Why would I? Or why would anyone? The man has but one quasi-loss and has destroyed everyone who is relevant to the heavyweight MMA scene that’s stood in front of him; of course excluding the new blood like Lesnar, Carwin, and Velasquez who’ve sprouted up in the tail-end of “The Last Emperor’s” decade of domination.
Yet, even though Fedor's history remains mythical in the sport where “anything can happen” and “everyone eventually loses”, I don’t see anyone giving Fabricio Werdum enough acknowledgement for his accomplishments, and I believe he has a better chance of beating Fedor Emelianenko than anyone he’s faced since Mirko or Big Nog in 2004-2005. Here are a few reminders about Fabricio Werdum’s career:
He’s 13-4-1 overall. The “four” includes a razor-thin split decision to Sergei Kharitonov, an impressive showing against Big Nog, an uninspiring but closely contested stand-up fight with Arlovski, and the clobbering from Junior “Two Saints”. He’s been referred to as a “UFC castoff”, yet he went 2-2 against top UFC competition and utterly walked through Gabriel Gonzaga (for the second time) and Brandon Vera. He’s finished the formerly venerable Roman Zentsov, Strikeforce champ Alistair Overeem, and Fedor’s brother Aleksander all by submission, and most recently defeated fringe top-ten heavyweight Antonio Silva. The ungodly jackhammer that Junior dos Santos planted on his chin is the only time he’s ever lost by any method other than decision.
He’s an elite level BJJ black belt whose striking acumen has evolved from “eeew!” (Jungle Fight days) to “hey, not bad” (Nog fight) to “fully adequate” in present times, all courtesy of a dedicated dose of Rafael Cordeiro’s Chute Boxe treatment. His stance, defense, head movement, footwork, and combinations have all tightened up nicely. Power is amiss from the equation, but there’s something to be said for the formidable threat presented by one of the most agile and skilled heavyweight submissionists that can hold his own standing.
In addition to the media waves indicating that Lord Fedor may be considering retirement, appearances from the man who started out consistently defending his title in Pride on a quarterly basis have dwindled down to just two fights per year in 2006, 2007, 2009, once in 2008, and tonight serves as his first outing of 2010. “Ring-rust” and its potential detriments do not only apply to one big layoff, but anytime a top fighter spends significantly more time training and less time fighting.
We also saw both of his last two adversaries dull the shine of his invincibility by putting their hands on Fedor much easier than most anticipated. Yes, Arlovski ended up getting knocked out, but that doesn’t change the fact that he was winning the round somewhat handily until being sent to the moon. Brett Rogers not only battered Fedor with a few punches, but illustrated how much an enormous size and strength advantage can compensate for a lack of experience and polished technique. It’s still odd to see Werdum, who is a rather average size heavyweight, towering over Fedor in the stare-down pictures.
Simply on account of his height, size, past competition, mediocre striking and stellar BJJ—how can Werdum not pose more of a threat than inexperienced brawler Brett Rogers and question mark Andrei Arlovski? Werdum boxed with Arlovski for three straight rounds, and didn’t KO him like Fedor did, but also wasn’t backed up and pelted at will. Werdum isn’t as large as Rogers, but still bigger than Fedor, and ten times more technical on the ground with strikes and positioning for submissions.
Werdum’s solid chin and long reach may cause some issues, and I’m not willing to write off how dangerous his ground game is based on the way Fedor had his way with Nogueira when clinching and grappling. Big Nog has a known reputation for attacking fists with his head before pulling out a Hail Mary sub, and Werdum’s defense from ground-n-pound is very sound, he has one of the busier and more active guards, and he’s proven resilient in the clinch and difficult to manipulate.
Fedor has never faced a fighter like Werdum. Almost every victim on his record suffered a significant disadvantage in size, striking, or ground skills, and Werdum simply does not have those same gaping holes.
Therefore, since there is literally no mortal on earth who should rightfully be favored to beat Fedor, that’s where my pick lies. I also want to have at least one provable “exception to the rule” left in the sport. However, I’m torn enough on this choice that I almost went with Werdum, but I think that was mostly just because no one seems to be giving him a chance. He has one, and a damn good one. Nailing a takedown can sway rounds drastically, and even if striking is close, the busier fighter can easily win. I expect an intelligent and wisely measured high-pace from Werdum, and snaring a decision is not outside the realm of sanity.
My prediction: Fedor by decision*
*It’s worth noting that there is some discrepancy with the state of California’s version of scoring criteria and fouls; and in this case “discrepancy” means that what’s listed on their official website pertains only to kickboxing matches, and suggests Werdum would be disqualified for an arm bar.
The point is that should controversy arise from the decision, there are no published guidelines for scoring criteria, and no way to determine if a score is correctly arrived at.