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Trying to make a case for Tim Sylvia

200px-timsylvia.pngWell, I must first admit, I am one of the many who think Fedor Emelianenko is the best heavyweight fighter on the planet. But I believe no one is unbeatable. In my opinion it is going to take a mistake-free performance from Tim Sylvia to expose and exploit his weaknesses. And contrary to popular opinion, he has weaknesses. The biggest obstacle for Big Tim is that he has more weaknesses than Fedor and they are easier to take advantage of if you’re an athletic heavyweight. But Tim Sylvia is one of the best in the world at imposing his fighting style and game plan on an unsuspecting opponent. Fedor has almost as many things against him in this fight as going for him.

Lets take a look at Fedor’s strengths, and there are a few cubic tons of them. He is a “Master of Sports” in Sambo, the highest honor you can achieve, as well as multiple world championships in Combat Sambo. He is also a black belt in Judo. He was an avid strength trainer in the Russian army and shows the all purpose strength to prove it. His upper body takedowns are some of the best in the division and he has thrown men 50+ pounds heavier than him to the canvas with ease.

He can shift his hips for a submission like a world class lightweight. He is maybe the best arm bar practitioner in all of Mixed Martial Arts, being able to throw the submission from virtually anywhere in the ring with astounding speed.

He is a very under-rated striker with excellent boxing skills and very good leg and body kicks. He has knockout power in both hands and although he throws unorthodox punches he is uncannily accurate with them. He has redefined striking from the guard, his ability to power through an active closed guard is staggering.

As good as Fedor is at every position in the ring, his two greatest attributes as a fighter are gifts that not many in the world possess. He is incredibly instinctive during scramble situations in MMA, I personally have never seen anything quite like it. He almost never loses position during a transition situation. But his greatest talent is his total lack of fear. He has almost no sense of self-preservation and his will to win is truly remarkable. A more complete fighter in this burgeoning sport there is not.

All that said, he is vulnerable in a few areas. I watched quite a bit of tape on Fedor looking for holes in his style for Tim Sylvia to exploit, with special attention paid to his fight with Semmy Schilt and his last fight against a top ten caliber opponent, Mark Hunt. I pinpointed some weak spots in Fedor’s armor of invincibility, but unfortunately for Big Tim, they are in areas that he does not necessarily excel.

Fedor has fought lengthy fighters like Tim before, and has not shown concern about Tim’s 80” reach in recent interviews. In his fights with Semmy Schilt and Hong Man Choi, both 7+ feet tall, he enacted the predictable strategy and took the fight to the ground to even the playing field. Although he couldn’t submit a seasoned veteran like Semmy, he controlled the action and the fight on the ground for all three rounds. Semmy just did not have an answer for Fedor’s smothering base. Against a relative newcomer in Hong Man Choi, he was able to lure him into several arm bar situations, the last one ending the fight.

But neither Schilt nor Choi have Sylvia’s takedown defense nor come from a strong wrestling camp like Miletich. Taking Sylvia down will be a far cry from Choi, as he will first have to navigate through Tim’s reach and excellent jab as well as deal with Tim’s sprawl.

Where Fedor has looked most vulnerable in recent times was unquestionably his fight against Mark Hunt. Hunt is a devastating K-1 striker, who made the jump over to MMA with no grappling acumen and only his size and athleticism to guide him. He got the title shot against Fedor on New Year’s Eve 2006 on the Pride Shockwave card and made the most of it. Hunt’s size gave Fedor fits, as several of Fedor’s takedowns were reversed and as a result put on his back. Once there, Fedor had no answer for Hunt’s girth on top of him. At a possible 275lbs + at the time of the fight, Tim could give Fedor similar issues on the ground.

Fedor was very affected by Hunt’s jab in that fight, often taking poor shots as a result of Hunt’s jab getting through Fedor’s defense. Tim has an excellent jab, and uses it to open up the rest of his striking game. His reach combined with his jab should be able to cause Fedor fits in the beginning of the fight. And the ring favors Tim’s takedown defense, as he can back his posterior through the ropes of the ring to counter Fedor’s takedown attempts. This will be a chess match to watch unfold.

Tim is no grappling wiz by any means, but can hold his own on the ground and is a more agile grappler than his size would lead you to believe. Fedor has shown against Hunt and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira that he does not have the greatest guard and quite frankly can give up position on bottom fairly easily at times. Not sure if it’s his confidence in his submission defense that causes this or his lack of a traditional Brazilian Jiu Jitsu guard training. Regardless, if he gives up side control or mount to Sylvia, he is more than capable of taking advantage.

As sad as it is to admit, Timmy’s biggest chance to win in this fight is by cut. Everyone in MMA knows how easily Fedor can be cut, especially by accurate strikers like Sylvia. If Tim can survive the first 5 minutes with Fedor, this has to be a huge concern for the Red Devil coaches. Tim has a chance of keeping him at bay for 8-10 minutes until his face is enough of a mess that the American ringside doctors will possibly call this fight. Doctors in Japan are far more lenient than we are here in the states. You hate to see a fight end that way, and I am sure this is echoed by the fighters as well. But you have to face the reality of this possibility. And it’s a very good one.

