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History in the Making: Between Pride and Strikeforce, Fedor Emelianenko continued to build his legacy

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In Japan, he was the undisputed heavyweight king.

He lorded over the ring in Pride Fighting Championships (Pride FC) with iron fists and vice-like submissions.

Fedor Emelianenko rose to the top of his weight class on the back on wins over the likes of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Heath Herring, and Mirko Filipovic.

But when a Yakuza scandal brought down the Japanese fighting empire, "The Last Emperor" suddenly found himself without a home.

The Russian is now set to take on fellow former Pride FC champion Dan Henderson next Saturday (July 30) at Strikeforce: "Fedor vs. Henderson" in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. But before he signed with the San Jose-based promotion, he was a bit of a nomad fighting in his home country before going back to Japan and finally landing in the United States.

It was during this time that the jeers of his detractors grew to deafening heights, even as his accomplishments in the ring became even more unparalleled.

Let's take a closer look.

When Pride FC fell and was purchased by the UFC, fans' hopes of dream matches began to seemingly become a very realistic possibility.

But the murkiness of the Japanese promotion's contracts prevailed and while fans got fights like Chuck Liddell taking on Wanderlei Silva, "The Last Emperor" was nowhere to be found.

He was, in fact, in his home country, having signed a contract with fledging company BodogFIGHT, started by Calvin Ayre who made his fortune with the online gambling company of the same name.

The fighter was excellent. The setting -- St. Petersburg, Russia -- was perfect. The opponent... well, that decision left something to be desired.

Matt Lindland -- yes, THAT Matt Lindland, the middleweight -- was pegged as "The Last Emperor's" opposition that night. It was the first bit of post-Pride ammunition that mixed martial arts (MMA) cynics got in the campaign to discredit the former Pride champion.

The fight is more well known for the Russian blatantly grabbing the top rope during a takedown attempt from his opponent. Lindland was not able to get Emelianenko to the mat and in fact, was reversed.

From there, he simply out-grappled the American, transitioning from mount to submission and back to mount. Finally, an armbar attempt stuck and Lindland was forced to tap.

Emelianenko's next fight didn't do him any favors with his detractors as he took on 7'2" Hong-man Choi in what amounted to a money-making freakshow fight.

The image of the dwarfed Russian standing next to "The Techno Goliath" almost looked with photo trickery or that it had at least been altered in some way. But it was very real and the size difference between the two fighters was matched only by the ridiculousness of the bout.

"The Last Emperor" botched a takedown attempt and ended up with the giant Korean on top of him. It didn't matter since Choi didn't really have any idea what to do with the Russian in that position anyway.

Less than two minutes later, Emelianenko was submitting his opponent with an armbar.

Two fights since the implosion of Pride FC, two opponents that really had no business being in the ring with Emelianenko.

But that all changed when clothing line turned MMA promoter Affliction signed the Russian to fight for them.

Affliction Entertainment was a hardcore MMA fan's dream come true. They signed the biggest names that weren't housed by the UFC and pitted them against each other.

Emelianenko's first opponent was former UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia. Although half a foot shorter than Choi, "The Maine-iac" still held a sizable reach advantage over the Russian and most expected him to try to jab out a decision or grind the former Pride champion against the ropes like he did against Brandon Vera.

"The Last Emperor" never gave him the chance.

Sylvia was able to throw out a single jab before Emelianenko landed a jab that stunned the American that was followed by an uppercut that staggered him.

A barrage of hooks smashed against the former UFC champion's skull before he dropped face-first to the mat. The Russian immediately jumped on his back to land more punches before deciding to sink in a rear-naked choke.

Sylvia was no undersized fighter or oversized curiosity. He was a legitimate heavyweight and a recent UFC champion. And Fedor wrecked him in 36 seconds.

His next fight was even more daunting. Andrei Arlovski -- unlike Sylvia -- left the UFC on a three-fight win streak and racked up two more wins over current Octagon warriors Ben Rothwell and Roy Nelson.

His two losses to "The Maine-iac" were clearly behind him and he was looking like the only man who could uncrown Emelianenko.

And for several minutes into the bout at the second Affliction event -- Day of Reckoning -- it seemed like he would. The former UFC champ cracked his opponent across the jaw and seemed to stun the Russian early on in the fight and continued to keep him at bay with leg kicks and sharp boxing.

Midway through the round, Arlovski seemed to have a gameplan that would best Emelianeko. A body shot was followed by a right to the Russian's chin. A push kick from the Belrusian pushed "The Last Emperor" against the ropes.

"The Pitbull" decided to get fancy by throwing a flying knee and it was the decision that ended the fight. Flying through the air, he was at his opponent's mercy when Emelianeko unleashed an overhand right that would make Chuck Liddell proud.

Arlovski was knocked out immediately and lay on the canvas prone with a thousand yard stare as the arena and those watching at home cheered.

Emelianenko simply walked away.

Eights months later -- after Affliction Entertainment's collapse -- "The Last Emperor" signed with Strikeforce amidst rumors that a deal with the UFC was nearly in place. His nearly three-year hiatus from a major MMA company was over and he made his debut with the promotion on CBS.

In the time between Pride FC and Strikeforce, he stepped inside the ring four times. Two fights seemed like cash grabs while two were clinics against top ranked heavyweights.

His fight with Henderson seems to be a bit of both. It's a money-making superfight for sure but it's also a bout against a current Strikeforce champ and someone who is 5-1 in his last six fights.

It's a dangerous fight for Emelianenko. But he's taken his fair share of those.

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