It’s that time of year again. People will wait for the ball at Times Square to drop, some will over-do it on the champagne, make resolutions that will last all of five minutes and a man known to the MMA world as “The Last Emperor” will have his annual pilgrimage to Japan to claim someone’s soul.
New Year’s Eve has always been a special time for Fedor, going back to the days of the Pride organization. This year, after a four-year absence, he’ll return to Japan for the Dream promotion and square off against former Olympic judo gold medal winner Satoshi Ishii. With than in mind, let’s take a look back at Fedor’s past New Year’s Eve exploits.
12/31/07 – Fedor defeats Hong Man Choi by armbar, R1
This fight was held under the “Yarennoka” banner, a collection of former Pride execs, FEG, DEEP and M-1 Global and is credited with inspiring the development of Dream. It was, as they say, a freakshow fight. The giant Choi stood 7’2 and weighed 367 pounds but that was the only advantage he possessed. After some cat-and-mouse, Fedor sunk in an armbar and took the fight at 1:54 of round one.
12/31/06 – Fedor defeats Mark Hunt by kimura, R1
Hunt was riding a wave of momentum at this point, having had high-profile wins over Wanderlei Silva, Mirko Cro Cop and Tsuyoshi Kosaka in the previous two years. Hunt threatened early with an Americana attempt and looked as if he was going to mount the Russian sambo expert. But Fedor was able to use some of Rasputin’s voodoo to regain control and submitted the larger New Zealander with a kimura at 8:16 of round one.
12/31/05 – Fedor defeats Zuluzinho by submission (punches), R1
This was another tale of Fedor vs. Giant, as Zuluzinho tipped the scales at 390 pounds and standing 6’8. He is the son of Brazilian Vale Tudo legend Rei Zulu. He reportedly went 38-0 in Vale Tudo fights in Brazil, although few of those fights can be confirmed. Likely for good reason. Fedor landed a solid left early and never looked back, forcing Zuluzinho to tap to strikes at just 26 seconds.
12/31/04 – Fedor defeats Minotauro Nogueira by unanimous decision
This was a rematch after their previous fight had ended in controversy due to an accidental cut stoppage. Fedor’s ground and pound was the difference as he was able to nullify Nogueira’s submission game from his back and left no doubt in the result. The first time Fedor defeated Big Nog, it signalled the end of the Nogueira era of Pride’s heavyweight division. This time, the result solidified Fedor’s position as the baddest man on the planet.
12/31/03 – Fedor defeats Yuji Nagata by TKO, R1
This was another freakshow fight that occured under the “Inoki Bom Ba Ye” banner, named for Japanese pro wrestling promoter Antonio Inoki. He had the idea of showing how tough his pro wrestlers were by having them fight real MMA fighters in MMA bouts. Nagata was a victim of this experiment gone totally wrong as he was quickly pounded out in just 1:02.
While Fedor’s reputation has certainly taken a hit this year, he’s back on the winning track with a victory over Jeff Monson in his native Russia. He may not be the unstoppable force people thought he was previously, but it could be a trip to Japan for New Year’s Eve could be just what the doctor ordered to cure Fedor’s ills. Or will Fedor’s resolution to start another winning streak end before it starts? We’ll find out this weekend.