After his first-round stoppage victory over Rampage Jackson, Fedor Emelianenko has indicated some ideas for his next couple of fights. Fedor: Potential Opponents in 2020; The tentative plans as of yet seem to involve Fedor having one more fight in the United States and then calling it a career in Moscow afterward. A Russian swan song is apropos and I theorize his US farewell will either be in San Jose or Chicago. My theories on his next couple of fights don’t just extend to what market I think he will compete in though. My mind has been wandering about potential matchmaking scenarios for Fedor. There are plenty of fun possibilities and my opinions on the likeliest choices listed below.
Fedor: Potential Opponents in 2020
Ryan Bader is the reigning heavyweight champion for Bellator and Darth Bader is the last man to defeat Fedor. Fedor has only once gotten the opportunity to rematch someone he has lost to. This was the highly controversial Tsuyoshi Kosaka RINGS loss where the fight stopped via cut but the tournament rules had to allow someone to advance. Ergo the ruling in favor of TK with Fedor eventually thoroughly dominating in the rematch. The rare chance for redemption after a concrete loss would be an intriguing one for Emelianenko while still competing under the Bellator banner.
I feel like the Bader bout would need to be more of a swan song situation if it happened. Bader is a dual division Bellator champion and aims to defend his 205 lb belt next as opposed to the heavyweight gold. Also, I feel Fedor could use at least one more win to add more intrigue on a Bader sequel. It also creates that swan song narrative whereby if Fedor wins, he can ride off into the sunset as the heavyweight world champion once more.
The finish of the first bout was a dramatic double knockdown with Matt Mitrione recovering a hair quicker. He would get the jump on The Last Emperor and win with follow up punches in Madison Square Garden. Mitrione is coming off a loss though. So perhaps he would be booked against someone like Roy Nelson in a rubber match as opposed to rematching Fedor. The two are fast, athletic heavyweights who can hit hard. I imagine the sequel would be a fun tilt in it’s own right.
The heavyweight division is one where you can regain relevance quite quickly though. If Mitrione happens to secure a highlight reel stoppage in early 2020, who’s to say there doesn’t become some burgeoning sentiment to see him and Fedor run it back? Stranger things have happened in MMA. Also much like the aforementioned Bader situation, it would give Fedor a rare chance to run it back with someone who has defeated him comprehensively. An opportunity to even up the series.
Tent Pole Attraction #1
Randy Couture vs Fedor Emelianenko is one of the great MMA fights that never came to fruition. At one point, Randy Couture even left the UFC while reigning as the heavyweight champion to pursue a fight with Fedor. Talks of the fight have bubbled up several different times over the years. Even relatively recently, Randy Couture offered to step up, if need be, for anyone in the Sonnen vs Silva and Fedor vs Mitrione bouts at Bellator NYC years back. It has been several years since Couture has competed though and outside of occasional offers like Bellator NYC, seems content on being retired.
This fight very much reads like a nostalgia bout that Bellator MMA would try to book though. Promoter Scott Coker obviously has enough contact with Randy Couture where The Natural has made several appearances at Bellator fan events and at fight cards. How would the dirty boxing and greco roman prowess of UFC’s poster boy fair against the undefeated sambo berserker from Pride? I’m still guilty thinking of this years after both men have been removed from their competitive prime. The likelihood of this fight happening is admittedly low but a lad can daydream.
Tent Pole Attraction #2
Jake Hager would be the most “Pride FC-style” gimmick fight of all of these options. The AEW/ Bellator star has indicated a strong level of interest in fighting The Last Emperor. This fight would bear a strong resemblance to when Fedor returned to fight Jaideep Singh in Rizin or when he fought Yuji Nagata in Pride. It would be a true fork in the road moment for Hager who got in the game later but can make a huge step up in competition here to expedite his progress.
These two men opposite one another on a flyer has a distinct visual appeal to it. The brash, physically bigger amateur wrestler stepping into the cage with the stoic, ice cold Russian killer. The crossover appeal this would have with the pro wrestling and MMA crowds adds additional intrigue to this. There’s something about this fight that creates a genuine curiosity factor. More in a way that’s akin to beholding a spectacle as opposed to thinking of the athletic merit of it.
Affliction Neva Die
The bout with Josh Barnett was supposed to occur at Affliction’s third event in August 2009. Barnett failing a drug test not only dissolved the fight but would create a domino effect where the promotion folded. The intrigue around this bout remains to this day over a decade later. Now with Barnett finally in the same promotion as Fedor once more, I foresee a long-awaited fight finally happening.
The Bellator promotion seems keen to rebook Barnett’s bout with Ronny Markes but presumably, he would be fighting Fedor should he win there. Stylistically, it will be a thrill to see the catch wrestling expertise of Barnett against Fedor’s accomplished Sambo acumen. Both men fought at the same time in Pride as well as Strikeforce now having a chance to finally lock down a legacy fight in Bellator MMA.
From Russia With Love
A bout with Sergei Kharitonov would be a fitting send-off for Fedor in Moscow. Both men have had comparable career arcs. Both were in PRIDE FC at the same time then both plied their trade in Strikeforce through a similar stretch. Kharitonov’s recent stoppage loss to Linton Vassell throws some cold water on his matchup. If Kharitonov had won that bout, he would have been on a nine-fight unbeaten strea. A Fedor fight would have made much more sense in that case.
Kharitonov is in a similar position to Mitrione. If he gets an impressive win in his next fight, he could very well position himself as an opponent for Fedor before 2020 ends. Both men would get a warm partisan response from the crowd. The two Russian compatriots also have crowd-pleasing fighting styles. I think it would be a great fight if these two were locked in a cage together.
Fedor: Potential Opponents in 2020……Likeliest Options: Josh Barnett and Ryan Bader