Welcome back fans and friends to another edition of â€śGreat Moments in MMA Historyâ€ť. Todayâ€™s moment centers on the one and only Fedor Emelianenko, and with a career as storied as Fedorâ€™s, itâ€™s tough to pick what fight to highlight first. In what was undeniably the deepest Heavyweight division on the planet, Fedor Emelianenko reigned supreme as the PRIDE Heavyweight Champion with one dominating win after another, a streak of victories against stellar opponents that has yet to be matched (although current UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva is catching up). But it all had to start somewhere, and despite Fedor having won one fight in PRIDE before todayâ€™s featured fight, the crushing defeat of Heath Herring by Fedor Emelianenko is undoubtedly one of Fedorâ€™s greatest moments.
Despite all that he would come to be, Emelianenko entered the PRIDE ring with relatively little fanfare. Even after a convincing win over the gargantuan Semmy Schilt, most people believed that â€śThe Texas Crazy Horseâ€ť would be too much for the stoic Russian. At the time, Herring was one of the best Heavyweights PRIDE had to offer, having only lost two fights out of nine leading up to his bout with Emelianenko, and those two losses were to Vitor Belfort and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, who were both considered (and are still considered) top-level talent. Herring was a former championship contender, and with his already-strong desire to win coupled with a newfound lust to get another crack at the Heavyweight gold, it should have been an exciting fight that ended with Herring making a dominant statement that he was ready for another shot at â€śMinotauroâ€ť.
This is not to say that everyone was counting Emelianenko out, far from it. Anyone with a brain could see how much potential was hidden beneath that stone-cold, unwavering gaze. But the fight with Herring was simply a matter of â€śtoo soon, too badâ€ť. Herring was a man possessed, and Emelianenko stood in his way. As talented as Emelianenko was, he just wasnâ€™t ready for the kind of powerhouse full-steam-ahead wrecking ball that Heath Herring had proven to be. Emelianenko was simply a man between a rock and a hard place. But then the fight startedâ€¦and the rock ended up being Emelianenkoâ€™s fist, while the hard place ended up being Heath Herringâ€™s skull.
I donâ€™t think itâ€™s a hyperbole to say that Heath Herring absorbed some of the most powerful Ground and Pound shots in the history of Mixed Martial Arts in his fight with Emelianenko. At the end of the first round, his face looked like a bizarre caricature instead of the actual Heath Herring. The term â€śpulverizedâ€ť never fit better: Herringâ€™s face literally looked like someone had taken a meat tenderizer to it. Herring showed incredible heart and a chin made out of concrete in that fight, but I was immensely relieved when the referee called off the fight, because I honestly no longer wanted to watch Herring take those kinds of shots. Looking back, the memory that stuck out the most in my head was how unnerved I felt at how Emelianenko could inflict that type of punishment and still have a blank slate for a face.
Fedor would go on to become one of the best Heavyweight champions of all time, one of my favorite fighters of all time, and one of the best Mixed Martial Artists of all time. But this fight, like no other fight before it, introduced the entire world to Fedor Emelianenko. It was the birth of an empire, and without a doubt, it was a â€śGreat Moment in MMA Historyâ€ť.
And remember, fans and friends, if youâ€™d like to see your favorite moment covered in â€śGMMMAâ€ť, Iâ€™m all ears and open to suggestions.
By: Oliver Saenz