Yesterday there was plenty of news surrounding perhaps the two greatest heavyweights to ever compete in MMA. First, Combat Press published an article stating that Fedor Emelianenko had officially signed with the UFC, but the deal was yet to be made public. While that very much may be the case, Fedor’s former manager/agent/business partner Vadim Finkelchtein said that the rumors were unfounded, and that the former PRIDE heavyweight champion was still discussing his options with various promotions. Although Fedor coming to the UFC would be the best case scenario, even at this advanced stage of his career, it may make more sense for ‘The Last Emperor’ to compete in Russia where he is a national hero and would likely see an easier time with his matchmaking. Many current MMA fans may not understand the excitement of Fedor’s return especially given the three-fight losing streak he suffered in Strikeforce. Those would have been his most visible fights to the average North American fan, but his legacy was cemented long before he began fighting on this side of the world. His run from 2000 to 2007, where he went 29-1-1 with the only loss coming via an innocuous cut in a tournament, was phenomenal. He wasn’t always fighting the best competition in the world, but when he needed to step up against the likes of Mirko Cro Cop or Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, he dispatched them. His ability to always find a way to win (like in his bouts against Kevin Randleman and Kazuyuki Fujita) is also the stuff of MMA lore. Speaking of ‘Big Nog’ the original PRIDE heavyweight champion announced his retirement on Tuesday, and he will be taking a position in the UFC’s front office, acting as an ambassador to Brazil. Truly, there may be no better ambassador for the sport in that country than Nogueira. Another fighter with a never-say-die attitude, Nogueira’s slick grappling, always underrated boxing, and unworldly toughness put him at the top of the heavweight division for nearly a decade. Nogueira could never quite topple Emelianenko, but wins over Mark Coleman (when that still meant something), Mirko Cro Cop (in one of MMA’s all-time great heavyweight bouts) and various others gave him perhaps the most complete resume of any heavyweight in history. Unlike Emelianenko, Nogueira was able to make his way over to the UFC, and even captured the interim heavyweight title in his typical get-beaten-up-for-the-first-half-of-the-fight-before-scoring-a-miracle-submission-victory way. Perhaps the most memorable of all Nogueira’s fights was the textbook example of that very style, his 2003 bout against Bob Sapp (again, back when that meant something) at the original Shockwave card. Outweighed by about 150 pounds, Nogueira took a beating from Sapp, including a pro-wrestling stlye piledriver in the the opening seconds of the bout, before securing an armbar in the second round for the win. If you have a UFC Fight Pass subscription, there is a collection on the platform entitled “Thank You Big Nog” with some of his finest moments, and I strongly encourage anyone who has only seen the UFC portion of his career to check that out. The fight announcements from the past 24 hours never could have hoped to live up to the news regarding those two greats, but there are a couple matches on the books which should prove to be entertaining. Featherweight Doo Ho Choi and Sam Sicilia will meet at UFC Fight Night 79 in Seoul, South Korea, while flyweights Neil Seery and Jon Delos Reyes were added to UFC Fight Night 76 in Dublin, Ireland. I like the hometown fighters in both bouts, although Choi’s inactivity since being signed by the UFC is definitely a concern, as is Seery’s age in the flyweight division. We’ll have to wait and see what the lines are for those bouts, but I expect both to be relatively close openers. In other news, John Dodson was forced to fly back to New Mexico in the midst of the final preparations for his title bout with Demetrious Johnson on Saturday. Las Vegas to New Mexico is only a 90-minute flight, and the bulk of Dodson’s preparation has already been completed, so I don’t foresee this changing his fortunes at UFC 191 in any significant way other than perhaps making the weight cut slightly tougher. Finally, WSOF announced yesterday that they’ve brought Chael Sonnen on as a color commentator for their broadcasts. Perhaps pointing to the state of WSOF, this announcement has gotten more attention than any of their recent signees or fight announcements (I think they signed Mike Ricci or someone recently). Sonnen will be a welcome addition to one of the most difficult commentary booths in MMA to listen to.
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