There was much “wailing and grinding of teeth” among MMA fans on Twitter yesterday.
(And yes, I know, that’s not news. MMA Twitter is notorious for complaining and making fun of everything. For that matter, so is Twitter in general.)
But the target of the scorn was a bit unusual… and, a bit unfair.
In case you missed it, the unpopular announcement was made regarding the man often regarded as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, Fedor Emeilianenko.
Specifically, it was the opponent for Fedor, who appeared at Bellator’s Dynamite! event to announce his official return to MMA at a new event on New Year’s Eve in Japan.
The fighter “The Last Emperor” is rumored to face is none other than Jaideep Singh, a Tokyo-based kickboxer (originally from India) with a 1-0 MMA record.
Crazy? Folks like Kirik Jenness thought so. Jenness, who runs MMA’s biggest message boards, The Underground Forum, sent out a tweet in disgust:
— Kirik Jenness (@KirikJenness) October 6, 2015
Chad Dundas, lead MMA writer for Bleacher Report, echoed the sentiment:
— Chad Dundas (@chaddundas) October 6, 2015
Here’s why they’re wrong.
Sure, as Kirik mentions, Jaideep Singh doesn’t have a Twitter account. (Who cares? Tweets don’t hit back…)
Sure, he’s not well known. In fact, his name gets mixed around online — where he’s listed as Jaideep Singh by some, and Singh Jaideep by others. (Actually, that’s only natural. Yes, he’s from India but has lived in Japan for years, where one’s surname is written first.)
Sure, he’s far from an elite MMA heavyweight. But, that’s okay too. Guys, read the following carefully — we don’t know if Fedor Emelianenko is an elite heavyweight in 2015.
Fedor, who turned 39 last month, hasn’t been seen in competition for three years now. So maybe some observers have forgotten the last half-dozen or so bouts of his career: uninspiring wins against the likes of a faded Pedro Rizzo, and a three fight losing streak — where he was finished twice in the first round, and once in a particularly brutal second round TKO at the hands of Antonio Silva.
In fact, one would have to go back to January of 2009 — almost a full six years to the day from the scheduled New Year’s Eve bout — when the Russian legend won his last fight against an elite heavyweight. That night, “The Last Emperor” struggled with the improved boxing of Andrei Arlovski before catching him with a brutal overhand right for a memorable knockout victory.
Why would anyone want to see him fight a top ten opponent right out of the gate?
Further — sure, neither Jaideep Singh, or Singh “Heart” Jaideep as he’s often listed, are familiar names to MMA fans. But that doesn’t make him a joke of a fighter, either. The 6’5″ 240 lb Jaideep has enjoyed a solid career in Japan as a kickboxer: “a second-tier heavyweight in K-1 just below the very elite in 2009/10,” as Dave Walsh of Liver Kick puts it.
Singh scored the biggest win of his career with a knockout over a name familiar to MMA fans, Sergei Kharitanov, in 2010. The bout showcases his strengths: a long reach and some particularly strong knees in the clinch:
In recent years, he lost decisions to Daniel Sam and Ismael Londt, and suffered a TKO loss to Fatih Ulusoy. But that poor run was preceded by a four-fight win streak.
Here’s his one MMA fight. He doesn’t look exactly great, but he gets the job done and shows off a little sprawl along the way:
So, bring it on, I say. New Year’s Eve may bring us a revitalized Fedor in a mismatch, or it may bring us a deteriorated Fedor against a lesser opponent. Either way works for me. It’s not the wild New Year’s Eve events of Japan’s MMA heyday, but no one should expect that. Fedor has nothing to prove, and Jaideep has nothing to lose, so let’s just enjoy the show.