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Fedor Emelianenko: Live in the Moment One Final Time

October 16, 2018 | Posted by Evan Zivin
Bellator 198 Fedor Emelianenko

If this Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix is all a dream, I expect to be pinched hard very soon…

That’s not to say everything that’s happened since the tournament started has come completely out of nowhere.

Ryan Bader being in the finals was called by pretty much everyone. The Ultimate Fighter winner, former top ranked UFC light heavyweight, and current reigning Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion, has been on as dominant a run as anyone could have against such an eclectic array of competitors, TKO’ing Burger King spokesmodel “King Mo” Lawal in 15 seconds before shutting down Matt Mitrione, who barely got past Roy Nelson, over 15 minutes at Bellator 207 on Friday night.

And with judges’ scores of 30-25, 30-25, and 30-24, domination is the word to use to describe Bader’s win. Bader’s strength is in his wrestling and his ground and pound and he used both to perfection, not allowing Mitrione to do anything other than survive. The only fighting Matt did was to see the end of the round, which he did manage to do, so there’s that. Little victories. Hooray for Meathead.

The fact Bader won does make it all the more interesting how Mitrione talked to the media days before the fight about Bader’s style and about how having fighters who aren’t true heavyweights competing in the Grand Prix makes the heavyweights look bad.

After the beating he took, I can definitely see where he’s coming from. Almost makes you question the purpose of a heavyweight champion when one of the guys who was considered the best in the division just got trounced by a career 205’er.

Sorry for the loss, Matt, but congrats on getting pregnant. Let us know when the baby shower is going to be. I’ll bring Tostitos.

At least the other side of the bracket can make a case for the heavyweights still being the baddest on the planet and not just the baddest.

Of course, nobody thought any of it would go down the way it did.

Fedor Emelianenko, he of “PRIDE NEVA DIE” fame, and his quick night of Frank Mir made for an exciting atmosphere at Bellator 198 in April, and I’m not just saying that because I was at that event in person.

Because I was. It was magical. The air was filled with excitement and the smell of CIA agents.

Fedor has always had a presence about him, created by his time in Japan and carried through every promotion he’s competed in since then. When he started getting into the trend of losing fights, he still had that quiet mystique that fostered curiosity in whatever he did next, even when that thing was “get knocked out by Matt Mitrione in one of the most pathetic fights ever.”

It’s safe to say not much was expected out of Fedor being in this Grand Prix. I mean, after his Strikeforce run, his Grand Prix record isn’t as impressive as it once was. That’s why it was so incredible to see Fedor crush Mir with punches as fast as he did because it not only proved that he was the best heavyweight of the mid-2000s, it energized the tournament in a way no other win would.

Now, after defeating Chael Sonnen at Bellator 208 on Saturday night, the tournament has really gone into overdrive, especially when the expectation was that Chael would take Fedor down and have his way with him, since Fedor’s biggest weakness, other than getting knocked out and giant Brazilians with elevated testosterone levels, is a strong wrestler.

For as strong as Chael’s wrestling game is, which was quite strong against Rampage Jackson back in January, it looked much less so against Fedor. The American Gangster struggled to take Fedor down and, when he did, he gave up dominant positions in very head-scratching ways, to the point that fight fixing accusations have already been thrown out and denied.

I won’t speculate on any of that but I’m sure getting dropped by a punch in the opening seconds of the fight didn’t help Chael stick to his gameplan. For as wild as Fedor is in his standup, he still throws some of the hardest shots of anyone in the sport and Chael felt the full force of them, to the point that the referee had to save him from eating too many of them in the closing seconds of Round 1.

That’s right. Fedor has gotten another first round stoppage and is on his way to the finals of the Bellator Grand Prix. He’s going to be in his first title fight in a decade. Also, by beating Chael, I think that means Fedor is now the UFC Middleweight and Light Heavyweight Champion.

Congrats, Champ Champ.

It’s funny to think about the whole “Champ Champ” nonsense (thanks, Conor…) considering that the man who stands in “The Last Emperor’s” way of winning the Grand Prix and becoming the new Bellator Heavyweight Champion is Bader, a man who would become Bellator’s first Champ Champ if he wins the upcoming showdown.

As cool as it’s been to see Fedor turn back the clock again, is there anyone who’s not expecting Bader to absolutely manhandle him in January? He’s the most complete fighter in the company, a man who would have likely fought Daniel Cormier for the UFC belt if he hadn’t made the jump to the Scott Coker side of the grass. The dude has looked unstoppable since debuting in Bellator and it’s hard to see the Russian Sambo legend being the one to slow Bader’s roll.

Then again, Bader is the reason why anyone thought Tito Ortiz was still a good fighter years before Bellator made that their business model. He was always a fighter who was a step behind the greats so maybe Fedor is capable of creating some magic one more time.

I know old school fight fans will be hoping for it.

More Pride, less Strikeforce.

Evan Zivin has been writing for 411 MMA since May of 2013. Evan loves the sport, and likes to takes a lighthearted look at the world of MMA in his writing…usually.

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Fedor Emelianenko, Evan Zivin