MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko, also known as ‘The Last Emperor’, returned to action this past weekend at Bellator 208 and defeated opponent Chael Sonnen in the first round of their semi-final match of the Bellator heavyweight tournament. Now, with the finals of the tournament all set against current light-heavyweight champion Ryan Bader, the question is – has the Last Emperor, now 42, returned to his previous form?
While Fedor certainly looked impressive in his first two tournament bouts against Sonnen and Frank Mir previously, prior to that, he got stopped by Matt Mitrione and eeked out a very close decision to light heavyweight journeyman Fabio Maldonado in Russia and it looked almost as if the Last Emperor was on his last legs.
However, miraculously almost, Fedor survived some early trouble in his first tournament bout against Mir and came back to stop him then beat Chael most recently in dominant fashion and now, Fedor Emelianenko will be fighting for a world title against a legit threat in Ryan Bader in 2019, which is crazy, but not unheard of, particularly at heavyweight.
For some reason, heavyweight fighters tend to have much longer career shelflives and many are able to fight well into their 40s, even those who have been stopped many times and many counted out. Andrei Arlovski, while not quite 40 yet, was stopped brutally multiple times yet had a decent run in the UFC lately and had some success. Mark Hunt is another such guy who it wasn’t looking good for a while yet he still had quite a bit of success and is even older than Fedor.
This is likely due to weight-cutting in my opinion and the fact that most heavyweight fighters are not cutting any weight which allows them to lengthen their careers. Fighting itself as an enterprise is just so damaging on the body, yet many feel weight cutting is even worse for you than the fight itself and also makes you more susceptible to taking damage.
Fedor Emelianenko’s recent late-career resurgence may perhaps be because he does not and has never cut any weight, despite the fact that he could probably make 205 without too much problem.
With a win over Ryan Bader in the finals, which are slated for January 2019, Fedor will further cement himself as the greatest heavyweight of all time, though many feel like he has already proven that.
Bader will be a much stiffer test than Fedor’s two previous tournament opponents, as, while usually competing at a weight class below, is still very much in his prime and if Fedor can best him it will say a lot about where Fedor is at and will truly mark the return of The Last Emperor.