Bellator's heavyweight tournament draws a lot of buzz due to the high-profile names it features. None are bigger than Fedor Emelianenko and Frank Mir. Fedor is the former long time Pride Heavyweight Champion and at one point held a record of 31-1, making him one of the greatest heavyweights of all time. Frank Mir shares that distinction thanks to his reigns as the UFC Heavyweight Champion and the interim champion. Fedor is known for his power and Sambo ability while Mir is considered one of the best grapplers ever to fight at heavyweight.
Fedor Emelianenko: Has the game evolved without him?
About 10 years ago, Fedor Emelianenko was considered by many to be the greatest heavyweight the sport of MMA had ever seen. He won 26 consecutive fights, a feat unheard of for a heavyweight, and held the Pride belt for over three years before leaving the promotion. After one win in Strikeforce, Fedor lost three straight fights and was finished each time. After five more wins in Asia, Fedor came back to the United States where he was finished again in his Bellator debut by Matt Mitrione. While each opponent that Fedor lost to can be considered an elite fighter, there is one glaring difference between his wins and his losses. Fedor wins in a ring and loses in a cage. Frank Mir actually pointed this out in Ariel Helwani's MMA Hour. Because of his Sambo background, Fedor likes to ground and pound his opponents. He is not used to fighting in a ring though, where his opponent can gain leverage to stand back up.
Despite his disadvantage in every physical category, including age, the 41-year-old Fedor may have the intangibles to win this fight. He looks to be in exceptional shape and is in this fight for more than the paycheck. Fedor has shown little interest in promotion and wants nothing more than to avenge his loss to Mitrione in his Bellator debut. The striking of Fedor will be huge and if he can get on top of Mir in the middle of the cage, he could get a ground and pound finish. Frank Mir is a jiu-jitsu master and very dangerous from the bottom but the Combat Sambo background of Emelianenko could negate that advantage.
Frank Mir: A champion returns
Frank Mir has not had a fight outside of the UFC since 2001. Since then, he claimed a UFC belt on two separate occasions before finally making the more to Bellator. The fact that he has lost six of his last eight fights is worrying to some but the men that defeated Mir include Daniel Cormier, Junior dos Santos, Josh Barnett, Mark Hunt, Alistair Overeem, and Andrei Arlovski. That is not exactly a cakewalk of opponents. Because he has been out for so long, this fight will depend more on the training that Mir has been going through than his recent opponents. He weighed around 300 pounds at one point but he has slimmed down substantially and plans to come into this fight at his usual fighting weight.
The jiu-jitsu of Frank Mir is always what sets him apart. He secured eight submission victories in the UFC, using six different techniques. Even if the wrestling of Fedor causes Mir to end up on the bottom, the dangerous joint locks will still be in play. Because of how dominant Mir has been on the ground in MMA, it is easy to forget that he holds a black belt in Kempo Karate as well. Mir has some of the best kicks in the heavyweight division which will just add to the reach advantage he already has over Fedor. If Mir can establish his kicks early, Fedor may be reluctant to shoot for a takedown and Mir can opt to strike or go for a takedown of his own.
Fedor Emelianenko is a determined man. He does not like losing and expects to be the best, even at 41. While he does look to be in great shape, MMA may have evolved past the skillset of the Russian. Fedor is an all-time great and a legend of the sport but his inability to fight effectively in a cage and his matchup with Mir could lead to another loss.
That matchup advantage for Mir is that he will feel comfortable on the feet or on the ground, even if he ends up under Fedor. Of course he will have some ring rust and anxiety but when Frank Mir gets in the cage, he will got back to his kicks and his grappling and settle right in. Fedor will be resilient and fend off a finish, but Frank Mir will get the better of him both on the feet and on the mat.
Frank Mir by Decision