By Josh Stein on Jul 22, 2009
I wish I could say it did. I really do.
I wish I could say that the world’s greatest heavyweight, the most consistent and dominant fighter in the history of the sport, fighting anyone is significant, but it’s not. Vitor Belfort (18-8 MMA, 7-4 UFC, #9 IWMMAR) is a great fighter, but he’s a middleweight, and hasn’t fought a strict heavyweight since his bout with Heath Herring (28-14-0-1 MMA, 2-3 UFC) in 2001. This is a guy who, while probably only 15-20 pounds lighter than Fedor Emelianenko (30-1-0-1 MMA, #1 IWMMAR), fights two weight classes lower, and is stepping in against a fighter who routinely beats fighters 30 pounds heavier than he is.
Giving Fedor a weight advantage is like giving Brock Lesnar (4-1 MMA, #2 IWMMAR) an experience advantage. It’s overkill.
In fairness to Belfort, he’s coming off of an incredible win over Matt Lindland (21-6 MMA, 9-3 UFC), and finished him faster than Fedor did (and less controversially) when Lindland and Emelianenko met in Russia. But that’s not what the issue is. The issue is, Vitor is not a relevant opponent. With two recent wins over respectable, relevant opposition, Emelianenko was expected to meet a third, but he won’t.
The real issue is that, if Fedor beats Belfort, it means nothing. If Fedor beat Josh Barnett (24-5 MMA, 4-1 UFC, #3 IWMMAR), he would reestablish himself against another top heavyweight, and a fighter that many thought had a decisive gameplan and a potential advantage on the ground. Fedor reestablishes that he’s the most dominant heavyweight in history.
Belfort doesn’t establish that Fedor is dominant. Belfort, much to my shagrin, is another of the freak matchups that fans have complained so vigorously about. Perhaps not as visible as Hong Man Choi (2-2 MMA), but whenever a fighter comes up two weight classes, whether the size difference is visibly freakish or not, whether one fighter is a freak or it’s simply the matchup.
If Belfort beats Fedor, which he won’t, it will certainly shock the world, but no more than anyone else beating Fedor, for the most part. (perhaps some wouldn’t be surprised by Fedor losing to Barnett, who’s a tough and respected heavyweight, or at least was, but the point stands)
The matchp with Belfort is no more relevant, in my opinion, than Fedor fighting a much smaller fighter like Renato Sobral (35-8 MMA, 6-4 UFC, #9 IWMMAR), who Emelianenko beat twice, a long time ago. If Fedor beats Belfort, it’s not a win that will matter in the scheme of Fedor’s career, even in terms of his recent history.
Can a win over a world class middleweight, be worth more than a win over a world class heavyweight like Barnett or Andrei Arlovski (15-7 MMA, 10-4 UFC, #10 IWMMAR)? Of course not.
If this is a good fight, and it very well could be, if Belfort is game and is able to work his standup, it could help improve his standing in the world, but the chances that he’ll last longer than a few minutes are not good. If he does, that’ll be a great statement for Belfort, but as long as Fedor wins, it will have little, if any, impact on the world of mixed martial arts, and will have to sacrifice one of the best fights on the card, Belfort’s bout with fellow middleweight Jorge Santiago (22-7 MMA, 1-2 UFC, #6 IWMMAR) to make it happen.
Sacrificing a bout that has an impact on the middleweight division to put together a bout that doesn’t effect the heavyweight division seems bizarre to me, but these are the lengths that they go through to find an opponent for the man people are going to pay to see.
Filed Under: MMA
About the Author: Joshua Stein is a writer and editor for MMA Opinion. He has worked as a photographer and journalist and has a number of print journalism credits. He also works as a moderator for MMAForum.com and a grappling columnist (covering judo, collegiate wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and submission grappling) for profighting-fans.com.