schilt was a top 5 guy when he fought Fedor, so I'd score this one the same way regardless.

Event: PRIDE 21

Opponent: Semmy Schilt

Opponent Ranking: 1

Result: Win // Unanimous Decision

Score: 4.5 points

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Being that Semmy had nearly a foot on Fedor in height and around the same in reach, there was no reason for Fedor to stand up with the experienced striker. Seconds into the opening frame, Schilt was taken down by an exploding Fedor. This was the story of the entire fight, with Fedor maintaining top control over the taller man. At multiple points in every round Fedor had an armbar - but never got it fully locked in, as Semmy was able to escape each time. Emelianenko was able to do some solid damage, but Schilt proved himself to be capable defensively on the ground, tying Fedor up. Regardless, Fedor was able to control the entire bout, winning by unanimous decision.

Event: PRIDE 23

Opponent: Heath Herring

Opponent Ranking: 11

Result: Win // TKO (Doctor Stoppage)

Score: 2 points

Susumu Nagao's Photograph

This fight was a title elimator, with the winner Although Heath was ranked at number 11 coming into this fight, I think he was much better than that ranking would suggest. He had recently lost a title fight to Big Nog, but rattled off two straight wins over Kochkine and Vovchanchyn. Although he was well known for his ground game, he developed improved striking over the years. When he met Fedor at PRIDE 23, none of that mattered. Herring was dominated so thoroughly that within three minutes of the opening bell, the cageside physician was coming in to check the swelling on Heath's right eye. Heath opened the fight with a teep, which was met by an immediate takedown for Fedor. While Herring briefly attempted a kneebar and eventually reversed position after Fedor lost back control, Fedor spent virtually the entire first round pummeling Heath from top - full guard, half guard, side control. The swelling on Heath's right eye proved to be too much for the doctor to allow, as the fight was stopped in between the first and second round.

Event: PRIDE 25

Opponent: Antonio "Big Nog" Nogueira

Opponent Ranking: 1 (Champion)

Result: Win // Unanimous Decision

Score: 6 points

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When Fedor met Antonio Nogueira at PRIDE 25 in March of 2003, Big Nog was already becoming a legendary fighter himself. He was 7-0 in the organization with six stoppages, the PRIDE Heavyweight Champion, the number one heavyweight on the planet, and the number one pound for pound fighter in the world. Nogueira had also won 12 fights in a row, dating back to February of 2000. He was known for his mastery of Jiu Jitsu and array of ground techniques, his durability, and extraordinary ability to come back and win fights he seemingly had no business winning. He was coming off recent wins over Dan Henderson and Semmy Schilt, and looking to defend his heavyweight belt. In walks Fedor Emelianenko. Although Fedor was seen as a legitimate threat by hardcore fans, most people thought he would have to keep the fight standing to have the best shot at taking out Big Nog. Yeah, that didn't happen. The opening bell saw Fedor gliding across the ring throwing his patented right hand, and shooting his hips straight into a takedown. All of the first round was spent on the ground, with Fedor landing good shots on Nogueira, and avoiding any submission threats. Although Big Nog was the comeback king, the remainder of the fight looked just like the first round, and this was not a contest Nogueira would come back to win. Fedor mystified and shocked the world as he not only defended all of Antonio's submission attempts effectively - he seemed to intentionally leave his limbs in certain danger, seemingly dismissive and in defiance of the skills Nogueira was bringing to the table. That was the first time we've ever saw Nogueira defeated this way - Fedor landed crushing blow after crushing blow time and time again from full guard, half guard and side control. He was awarded a unanimous decision victory and walked away the PRIDE Heavyweight Champion. A new era was upon us.

Event: PRIDE Total Elimination 2003

Opponent: Gary Goodridge

Opponent Ranking: 8

Result: Win // TKO (soccer kicks and punches)

Score: 4

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Although Big Daddy had only amassed a 9-8 PRIDE record at the time he fought Fedor, he was a dangerous opponent for any heavyweight to face. Long removed from his days fighting in the UFC and winning a championship in the IVC, Goodridge was a striker who could hurt you on the feet, and a grappler that could finish you on the ground. Between 2001-2007 he went 12-3-1 with his only losses being to Big Nog, Herring, and The Last Emperor himself. Leading up to the Fedor fight he was unbeaten in his last five, with a draw against Ebenezer Fontes Braga in a special rules fight. As soon as the opening bell rang, Fedor charged across the ring and landed a left hook that stunned Gary. As Gary backed up, Fedor unleashed a barrage of left and right hooks that had Goodridge covering up. As he covered up, Fedor landed uppercuts to the body and head that led to a clinch and throw from Fedor. As Gary landed on his back, Fedor pummeled him with shots from open guard and side control, finishing him off with a soccer kick and a few hard punches. The ref stepped in after just 1 minute and 9 seconds of the very first round.

