Fedor Emelianenko is a name mixed martial arts fans automatically recognize when they talk about the sport’s icons. From his longevity, brutal grace in the ring, winning streaks and the opponents he has faced down to his career achievements, “The Last Emperor” will always be one of the pillars of the sport and one of the best heavyweights of all-time. As with all fighters, Emelianenko is battling Father Time, although his extensive career gives him some equity with those who follow MMA.
The 41-year old legend is set to pit his 36-5 record against Frank Mir in the 2018 Bellator MMA heavyweight grand prix quarterfinals at Bellator 198 on April 28. Here are some of the most memorable fights of Emelianenko’s illustrious career as seen through the camera’s lens:
Fighting a heavyweight is a gargantuan task in its own right, but going head-to-head with a 7-foot, 300-pound goliath is in a league of its own. Yarennoka’s New Year’s Eve bash in 2007 was the talk of the town in Saitama, Japan, simply because it showcased Emelianenko in a battle with Hong Man Choi. It was a massive mismatch in size, and from the moment the bell rang, Choi attempted to dominate Emelianenko by pinning him to the canvas. Because of Choi’s size, Emelianenko had a hard time standing up, but he did attempt an armbar early in the first round. It did not succeed. The two heavyweights stood, and Emelianenko landed a left cross to Choi’s chin that had him reeling against the ropes. Again the fight went to the mat, and it was there that Emelianenko found enough leverage to lock in an armbar and force the tap.
Clash of the Titans
Prior to Emelianenko’s meeting with Mirko Filipovic at Pride Fighting Championships Final Conflict 2005 on April 28, 2005, “The Last Emperor” tore through the organization’s heavyweight class, with wins over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Kevin Randleman and Mark Coleman, among others. “Cro Cop,” on the other hand, owned victories over Coleman, Ibragim Magomdeov, Josh Barnett and Aleksander Emelianenko. For fans, it was a match made in MMA heaven, a clash of titans that made the world stop and marvel. Emelianenko and “Cro Cop” gave everything they had, with the Russian hounding Filipovic from the start. While each fighter reached deep inside his bag of tricks, it was Emelianenko who had the upper hand. He displayed phenomenal standup, and when the fight went to the canvas, he brought his famed ground-and-pound into play. In the end, Emelianenko took home a unanimous decision.
Defeating the Minotaur
Pride 25 on March 16, 2003 marked the first time Emelianenko and “Minotauro” Nogueira faced one another in the ring. There, one of Emelianenko’s best performances pushed him to the upper ranks of MMA heavyweights. The two all-time greats entered the ring on long winning streaks: Nogueira had rattled off 13 straight victories, while Emelianenko’s eight-fight tear lifted the hype and anticipation surrounding the bout. Emelianenko sought to take the Pride heavyweight championship away from Nogueira, and the challenger leaned on his brutal ground-and-pound -- a tactic the Brazilian and his fans were not expecting because of his potent submission game. All three rounds followed a similar path, as Emelianenko exited the stage as the new champion. As the final bell sounded, the two exhausted gladiators showed the mutual respect that existed between them.
The highlight-filled Pride Critical Countdown 2004 on June 20, 2004 featured one of the best slams in MMA history, courtesy of Kevin Randleman -- a mixed martial artist known for his wrestling, speed and power. On the opposite side was Emelianenko, the reigning Pride heavyweight champion and an emerging all-time great. Randleman jumped out of his corner, stalked Emelianenko and secured an early takedown. He later moved to the Russian’s back and executed a remarkable belly-to-back suplex, landing in side control. Thought it seemed Randleman held the advantage, Emelianenko transitioned to top position and softened “The Monster” with vicious ground-and-pound. He then latched onto Randleman’s arm and locked in the kimura that forced the tapout.
Leashing ‘The Pit Bull’
Shortly after he disposed of Tim Sylvia, Emelianenko on Jan. 24, 2009 stepped into the ring to face Andrei Arlovski at Affliction “Day of Reckoning.” A former UFC heavyweight champion, Arlovski was buoyed by wins over Roy Nelson, Fabricio Werdum and Ben Rothwell. Each man was in peak condition, had momentum on his side and promised to entertain fans with his own brand of fighting. It appeared at the start that Emelianenko might be in real danger of losing for the first time since 2000. Arlovksi initiated the attacks, as he landed kicks and precise punches on Emelianenko, who retreated to a corner. Arlovski could not have known the fate that awaited him. Perhaps sensing blood, Arlovski left his feet and threw one of those knees to the head. Emelianenko charged his right hand and planted it on the Belarusian’s jaw, freezing him instantly. Arlovski woke up kissing the canvas.