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Eleven Ways of Looking at Fedor Emelianenko's Latest Loss

After Fedor Emelianenko's second consecutive defeat rocked the MMA world in the opening round of the Strikeforce heavyweight Grand Prix, it's hard not to ask, what does it all mean? What happened on Saturday night against Antonio Silva, and how does it change our understanding of future and past events?

There are many (sometimes directly contradictory) answers to these questions, so we might as well lay them out one by one and make the best case we can for each. Feel free to mix and match where possible.

I. Fedor is the best there ever was. One loss -- or even two straight losses -- doesn't change that. Who else has that kind of win streak? Who else is as well-rounded, or as dominant? Who walked through Cro Cop's hardest shots and shook off a Kevin Randleman suplex? One man, and his name is Fedor. The more the UFC heavyweight strap gets passed around like an iPod at a white elephant gift exchange, the more you'll come to realize just how glorious Fedor's run was.

II. Fedor is a great from another era of MMA, and that era is now over. His reign arguably began when he defeated Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira for the Pride heavyweight championship in 2003. Back then, fighters were still more likely to specialize in one discipline above all others, and the few heavyweights who soared well above the 250 pound mark were often oafs who relied on strength at the expense of skill. The world of the MMA heavyweight has changed drastically since then, and still Fedor managed to hold on to his top spot for the better part of the last decade. Who else from that era managed to be so great for so long?

III. The size difference was simply too much.
Silva weighed in 34 pounds heavier than Fedor, and likely added another twenty or so before he hit the cage on fight night. Maybe Fedor could afford to give up that kind of weight to the Zuluzinho's and Hong Man Choi's of the world, but Silva presents a different challenge. If Fedor were a young fighter starting out today, he'd likely do so as a light heavyweight. For better or worse, he preferred to compete as an undersized heavyweight, and it finally caught up with him.

IV. Everyone gets old eventually – even the great ones. Fedor turned 34 in September. If you're a lawyer, that's no big deal. If you're a fighter, it's about the point where the reflexes slow and the injuries of the past begin to remind you of all the years you spent using your body as a wrecking ball. Sure, Cain Velasquez has it all now, but he's 28 and has been doing this less than five years. Ask him how he feels when he's more than a decade in. Ask him after he's had his nose and hand broken more times than he cares to count. See if he's not a little weary of it all by then, too.

V. Fedor is done. When you get beat up like he did on Saturday night and your first thought is of retirement rather than revenge, better hang it up quick before something bad happens. Lately he's been edging towards the door in interviews, and while M-1 Global might not want to lose their meal ticket, a reluctant fighter is a walking disaster. It's better to be no fighter at all than an indecisive one.

VI. Fedor's not even close to done. This loss will reignite the fire in him, maybe convince him to switch up his training, and before you know it he'll be cold-clocking people on his way up the ranks again. Just you wait.

VII. Fedor didn't fall apart all at once; he declined gradually, but against lesser competition. The last time Fedor fought more than twice in a year was in 2005, and then only if you include his New Year's Eve freak show fight with Zuluzinho. Since then he's beaten Brett Rogers, Andrei Arlovski, Tim Sylvia, Hong Man Choi, Matt Lindland, Mark Hunt, and Mark Coleman. Several of them seemed at or near the top when Fedor faced them, but in retrospect that list seems less impressive (For instance, Sylvia was a former champ when Fedor beat him, but he was also 1-2 in his last three fights). You can always poke holes in someone's resume if you want to badly enough, but it's possible that Fedor's pace and quality of competition helped hide the natural atrophy of his abilities, at least for a little while.

VIII. "Bigfoot" Silva is better than we thought he was. Aside from an early loss to Eric Pele, his only defeat came in a close decision against Fabricio Werdum, who is also better than we thought he was. It's not like Fedor is losing to chumps; he's falling to guys who, either from poor promotion or a lack of awareness on the part of the fans and media, have flown under the radar. Consecutive losses to guys like that aren't anything to be ashamed of, or any reason to feel like retirement is the only choice left.

IX. Fedor fans are right to scorn Dana White's Twitter response. Not surprisingly, the UFC president used Emelianenko's most recent loss to claim that he was nothing but a paper tiger bolstered by a clueless media. Of course, if White had successfully signed Emelianenko on one of several attempts, it's not to hard to imagine that his take on Fedor's past accomplishments would have changed in a hurry. That so many fans rushed to condemn White's remarks on Twitter is a sign of how social media allows the collective voice of the masses to rival that of the powerful few. It also helps keep those inclined toward revisionist history just a tad more honest.

X. Fedor fans are so prone to hero worship that they miss the bigger picture. It's ironic that Fedor, who shows so little emotion and seems at times equally confused and embarrassed by the public's fascination with him, inspires an almost cult-like zeal among his supporters. It's almost as if they feel the need to express the emotions that he can't, or at least won't. It also makes them mythologize him to the point where they soften his career missteps and lash out angrily at anyone who dares to suggest that he is anything less than a living god. Fedor is human, and he is flawed. To acknowledge as much would actually make his accomplishments in the sport more and not less impressive. In other words, let's not pretend that his 31 victories aren't padded with a few easy marks, or that his willingness to let M-1 Global call the shots didn't prohibit us from seeing some of the fights we had hoped for.

XI. Fedor didn't make the appropriate adjustments, and he paid for it.
After his first real loss in June, Emelianenko said he made no serious changes to his training regimen. That could be because he regarded it as a symptom of one careless mistake, or it could be because, at 34, he only knows one way to train and has no interest in learning a new one. Regardless, if you're not improving as a fighter, you're falling behind. Fedor lost and then decided to keep doing what he'd always done, so he lost again. It's as simple as that.

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