When Fedor Emelianenko tapped-out to Fabricio Werdum it was instantly considered as one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport. When MMA fans consider the biggest upsets in the sport, GSP’ s loss at the hands of Matt Serra instantly comes to mind. Unlike recent upsets such as BJ Penn’s loss to Frankie Edgar, GSP and Fedor we’re both decisively finished. In GSP’s case, he flat out got his ass kicked, while Fedor looked out of shape and bored. Let’s compare both upsets by looking at a few key factors.
Stage of career – When GSP lost to Serra, he was 25 years-old and was in the early stages of the prime of his career. It was his first title defense, and we was coming off six straight wins. Fedor is 33 years-old, and while most will agree he’s still one of the sports top fighters, it’s fair to say that his most dominant days are probably behind him. At the time of the upsets, GSP was still climbing the pound for pound list, while Fedor was at the very minimum, a top three pound for pound fighter in the world. It’s fair to say that Fedor was at a higher stage in his career than GSP when they were defeated.
Quality of opponent – Going into the GSP fight, Serra had a record of 9-4 with victories over names no bigger than Chris Lytle and Yves Edwards. Werdum on the other hand, had a record of 13-4 with victories over respected names like Antonio Silva, Brandon Vera and Gabriel Gonzaga. A big difference here, especially for the ‘casual fan’, is that Serra had much more recognition thanks to his win on season 4 of The Ultimate Fighter. Even with that factored in, it’s fair to say that Werdum has the edge as a tougher opponent than Serra was.
Impact on the organization – The problem with Strikeforce isn’t exactly a lack of talent, it’s a lack of household names that can sell pay-per views and keep the organization relevant. Names like Gilbert Melendez, Cung Le and Brett Rogers don’t exactly jump off the page when trying to sell pay-per views. A major upset in the UFC doesn’t affect them as much as a major upset in Strikeforce due to the big handful of headliners the UFC has on its roster. With Fedor’s loss, Strikeforce can no longer sell him as this unbeatable, mystical fighter. That, tied in with the fact that Fedor does next to nothing in terms of self promotion doesn’t bode well for him or his organization. If one of the UFC’s top fighters falls off, they can simply plug someone else into that role. Strikeforce can’t say the same, which makes the upset as painful to them as it does to Fedor.
Time will only tell how Fedor’s loss will affect him, Strikeforce and MMA as a whole. It appears as if GSP’s loss to Matt Serra may have actually been good for him as he has since recaptured the UFC Welterweight Title, while winning seven fights in a row, not to mention becoming the sports most dominant wrestler. Is it too late in Fedor’s career to turn back the clock and return to #1 pound for pound status? Probably not, but that’s up to Fedor. He definitely won’t get there if he continues to be a big fish in Strikeforce’s small pond. 33 is by no means old, but he shouldn’t exactly be taking his time if he wants to compete with the divisions best in the UFC. Will the loss to Werdum be the turning point in Fedor’s career? In GSP’s case, the loss to Serra was a positive turning point, but with so many factors going against him, it’s hard to see how the loss can have any positive impact on Fedor’s future and his legacy.