In 2003 Pedro Rizzo and Fedor Emelianenko is a heckuva matchup to make. Rizzo was still arguably at the peak of his UFC run and Fedor was just beginning his dominant run in Pride. While it wouldn’t have been the highest rated matchup possible in the heavyweight division, of course, but it would’ve been somewhat compelling. Nearly a decade later Fedor vs. Rizzo feels like an aging veteran trying to win a “gimme” matchup against someone he’s been set up to defeat. And the fight won’t prove that Fedor’s reign of dominance is once again renewed, as victories over Jeff Monson and Satoshi Ishii as well as Rizzo aren’t going to establish Fedor as the #1 heavyweight in the world again.
It’ll just prove that Fedor needs to be in the UFC to get a tough challenge.
When you look at the heavyweight pool outside of the UFC/Strikeforce banner the talented heavyweights available are few and far between. Outside of Rizzo the biggest names available that aren’t under the UFC/Strikeforce banner are perhaps Sean McCorkle, Andrei Arlovski and Bellator’s Cole Konrad. Throw in a handful of names and you have a limited amount of matchups that make sense for Fedor. He is too experienced and too savvy to take on local, regional fighters across the U.S or worldwide. It’s not like he can take a fight with a mid range fighter on a Jungle Fights card and be facing competition that makes sense.
Rizzo makes sense in a lot of ways: he’s still a name, has a number of quality victories on his record and is still enough for a decent payday for the champion under the M-1 Global brand. It may not be as tough fight as it was 10 years ago but that’s part of the reason why M-1 would pursue a fight with someone like Rizzo. It’s a payday and a winnable fight for him. So would a fight with someone like Sean McCorkle or a rematch with Arlovski for the matter. Both are tough fighters and not guaranteed victories but it’s not as if he can book a fight with someone like Cain Velasquez in Moscow either.
You have to take what you can, sometimes, if you don’t want to fight under the Zuffa banner. As much as we want to complain that Fedor isn’t fighting top notch competition like we want him to, and like he was until he departed from Strikeforce on a three fight losing streak, this is as good as he can do right now. Outside of entering a Bellator tournament or fighting someone like Todd Duffee in the Indian MMA promotion Super Fight League, fighters like Rizzo are the ones that are left for him.
That’s what happens when you lose as much leverage as Fedor used to have.
When he the undefeated and undisputed best heavyweight in the world he could dictate the terms by which he fought under after Pride was sold. M-1 could ask for anything they wanted because they had the best chip in MMA: the undefeated, undisputed #1 heavyweight in the world. After he tapped out to Fabricio Werdum and was stopped by Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva and Dan Henderson he and his handlers at M-1 lost the ability to dictate the terms under which he fought.
Seeing Fedor almost reduced to fighting guys like Rizzo and Ishii to wind down his career, without a stop under the Zuffa banner to see if he could hang with the top of the heap, is a sad way to wind up for the man who once thought to be nigh unbeatable. But until he signs with the UFC then these are the types of matchups to expect.