Fedor Emelianenko vs Josh Barnett Betting Analysis, Affliction Trilogy
Fedor Emelianenko (-425, BetCRIS) vs Josh Barnett (+360, 5Dimes)
This Affliction “Trilogy” main event of the evening for the heavyweight WAMMA belt is a very exciting affair. It is a matchup of one of the most dominant men in MMA, Fedor Emelianenko, against another beast of a man in the form of Josh Barnett, who is currently on a 4 fight win streak.
This is the third heavyweight matchup for Fedor Emelianenko in Affliction against a former UFC champion. His first two were very short affairs in which he steam rolled Tim Silvia in 36 seconds and knocked out Andrei Arlovski. Before this current Affliction run, Fedor was the king of the now defunct Pride organization in Japan. While there he accrued impressive wins over such legends as Mark Coleman (twice), Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (twice), Mirko Cro Cop, Kevin Randleman, and Heath Herring. He has also beaten Matt Lindland, the giant Hong-Man Choi, Renato Sobral, and Ricardo Arona. While at Affliction he has made short work of former UFC champions Andrei Arlovski and Tim Silvia. On pretty much every list, he is the #1 Heavyweight in the world and has been #1 for quite some time. On top of that, he is considered on many lists to be the P4P #1 fighter in the world, and again, has been at that position for quite some time. He is 30-1 with his only loss being a very controversial one that should actually have been a DQ. To say that the man is a legend in the sport would be somewhat of an understatement.
Fedor is a very well-rounded fighter. He has a sambo base that I believe may be the best platform for MMA. It is a great mix of several folk styles of wrestling, judo, and submission grappling. In fact, Fedor is a Master of Sports in sambo and judo and has won a large number of accolades and tournaments in both disciplines. Even though Josh is a very good wrestler, Fedor’s sambo skills should nullify that aspect of the fight and the ground game definitely belongs to Fedor, who has over 50% of his wins via submission. None of those submissions are predominant in any one area either. He can pull very fast arm bars from the bottom, or maneuver onto the opponents back and get the RNC. Defense wise: If Big Nog couldn’t submit him, I seriously doubt Josh will be able to.
On the standup front, Fedor has studied striking and kickboxing under Alexander Vasilievich and trained in Holland, the Mecca of heavyweight kickboxer and Muay Thai practitioners. The power in his hands is undeniable as he was able to KO Arlovski with a short right while Arlovski was in the air (granted, he was on his way down, so gravity was on Fedor’s side). However, even Tim Silvia stated that Fedor hits harder than anyone else he has been up against. In 2005, he went three rounds with Mirko Cro Cop and didn’t just go toe-to-toe with one of the most dangerous strikers in MMA, but stalked him and got the better of the exchanges. Fedor’s style is to use close-in flurries that are well suited to his speed. His striking is crisp, explosive, powerful, and he has never been knocked out.
Fedor is by far one of the most complete fighters in MMA today. He can strike with world class kickboxers, wrestle with takedown artist like Mark Coleman, and roll with some of the best BJJ practitioners in the world like Big Nog. On top of that, his cardio and gas tank has never been emptied. Even though he doesn’t look like a body builder, he is extremely physically gifted. Being intelligent, calm, strong, powerful, and explosive he is by far the most dangerous man in MMA today, in my humble opinion.
With that, we’ll look at Josh Barnett, who is no pushover in his own right. Josh has his own litany of legends on his win record that include Dan Severn, Randy Couture, Mark Hunt, Big Nog, Jeff Monson, Pedro Rizzo, and Gilbert Yvel. He also has a submission victory over Fedor’s brother Aleksander Emelianenko in 2006 with an Americana. His most recent action was the surprise knockout of heavy hitter Pedro Rizzo at Affliction 1. Which was followed by the lay’n’prey domination of Gilbert Yvel, who he smothered for 2 ½ rounds until he finally got a submission from strikes. As stated above, Barnett is a former UFC heavyweight champion, beating Randy Couture back at UFC 36 in 2002. He was later stripped of the title due to testing positive for steroid use. He has only 5 losses, 3 of which came from Mirko Cro Cop and another by Pedro Rizzo from 2001, which he has avenged. He is also 1-1 with Big Nog.