The odds makers would have you believe that Tim Sylvia has absolutely no chance in this fight. But if the last 18 months in MMA has proven anything to me, it’s that there are no more clear favorites in MMA. The cross-training is too good anymore. Fighters are too well rounded. And everyone has a Punchers chance. I think Tim has more than that, but is it enough against the myth that is Fedor?

  • Evan says:

    Fighters always talk about how active they have to be to stay sharp and Fedor simply hasn’t done that. To me it all comes down to that. Tim has fought some of the best time and time again so in this case give me Tim.

    So give me an active Tim who has fought a lot of great talent recently over a rusty Fedor.

  • I don’t mind any opinion about Fedor’s rust or opinions of him losing a fight, it’s just when some people seem to go out of their way to completely disrespect the greatest fighter of our generation. Whether you believe him to still be or not at the present day.

  • Zack with a ck says:

    good analysis. I suspect Timmy to lay back in the cut and try and pick away at Fedor, while Fedor will continually find ways to move forward. Fedor’s strategy will be to take the fight to the ground, but not by traditional takedown. He’ll look for off-balance “scramble” moments where he can get Sylvia in trouble and on his back. The we’ll see a classic armbar. Done.

  • MMAStation says:

    Nice article. I completely agree.

  • Mark Aulet says:

    Very nice article. Insightful and accurate. I think Timmy has a huge bstacle to over come in a ring as opposed to a Cage. Timmy likes to smother opponents against the cage and try to dirty box/knee. If he tries that with the ring eh’ll be on the floor and tapping to a kimura or armbar faster then you can say grease lightning.

  • natureboy says:

    If Timmay goes for a “Cut Win” then he’s puss.

  • Guy Gaduois says:

    Good article, agree with the other posters on the ring being a huge advantage for Fedor. Unless Tim suddenly has incredible footwork, the lack of a cage will be the deciding factor. In order to exploit the jab and combo follow up, he will have to demonstrate a compatible quickness to Fedor, and though Fedor is highly regarded, his comparative speed to Tim’s will remind most of us of the Choi fight. They looked like they were moving in two different atmospheres.
    Tim’s got a lot of heart, but I fear for another limb – snapping loss for Tim.

    Very, very eager to see Fedor fight a real contender. What a great weekend for MMA. Has there been a better 60 days in the history of MMA? So many belt challenges, such a concentration of great fighters, and very high quality coverage. The only knock would be that thing they showed on CBS . . .

  • Jay says:

    Does anyone know if the fight is in a ring or a cage?

  • Rowdy says:

    WAR TIMMY!!!!!!

  • I’m surprised no one is bringing up ring rust. Fedor hasn’t faced any real competition in ages. I see Fedor taking Tim down and getting sloppy and/or gassing and getting caught in a submission by Tim. Before anyone laughs, I correctly predicted Griffin would beat Rampage and that size and gameplan would be deciding factors. Randy Couture concurred afterwards.

  • Evan says:

    # 9

    see post 1.

  • Sorry Evan. I missed the first couple of posts.

  • Bad Monkey says:

    Go Big Tim!!!! This is the new Rocky IV!!! USA vs. Russia, let’s get it on!!!!! Tim should come out to J. Brown’s ‘Living in America’ and kick some Fedor ass!!! Alright, he probably won’t, but I can keep my fingers crossed. I can’t wait, this card is going to be great.

  • Evan says:

    No its fine I’m just glad someone else agrees it may be a problem. Every time someone with a long layoff from fighting does a post fight interview they mention how hard it was to get ready since it has been so long. I’m just not so sure why people think Fedor is immune to it.

  • Cliff H says:

    Jay – from what I heard is that they are in a ring. Dana said something about that in one of his interviews. Tim is a lazy style fighter and that will be his down fall. To beat Fedor you have to be the aggressor.

  • Mike Wolfe says:

    Sylvia’s takedown defense is ok, but that’s not good enough against Fedor. Sylvia’s submission defense isn’t that great. Once the fight hits the ground, and it will, Sylvia’s doomed.

  • Chrisw says:

    the cumulative records of the past 5 fighters faced:

    Tim’s = 94-27
    Fedor’s 46-21

    (20 of those wins came from Lindland aka a natural 185er who was giving Fedor trouble before a rope grab and trip turned things around.)


  • Joey says:

    Whenever he gets bored in the ring or tired of being punched, Fedor pulls armbars out of nowhere PERIOD

  • Fabricio says:

    Remember this comment………..Bring it to my attention after the fact if I’m wrong.

    The Ring is ADVANTAGE SYLVIA, and anyone who says different is so wrong they need to rethink being a fan in the first place.

