Three Fights to Make for a Fedor Emelianenko UFC Debut

September 2, 2015

A Fedor Emelianenko return to mixed martial arts is imminent. We’re simply waiting for the former pound-for-pound great to sign on the dotted line.

As speculation regarding where the 38-year-old Russian might land continues to whirl, it’s more than likely that his team and the UFC will bypass bad blood in order to strike a deal.

Emelianenko recently posted on his Instagram suggesting a signing with the MMA juggernaut is in the works.

If this is in fact true, UFC president Dana White will have finally caught his white whale. Fedor has evaded the promotion’s grasp in years past, but now more than ever, his monumental Octagon debut is a real probability.

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But while many people wouldn’t mind seeing The Last Emperor take on the winner of Fabricio Werdum vs. Cain Velasquez II for heavyweight gold, it’s truly rare that a promotional newcomer fights for a title in his debut. The last guy that comes to mind to do such a thing was former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez, who lost to former UFC lightweight kingpin Benson Henderson at UFC on Fox 7 in 2013.

Even the mighty Anderson Silva had to dispose of Chris Leben in 49 seconds before getting his hands on then titleholder Rich Franklin.

Keeping that in mind, the UFC would most likely pin Emelianenko up against a Top 5 contender in order to strike while the iron is hot. He isn’t a fighter who’s likely to stick around for the next five years, so it’s paramount that all parties involved aim to take full advantage of Fedor’s welcoming party.

With all of that said, assuming the former Pride heavyweight champion doesn’t get a crack at the title from the onset, here are three potential fights to make for Fedor’s long-awaited UFC debut:

Winner of Frank Mir vs. Andrei Arlovski

This match-up makes the most sense not only based on scheduling, considering these two will meet at UFC 191 on Saturday, but also because they are two of most decorated UFC heavyweights of all time.

FedorArlovski923AF2-750Not to mention the fact that Emelianenko and Arlovski already have history, as Fedor defeated Pitbull back in 2009 via first-round knockout.

Challenging either Mir or Arlovski would allow Emelianenko to work his way into the title mix as quickly as possible. These are two of the hottest fighters in the division today, and would certainly possess the marketability to make a showdown with the greatest heavyweight of all time as anticipated as any fight in the history of the weight class.

On paper, Arlovski would be the easier fight, not only because Fedor defeated him once before, but more so because Mir is the most dangerous grappling specialist on the roster not named Werdum. While Emelianenko has only lost once via submission (to Werdum back in 2010, thus ending a 28-fight unbeaten streak), Mir’s ability to attack off his back would essentially limit the Russian’s ground-and-pound.

However, if Mir is able to get past Arlovski this weekend, this scenario becomes even more likely.

Winner of Junior dos Santos vs. Alistair Overeem

While it would be unfair to throw Emelianenko against dos Santos after riding the sidelines for over three years, it’s one of the most recognizable match-ups the UFC could make.

The Brazilian is undoubtedly one of the most popular fighters in the promotion, let alone the heavyweight division. He has paid his dues throughout his tenure to deserve the opportunity to welcome The Last Emperor to the Octagon. But he must first get past the resurgent Overeem at UFC on Fox 17 this December before any talks about a fight with Fedor take flight.

If “Cigano” is able to bypass the athleticism and strength of Overeem, then a match-up with Emelianenko could be billed as a fight between two of the most vicious strikers in heavyweight history.

If it is Overeem who prevails over JDS in December, then he would earn the right to be considered to fight Fedor. The Dutchman’s size and near-six inch reach advantage would give him the upper hand on the feet, but Emelianenko’s wrestling ability would certainly flourish in such a match-up.

Either way you split it, both dos Santos and Overeem would serve as formidable adversaries for Emelianenko’s return to the cage. But based on punching power, takedown defense and the ability to absorb damage, JDS would be the tougher out.

Winner of Mark Hunt vs. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva II

The big-ticket names at heavyweight keep rolling in. And even though other potential divisional suitors like Stipe Miocic or Ben Rothwell deserve recognition, Fedor is a name that demands more star power from his opponents.

Thus, the winner of Hunt vs. Silva II, scheduled to take place at UFC 193 in November, is a perfect candidate to fill such onerous shoes.

Despite a recent first-round finish of Soa Palelei back in early August, Bigfoot has fallen behind the rest of the seething heavyweights over the past two years. But, considering the barbaric Brazilian has already defeated Emelianenko via second-round doctor’s stoppage back in 2011, his track record would allow for him to legitimately jump to the front of the pack.

Mark Hunt vs. Fedor in PrideAs for Hunt, his case can also be made on the foundation of previously fighting The Last Emperor. Considering he lost via submission back at Pride Shockwave 2006, the New Zealand native would be better off relying on his undying popularity around the sport.

With a knack for turning every one of his Octagon outings into bloody warfare, the 41-year-old has become a true fan favorite in a division chock-full of likable characters. And with unfathomable punching power and an iron chin to call his own, “The Super Samoan” would put Fedor to work.

Of course, The Last Emperor first has to put pen to paper and make his UFC debut official before any of these bouts could become a reality. But if he does, there are certainly some interesting match-ups to be made.

Who would you like to see Fedor fight?

(Follow Daniel Hiergesell @DH_MMA on Twitter)

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