Rogers vs. Emelianenko not a bad matchup
With so few details surrounding the Fedor Emelianenko-Brett Rogers fight, one can’t help but look ahead.
Along with Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum, Rogers is one of the three heavyweights in Strikeforce who can challenge Emelianenko.
Unless Strikeforce can sign other top-caliber heavyweights, Emelianenko will run into a competitive void in the promotion after he fights these three. However, a location and a date must be selected for his Strikeforce debut.
Despite the uncertain competitive climate of Strikeforce’s heavyweight division and the risk of a strategic blunder, Emelianenko vs. Rogers is more than a simple showcase of the most accomplished heavyweight in the world: This high-profile fight also serves as a plum opportunity for Strikeforce’s potential future star to accelerate his career.
Rogers is 10-0 with 10 stoppages (nine TKOs and one submission via punches). His recent 22-second destruction of former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski has catapulted him to the upper echelon of the heavyweight division.
That as well as his previous exposure on broadcast TV makes him a recognizable figure among the mainstream audience.
Having fought three times for the now-defunct Elite XC, he has shown a wide audience a glimpse of his fearsome power. Also, a verbal spat turned near-altercation with Kimbo Slice during the postfight press conference following an Elite XC event has garnered him infamy.
While Rogers is a promising albeit untested prospect, he has nothing to lose by fighting Emelianenko.
A loss will blemish his perfect record, but he will not suffer any shame in losing to the No. 1 heavyweight in the world: It will serve as a great learning opportunity for him and giving Emelianenko a tough fight will most certainly boost his stock and confidence.
Needless to say, pulling off the story-of-the-year upset victory will give him the acclaim most fighters strive to achieve throughout their entire careers.
Given his recognition and the tremendous upside, Rogers presents the most intriguing matchup for Emelianenko. Also, his relative inexperience belies the surprising competitiveness he will enjoy.
The other potential challengers — Overeem and Werdum — are far more battle-tested than Rogers, boasting top notch experience in world class organizations such as Pride and the UFC. However, their lack of recognition among the casual fans and lackluster matchup against Emelianenko make them tough sell as challengers to the heavyweight king of the world.
Overeem’s kickboxing prowess can be a potent weapon against Emelianenko, similar to how Arlovski frustrated Emelianenko with technical striking before his mental lapse cost him the Affliction bout in January.
Yet, Overeem has suffered numerous TKO losses while fighting as a light heavyweight, and his visible loss of speed upon moving up to heavyweight diminish his competitiveness.
Furthermore, his capricious disposition and recent bouts of mishaps make him a liability for the organization.
He has yet to make his first defense of Strikeforce heavyweight title nearly two years after being crowned. Also, withdrawing from scheduled fights at recent Strikeforce events and announcing to fight this fall in K-1, Overeem now cannot be counted upon to even show up to fight.
Werdum, on the other hand, is an accomplished Brazilian jiujitsu practitioner who has fought in Pride and UFC. While his submission savvy is a strong asset, the threat it poses against Emelianenko is underwhelming.
Though Rogers greatly trails Emelianenko in experience and pedigree, he possesses the size, power and explosiveness to put on a tough fight.
Granted, his one-dimensional style puts him at a significant disadvantage against Emelianenko, who has defeated fighters of every style.
Nevertheless, a mere “puncher’s chance” does not do justice to the threat Rogers poses.
Over the course of his career, Emelianenko has survived some of his fights having absorbed punishing blows. Though a hard hitter, the “Last Emperor” has never been the most technical striker, particularly in terms of defense.
Heavyweight sluggers such as Kazuyuki Fujita and Mirko Cro Cop have inflicted palpable damage on Emelianenko. His cast-iron chin and unflappability in the face of adversity have helped him persevere time and time again. He has also shown the willingness to absorb strikes to look for submissions, as he did against Hong-Man Choi.
That said, with more than 30 fights in his career, even the heavyweight king is bound to experience the toll of the cumulative wear and tear.
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While he has yet to show signs of slowing down, the willingness to weather punishment not only jeopardizes his viability as a fighter — against a powerful striker like Rogers, it will be a dangerous proposition.
In addition, his technical lapses, such as the lack of head movement and lack of lateral mobility will make him vulnerable against Rogers’ aggression and forward momentum.
Another intriguing facet of the fight is that Emelianenko will be fighting in the cage for the first time. A cage introduces a tactical element that is nonexistent in a ring.
Notably, a fighter can corner his opponent against the cage. With his opponent trapped, he can wage a battle of attrition from the clinch position a la MMA legend, Randy Couture.
With his size advantage and strength, Rogers can try to bully Emelianenko against the cage to nullify his submission savvy and force him into an unfamiliar territory.
Even with significant odds stacked against him, Rogers — unlike Overeem and Werdum — is a legitimate threat to Emelianenko.