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10 Defining Fights in the Unknowable Life of Fedor Emelianenko

(“Mr. Fedor thinks you are a very amusing little man. He would enjoy it very much to see you dance for him … Dance! Dance, I say!” PicProps: Fedor’s Website)

Even by his own lofty standards for peculiarity, Fedor Emelianenko had a pretty enigmatic week in America leading up to his second appearance inside the Strikeforce cage. When he wasn’t no-showing scheduled appointments or turning interviews into literal games of telephone by funneling his quotes through a comically long series of interpreters and middlemen, Fedor plodded through his obligations to hype tonight’s fight against Fabricio Werdum with the same kind of indecipherable stoicism he usually shows his doomed opponents.

Amid rumors that his retirement was imminent and that he was planning a life in politics at home in mother Russia (both of which he’s denied), the whole circus served only to remind us how little we really know about Fedor. Aside from a few half-hour Showtime specials, a handful of feature stories — the best known of which was actually written by M-1 executive Evgeni Kogan, so it has to be considered no more substantive than an M-1 press release – and his own stilted and translated post-fight interviews, there is shockingly little primary source material on Emelianenko.

What we’re told, over and over again, is this: Because of his old-school Soviet sensibilities and deeply religious nature, Fedor has no need for fame or for money and apparently has no desire to be known or understood by the fans who’ve elevated him to near God-like status in hardcore MMA circles. He’s a simple, conservative-minded man who chooses to live in relative seclusion, train with a select group of close friends and views nearly everything else as bothersome, needless distraction. Yeah, that last part made him sound a little bit more like Brock Lesnar than any of you are comfortable with admitting, huh?

But as much as he remains a mystery outside the cage, he’s given us ample evidence of what’s capable of inside it. In preparation for tonight’s bout with Werdum, we give you our choices for the 10 fights that have, in different ways, defined his career thus far …


Top 10 Submissions of 2008

10. Ricardo Almeida guillotines Rob Yundt (2/2/08)
After almost four years away from the game Ricardo Almeida returned at UFC 81 to take on Alaska’s Rob Yundt.  The Gracie fighter wasted no time getting it to the mat and when Yundt tried to reverse postions he locked in a guillotine choke with one arm inside.  Yundt thought he’d just slam his way out, but Almeida wasn’t having it.  He used the momentum to flip Yundt over and then finished the choke from the top position at the 1:08 mark.  Smooth, bra.

9. Yoshiyuki Yoshida chokes out War Machine (5/24/08)

Japan’s Yoshiyuki Yoshida made his UFC debut at UFC 84 against the man then known as Jon Koppenhaver.  Yoshida locked up an anaconda choke less than a minute into the first and Koppenhaver, alpha male that he is, declined to tap and instead took a pleasant little nap.  Okay, so it’s only a technical submission, and not the fanciest finish you’ll ever see, but damn was it satisfying.  War (or Mr. Machine, as he’s known down at the bank) would later get chucked from the UFC for making stupid comments about Evan Tanner’s death and for refusing a fight with Brandon Wolff.  Yoshida would go on to get knocked into a Zen-like peacefulness by Josh Koscheck.

8. B.J. Penn squeezes the juice out of Joe Stevenson (1/19/08)

We all knew Joe Stevenson was probably in for a rough night when he faced B.J. Penn at UFC 80, but we didn’t expect him to come out of it looking like an extra in a horror movie.  First Penn opened a deep gash on Stevenson’s forehead with one of a series of nasty elbows, then he locked in a rear naked choke and squeezed until the blood came squirting out of Stevenson’s head.  Got pretty good height too.  After the fight Penn really set a bad example for all the kids out there, hygiene-wise, by licking Stevenson’s blood off his gloves.  Stevenson, well, let’s just say he took the loss hard.