Event: PRIDE Total Elimination 2004

Opponent: Mark Coleman

Opponent Ranking: 9

Result: Win // Submission (armbar)

Score: 4 points

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Mark Coleman was an accomplished fighter coming into Pride Total Elimination 2004. He was already a former two-time UFC Heavyweight Champion, having won both the UFC 10 and UFC 11 tournaments, as well as the inaugural UFC heavyweight championship at UFC 12 against Dan Severn. However, Coleman didn’t care about any of that. He just wanted to go in there and show the world he is still a top fighter, and beating Fedor is the way do just that. With Coleman’s losing streak on the way out of the UFC a distant memory, the recent PRIDE Openweight Grand Prix winner is ready to face the The Last Emperor. Fedor himself, coming off the victory over Goodridge (and Japanese Pro Wrestler Yuji Nagata), is looking to claim victory over the legend. Fedor is taken down by Coleman in the opening seconds, and there is a scramble as Mark is able to take Fedor's back and briefly obtain a semi-rear naked chokehold over Fedor's chin. After Coleman is able to land some shots from the back position, Fedor reverses him. After another Hammer takedown leads to a high guard transition to armbar for Fedor, forcing Coleman to tap at 2 minutes and 11 seconds of the very first round.

Event: PRIDE Critical Conflict 2004

Opponent: Kevin Randleman

Opponent Ranking: 5

Result: Win // Submission (kimura)

Score: 4 points

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We're going to do things a little differently for this fight. I looked up the ranking for Kevin Randleman coming into the fight against Fedor. The fight was in June of 2004, and the closest ranking to that was updated for April of 2004. Kevin Randleman was noticeably absent from this list, due to his move from heavyweight to middleweight, then back up to heavyweight. Before "The Monster" fought Fedor, he had recent losses to Sakuraba and Rampage Jackson at middleweight. After those losses, Randleman moved up to fight Mirko Cro Cop, who was expected to win the 2004 PRIDE Heavyweight Grand Prix. In the opening round, Randleman landed the famous left hook heard around the world, and finished Cro Cop on the ground. Cro Cop was ranked as the number 5 heavyweight at the time. He was a wrecking ball bulldozing his way through the PRIDE ranks, knocking out almost everyone in his path. His only loss at the time was against Nogueira, and he was largely seen by fans and critics as a serious threat to Fedor's throne. When Randleman stopped Mirko in the first round of their matchup, he shocked the world and claimed one of the biggest victories in MMA heavyweight history. For that reason, I am giving Kevin the ranking of number 10 here, as I think it's only fair. I don't want to give him a higher ranking than that, because I don't want to overvalue his skills based on the sole win over Cro Cop. Unfortunately Fedor is a completely different fighter, and the glory Kevin soaked in from that victory didn't last long. Although Kevin was coming off of a HUGE upset, Fedor was still considered the big favorite in this matchup, and to win the entire PRIDE Heavyweight Grand Prix. Randleman stunned us all in the opening minute when he got a MASSIVE suplex on Fedor, landing in side control. Fedor would prove to be tough to keep down, as he turned into a brief guillotine attempt, and used it to get on top and submit Randleman with a kimura from north-south position. Fedor needed less than two minutes to dispatch of the guy that just finished Mirko Cro Cop.

Event: PRIDE Shockwave 2004

Opponent: Antonio Nogueira

Opponent Ranking: 2

Result: Win // Unanimous Decision

Score: 4.5 points

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It's PRIDE Shockwave 2004, to decide both the Heavyweight Grand Prix winner, and the unified PRIDE Heavyweight Champion. Four months prior, Big Nog and Fedor met in their second matchup and what was supposed to be the Grand Prix final. However, that fight ended just a few minutes into the opening stanza when an accidental headbutt opened a massive gash on Fedor's forehead. After 12 minutes of deliberation, the fight was deemed a no contest. In December of the same year, these two fought for the third time. Fedor was coming off wins over Randleman and Ogawa. Big Nog was coming off big wins over Herring and Kharitonov, and hadn't lost a fight since Fedor took his championship belt in March of 2003. Nogueira, noticeably smaller and leaner in this fight, wanted to be the faster man and have some success on the feet before taking Fedor to the ground. His boxing was certainly improved by this point, and although he was becoming more well rounded, we all knew where he wanted the fight to go. All of these factors proved futile, as the mystery man Fedor came in a much improved version of himself. Although the second fight looked much like the first one (while it lasted), their trilogy matchup played out much differently. Fedor showed us a lot more patience and ring IQ in this fight. There was a lot more action on the feet, with Fedor exhibiting better footwork and landing the more powerful shots. Big Nog had moments in the striking but appeared a bit gunshy, likely from being taken down and damaged in both of their previous fights. When Fedor did take Nogueira down, it was easy, and he would instantly let Big Nog back up. Although Fedor had slowed down considerably in the third round, he was so dominant in the first two rounds that he was awarded the unanimous decision.

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