It is no secret that Josh’s biggest strength is his wrestling skills, which he uses to dictate the position of his fights and smother his opponents. From the top, he has very good submissions and GnP. He won by decision a grappling battle with Big Nog and showed that he can definitely hang with top BJJ guys at heavyweight. His standup is somewhat suspect. Josh prefers to stand on the outside and pick his shots. He was able to frustrate Pedro Rizzo by using his frontkicks to keep his distance. Boxing wise, his skills are nothing to write home about. He throws pretty typical 1-2 combinations, sometimes followed up by the right leg kick. His worst problem when standing is his tendency to throw his hands in front of his face in an attempt to cover up when he gets hit. With small MMA gloves, this is not the wisest strategy since straight punches can still break through.
Josh’s recent win over Rizzo may lead some people to believe that he has a good standup game. After all, Rizzo is marketed as a dangerous striker. Yet, when you look at Rizzo’s record, he hasn’t had a KO since 2002 against Andre Arlovski and has gone 2-4 over the past 4 years. The most likely scenario is not that Josh has great standup, but that Rizzo is past his prime and simply got caught. If Josh was really a descent striker, he would have been willing to stand with Gilbert Yvel. Instead, he avoided it at all costs and made the smart move by defeating Yvel where he has always been weak, on the ground. Finally, Josh has had a problem with the very strong striker, Cro Cop, in the past. Therefore, it is unlikely that he will try to stand with Fedor.
Barnett has shown weakness not only on his feet, but also on his back. He doesn’t end up on his back very often, but when he does, he rarely is able to put up an offense. In his battles with Big Nog, every time Josh was put on his back, he attempted very few submission attempts and took a considerable amount of damage.
With his less than stellar standup and problems on his bottom BJJ game, there are few routes of victory for Josh in this contest. If he stands toe to toe, it is very unlikely that he will be able to keep his distance the whole fight with his front kicks. At some point, he will get tagged by Fedor’s quick flurries. Josh’s wrestling will also have little effect on Fedor’s standup due to Fedor’s confidence on his back, and there seems to be a little chance of Josh submitting Fedor. The most promising path is Josh taking Fedor down, trying to stay in top control, and lay’n’preying his way to victory.
Ultimately, Fedor should be able to take this fight pretty handily. The only possible chink he has shown as of late was in the boxing aspect of his fight game. Andre Arlovski looked to be getting the better of Fedor on the feet during their bout. Fedor even seemed frustrated at times, something which is rarely seen from the cyborg. However, Arlovski had to train with the famed Eddie Roach to develop that kind of boxing skill and Barnett commented before their fight that he didn’t think such training was useful in MMA. That leads me to believe that Barnett will not be following in Arlovski’s footsteps, and you can’t neglect the fact that Arlovski still got knocked out in the end, so it is hard to blame him.
If Barnett attempts to stand with Fedor, Fedor will most likely get the knockout or the decision. I don’t believe Barnett will try to do so, but that doesn’t mean Fedor won’t catch him before Josh can get the takedown. If this fight gets to the ground, regardless of who gets it there, Fedor will most likely get the submission. Barnett will be trying to smother and control Fedor on the ground, but I just don’t see him being able to do that for 5 rounds. It only takes one mistake for Fedor to capitalize on and there will be plenty of time in this fight for him to do so. Whether that is with an arm bar or right hook has yet to be determined. The only possible way I can see Barnett winning is by cutting Fedor somehow and the doctor stopping it, but I don’t give it a very high probability of occurrence.
Final Prediction: At -425, I’m willing to disobey the rules and put 4.25 units on Fedor Emelienenko to win 1. This fight should be closer to -600, and I have the feeling that it will move in that direction. This line originally came out at -310, which was an absolute steal. I think there is still value at -425, but I would leave it alone once it goes over -500. This is MMA, so there is always the possibility of some freak occurrence that gives Barnett the win.