Fedor Emelianenko, arguably the greatest heavyweight in MMA history, lost again on Saturday night (June 24). Knocked down by Matt Mitrione in the opening minute of round one, he was then viciously TKO’d before a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden, New York.
The result, as emphatic as it was dramatic, amounts to Fedor’s fourth straight defeat on American soil, following losses to Dan Henderson, Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva and Fabricio Werdum, and would appear to bring to an end his time at the top of the heavyweight landscape.
Fedor, 40, may well look to continue fighting – all the signs point in this direction – but it’s time the rest of us, those who have admired him for so long, try to move on and instead embrace the new breed of Russian heavyweights attempting to break through. So, with that in mind, here are four men who could one day take the Fedor throne…
Organization: Fight Nights Global
Forget just Russia, this man is the best heavyweight prospect on the entire planet. Pavlovich has a perfect record and an aggressive style that brings back memories of a raw Cain Velasquez. He’s rarely not looking for a finish with rapid-fire power punching combinations that overwhelm almost everyone he’s faced. Eight of his 10 opponents have failed to make it out of the first round.
If you can criticize him for anything, it’s that he fades a little when he’s taken down the stretch, but which heavyweights can’t you say that about? He’s also the youngest of our picks, so he’s got plenty of time to put that right. If he can, mark him down as a future world title contender. If anyone has the potential to emulate Fedor Emelianenko, it’s this guy.
A man who’s already made it to the UFC and impressed in his last bout with a three-round dismantling of Roy Nelson. He’s also a former Bellator champion, but showed some vulnerabilities when he washed out of the promotion on the back of decision losses to Cheick Kongo and Tony Johnson. He’s been on the comeback trail since then, punched his ticket to the Octagon and shown his six-foot-seven frame is capable of causing problems. He’s also still a few years from reaching the traditional peak age for MMA’s big men, so the best could still be to come from the Strela Team product.
Organization: Absolute Championship Berkut
This St Petersburg native began his career with a mixed 5-4 record, but has been on a tear since 2012, putting together a 14-fight winning streak that features the scalps of Brett Rogers, Paul Buentello and Mike Kyle, names familiar names to Western MMA fans. Like Pavlovich, he’s a finisher, with eight KOs and seven submissions to his name thanks to tight boxing, a slick ground game and lethal head-kicking ability. He’d offer problems and be a tough test for most fighters around the division’s top 10.
Organization: Fight Nights Global
Another former Bellator champion, and the man that took the belt from Volkov back in 2013. Minakov is the elder Statesman of this group, having turned 32 this year, but he’s arguably just entering his peak years. Remember, Randy Couture became heavyweight champion for the third time aged 43. In terms of skills, he’s got the full package and he boasts a fearsome 20-0 record with 18 stoppages. He’s also shown interest in fighting for the UFC and strengthened his case for a place among the elite with a second-round knockout of former UFC contender Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva in June.
*** A different version of this feature appears in the July 2017 issue of Fighters Only magazine, available now in the US and the UK ***