The consensus greatest heavyweight of all time Fedor Emelianenko will always be remembered as “the one who got away” for UFC fans.
The legendary heavyweight dominated the sport for over a decade reigning supreme as the PRIDE Heavyweight Champion, being the first and last WAMMA Heavyweight Champion as well as winning multiple Open-weight tournaments. He has wins against names such as Antonio ‘Big Nog’ Nogueira (twice), Mark Coleman (twice), Kevin Randleman, Gary Goodridge, Mirko Cro-Cop, Mark Hunt, Tim Sylvia, Frank Mir, Andrei Arlovski, Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson on his record too, solidifying his claim as one of the all-time greats. Due to contract disputes and collapsed negotiations, Fedor never competed under the UFC banner.
Brock Lesnar is another “what if” for UFC fans, though in a different way. Lesnar didn’t start training MMA until 2006 and had his first professional fight in 2007. He then signed with the UFC later that year and within three fights he was the organisation’s Heavyweight Champion, defeating the legendary Randy Couture via TKO in the 2nd round. He defended the title twice successfully, beating Frank Mir in a rematch and then overcoming big trouble in the first round against Shane Carwin to defeat him via submission in the 2nd.
Lesnar’s dominance in the heavyweight division was short lived as he lost his next two fights to Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem after a battle with ulcerative colitis, before retiring. But many fans and experts alike would love to know what would’ve happened if Lesnar had trained for MMA from a young age.
His explosive power and speed for a guy who had to cut weight to make the 265lbs weight limit was staggering and his wrestling credentials stand up with the best the sport has seen. With more time to work on his striking game, which improved as he fought more, could have seen the most complete heavyweight since… Fedor Emelianenko.
The Russian was a clinical striker but had one of the most complete skillsets in MMA history. A multiple time World Champion in Combat Sambo, his grappling was a big part of the reason he was able to get so many knockouts. People didn’t want to go to ground with him and would rather take the chance of landing a big shot to put his lights out. Of his 39 wins, he got 15 KO’s and 15 submissions proving just how well rounded he was.
If the two fought each other during Lesnar’s peak (Fedor’s prime was arguably before Lesnar even started training), it would be a phenomenal battle that would shake the world. A must-see fight where you’re not really sure how it will go.
Lesnar’s wrestling was so dominant and his fighting style quite one-dimensional. If he couldn’t get the takedown on Fedor, it would be over pretty quickly on the feet. But if he did? Lesnar’s sheer size and strength would likely be enough to subdue Fedor and he could work him from top position. Fedor would be comfortable on his back and likely look for submissions, but the reality is Lesnar would simply be too good in this position.
As the saying goes however, every fight starts on the feet and that’s why I give the edge to Emelianenko. His striking game was so crisp and his power so lethal, from what we’ve seen of Brock’s chin I’m not so sure he’d hold up. Fedor was a brutal finisher so if Brock got hurt it wouldn’t go on much longer than that either.
I’m giving the W to Fedor in this, via TKO by strikes, but it’s a real shame that we never got to see a fight that likely would have taken the sport up several levels globally long before Conor McGregor ever came around.