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Strikeforce Main Event Breakdown: Fedor Emelianenko vs. Brett Rogers

Fedor EmelianenkoIn August of 1995, Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci penned a feature about pitcher Greg Maddux entitled "Once in a Lifetime." Wearing an Atlanta Braves uniform, Maddux also graced the cover of SI in that issue. The photo showed a focused Maddux a nanosecond after delivering a pitch. The caption read "The Greatest Pitcher You'll Ever See."

One line in the story has stuck with me for all these years: "Did you see van Gogh paint? No, you could respond, but I saw Greg Maddux pitch." Maddux, of course, has nothing to do with MMA (although he has attended at least one UFC event), but the premise of the story has everything to do with Saturday night.

Fedor Emelianenko is MMA's van Gogh, its immeasurably gifted genius, and Saturday, he will be fighting Brett Rogers in front of the largest American audience ever to witness him.

Emelianenko is, simply put, the greatest fighter in MMA history. A case can be made for others, but his record of success (he is 30-1, with one no contest) is unmatched in the sport, and will likely remain so well into the future.

In breaking down Emelianenko-Rogers, there is only one advantage you can tuck into Rogers' column, and that's power. Everything else, from big-match experience, to overall striking, to the ground game, is clearly and decisively in Emelianenko's favor.

The beauty of MMA, and of sports, however, is that matchups are not played on paper, but on a field, a diamond, or in this case, a cage.

Does the 10-0 Rogers have a chance to win? Yes. You only have to go back to 2007 when Matt Serra scored a shocking, first-round knockout over UFC welterweight kingpin Georges St. Pierre to see that even a sizeable underdog has a puncher's chance against a champion. But when it comes to Fedor, we've seen him find ways to win over and over.

Emelianenko has beaten strikers at the top of their game, like Mirko Cro Cop, and he's beaten legendary grapplers, like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. He's beaten Olympic wrestlers like Mark Coleman and Olympic judo players, like Naoya Ogawa. He's beaten giants, and he's beaten smaller men with speed advantages.

Against Rogers, his biggest advantage will likely be the ground game. Emelianenko has some of the best ground and pound in the sport, continually attacking. When an opening for a submission appears, he won't hesitate to take it, even if it means possibly losing position.

In the standup game, he will give up significant height and reach to Rogers, who is five inches taller than Emelianenko. Because Emelianenko, at 6 feet tall, has always been an undersized heavyweight, that shouldn't play much of a factor, as Rogers isn't quite technical enough to capitalize on the advantage the way that Andrei Arlovski did in the early going of his match with Fedor before making a crucial mistake.

Rogers doesn't have particularly fast hands, either. But what he does have is a fearless attitude and conviction behind his strikes, which often times goes farther than someone with fast hands, technical abilities and the reluctance to do anything with either.

Rogers is being counted out by most, partly because of Emelianenko's storied past, and partly because of his own unpolished skills. That's a mistake. Because despite what we just pointed out about Emelianenko, there have also been chinks in his armor appearing.

To wit:

-- Emelianenko was being outstruck by Arlvoski prior to the finishing blow

-- After the Arlovski fight, his trainer Vladimir Voronov admitted Emelianenko had been "distracted" in preparing for the fight

-- Saturday night's fight will be Fedor's first in a cage, and he did not train in a cage

-- Emelianenko recently stated that MMA is "not his passion," but a job

None of this, of course, means that he will lose, or even that he is due for a loss, but collectively, it at least raises some doubt about his mindset after a decade of dominance in the sport. For the record, it should also be noted that Rogers has faced some adversity of his own, as FanHouse has confirmed that striking coach Sergio Cunha -- who he worked with only briefly -- is no longer in his camp.

Emelianenko may be the greatest of all time, but his legacy will not win him this fight. If Emelianenko is off his game, unfocused or has not trained well, Rogers, with his one-punch knockout power, has a real chance. But if Fedor is on, sit back, relax and enjoy it, for it is rare to have the opportunity to watch a master at work.

Simply put, a focused Fedor will mean a rough night for Rogers, and even the reasons listed above are not enough to pick against a fighter who has really never been beaten, aside from a cut stoppage. The pick here is Emelianenko by submission.

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