Sherdog.com broke the news today that Fedor Emelianenko will end his string of ill-matched fights with a fight against Tim Sylvia on July 19. The fight is rumored to be taking place on Affliction’s debut card and may be shown on Mark Cuban’s HDNet. No word yet on whether HDNet Fights—Cuban’s MMA promotion—will be involved, but the card is tentatively scheduled to take place at the American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas.
According to the report, Fedor confirmed the match via telephone from Stary Oskol, Russia, and had this to say about Sylvia:
“[Sylvia] is a good fighter, a strong fighter, the former UFC heavyweight champion, which is important. I am looking forward to fighting him and training hard for this fight.”
Yesterday on Sherdog’s Savage Dog Show, Greg Savage revealed a few more rumored bouts to take place on the card: Josh Barnett vs. Pedro Rizzo, Renato “Babalu” Sobral vs. Mike Whitehead, Andre Arvolski vs. Ben Rothwell, and Fedor’s brother, Aleksander Emelianenko, could be fighting as well. As Savage stated, the match-ups should be taken as “informed speculation at best.”
Fedor vs. Tim
It’s been over two years since Fedor has fought top competition, with his last legitimate fight taking place on August 28, 2005, against Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic. So, it’s nice to finally see Fedor get back in the ring with a credible opponent. Besides Randy Couture, this is one of the fights I was hoping to see after the announcement of the UFC buying Pride. Obviously, things didn’t work out like they were supposed to, or at least the way Zuffa told us it would, so it’s a little ironic that this match is taking place outside of the Octagon. It’s a testament to how quickly things are changing as mixed martial arts continues to grow.
Although Tim is considered one of the top heavyweights in the world, I just don’t see him taking Fedor out. Yes, Fedor’s face does cut as easily as paper mache (the reason for the sole blemish on his record), but barring a stop due to a cut, Fedor should be able keep his 24-fight win streak intact for his highly anticipated fight against Randy Couture.
Sylvia will have a considerable height and weight advantage, with eight inches and approximately 30 pounds on the Russian. The difference maker here will be Fedor’s ability to move like a lightweight where Tim tends to be a much slower and awkward fighter. I see Fedor employing a similar game plan to the one he used against his last opponent, Hong Man Choi, to whom he gave up a staggering 14 inches and 120 pounds. Tim’s strength will be his stand up skills and size advantage which he will use to try to control the fight, so I would expect Fedor to cautiously find his range, deliver a few quick blows, clinch up with Sylvia and take him down. Fedor has demonstrated some of the most wicked ground and pound I’ve ever seen and has finished half of his fights by submission. Tim was clearly winning his last fight against Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera until Big Nog got him to the ground and caught him in a guillotine choke which ended the fight. Conversely, Fedor dominated Noguiera in their two and half fights. I imagine Fedor shouldn’t have too much trouble doing the same here.
The UFC likes to claim they have the best fighters, but that’s clearly not the case in the heavyweight division anymore. If you go by WAMMA’s rankings, the UFC has only three of the top ten heavyweights actively fighting for them in Noguiera, Werdum and Gonzaga. If Greg Savage’s information turns out to be true, this card will boast half of the top ten heavyweights. It will be interesting to hear Dana’s response if this card becomes a reality.
The one man who has to be furious over this news is Randy Couture. Randy tries to resign, gets slammed by scrutiny from the media and fans, and engages in a lengthy and public legal battle with the UFC, all just to have the opportunity to end his career against the world’s top ranked heavyweight. Whereas Sylvia just asks to be let out of his contract, signs for a lot more money than he was making and gets the chance to fight Fedor, all within a few months. He made it look so easy. It’s just another kick in the teeth to Randy. Regardless of whether Affliction is or isn’t a potential threat to the UFC, you know that puts a smile on the owners’ faces, at least for now. I just wouldn’t want to be within a hundred miles of Randy if Tim wins. That would have Zuffa grinning from ear to ear.
My last thought is on money. How exactly is Affliction planning on making money? Fedor’s asking price has been reported at $2 million per fight, although there is no word on whether he will actually make that here. That amount alone is enough to put Affliction’s first show in the red. Time will tell what their long-term plan is and how long they can keep promoting top names in the sport, but one would have to think if they’re willing to drop this much at first, they must have some kind of plan up their sleeve. If not, thanks for the show, Affliction. We’ll see.