    While I’m not saying Tim will win. The ropes are such and incredible advantage for a guy his size that is as athletic as Tim ( I didn’t say he was a great athlete, but he is IS athletic for his size) Fedor needs to keep this fight off the ropes. Pushing Tim in the clinch to the ropes will be a huge mistake, Tim’s ass will go though the ropes, the ref will bring them to the middle of the ring and restart………….rinse repeat. A CAGE is to Fedor’s advantage.

    If anyone is going to be Fedor, it’s Tim……..I don’t see it happening, the only favorite to beat Fedor is Father Time.

  • Jackyl says:

    This fight echoes a recurring theme in a lot of recent MMA matches. The huge underdog vs the obvious favorite. The favorite with nothing to lose and the underdog with everything to gain. These matches are most dangerous for the guy at the top of the heap. With a loss, Fedor stands to lose his mystique as the best fighter in the world. With a win, Tim Sylvia catapaults himself into the stratosphere with a win over the best fighter in the world. A win for Fedor is just another win, a loss is career altering. Same on the opposite side for Sylvia. A loss is just a loss, but a win is career altering. This scenario played out a few weeks ago in Jackson vs Griffin, Jardine vs Liddell, or even Kimbo Slice vs James Thompson. To have everyone saying you are going to lose is the ultimate motivation to win. That is the factor that can make Tim Sylvia dangerous in this one. I’m picking Fedor to win, by armbar of course. But I haven’t thrown Tim Sylvia to the dogs just yet.

  • bubbafat says:

    I love Fedor man. But, and I never call fights like this, Tim wins by cut and refferee stoppage.

  • Sean says:

    Great insight

  • ultmma says:

    #13 when Apollo Creed came out to the ring with James Brown’s “Living in America” backing him, you know what happened??

    Apollo Creed died thats what happened ( he also died in Predator)

    Now i don’t think anyone is predicting Fedor via death, this fiht will go at least 3 rounds Big Tim is a vet now and it will be tough to catch him early.

    He still struggles against athletic heavyweights like Big Nog and Couture and i don’t see this fight being any different

    Fedor late 3rd round sub win in a great fight, where Fedor has to make a comeback to win

  • Schlegel says:

    “The Ring is ADVANTAGE SYLVIA, and anyone who says different is so wrong they need to rethink being a fan in the first place. ”

    Well Fabricio I disagree with almost everything in your post and i don’t plan on stopping my 13 years of being an MMA Fan. The problem I have with the part i quoted is that Tim has soooo much more experience in a cage that there is no way he is at a disadvantage if it is a cage. Yeah he needs to stay away from Fedor on the ground, but he has had to stay away from other fighters on the ground in the past and done so inside of a cage.
    The fact that they would be repositioned in a ring doesnt change the fact that they would still be in the same position in the middle of the ring. While Fedor is going to be the aggresor in the match, i dont think he will be pushing tim around. Like other posters commented, I think it will be more of Fedor taking advantage of the scrambles to gain postion or take Tim down.

    Either way the one thing I think about this fight is that it is up in the air. Yeah Fedor is the man and I do not argue that point, but there is also no denying that Tim has constantly faced top competition and has a tough style to beat. Yeah it is very posssible Fedor gets that arm and snaps it, but it is also quite possible that Tim can keep that jab working and his feet moving and wins by decision or cut/stoppage. – Just my thoughts though

  • double A-ron says:

    I see fedor winning pretty easily in this one. Get the big man down and finish with the emperors special-Armbar. The ring won’t be able to save Timmy. They could fight in a phone booth and it wouldn’t matter. I also don’t see how it’s said that Fedor has nothing to win since it was stated that Tim’s opponents records are 94-27 meaning that Tim has fought the best. So who does Fedor have to fight to be considered the best? Definately not Randy Couture who is getting older by the minute.

  • Mike Wolfe says:

    #26 Ronin

    Man, that’s just sad.

  • mo says:

    i just like that the title is “trying to make a case for Tim”. Hopefuly the miletich crew has some more creative ways for time to win. I find it crazy that so many people give big tim zero chance in this. #17 makes a great point, and it is just funny how people don’t like big tim so they just dismiss any ability he has. i am by no means a Sylvia fan, but it isn’t like he has gotten slaughtered before and his motivation is probably much higher for this fight then it has been for some of his last one’s when i suspect he knew he was leaving the UFC

  • Matt Cook says:

    Check out TMZ. Rampage Jackson just got busted for a hit and run. He tried to run from the cops in his truck with his picture on the side of it.

  • mo says:

    and yikes, #26 i just read that article and it doesn’t sound good for Rampage. man, i guess he won’t be getting that immediate re-match for the title now

  • Cathedron says:

    Tim is so easy to hate, but I don’t think anyone should say this will be an easy fight for Fedor. Tim’s game keeps steadily improving and his wrestling is always great (you don’t last long at MFS otherwise – this here is rasslin’ country, after all – god knows we have nothing else to be proud of), he just knows his reach doesn’t favor the ground game and tries to avoid it. Fedor’s rust is a big issue. It always is both mentally and physically for any athlete. Sylvia’s got an embarrassing loss spurring him on. I’m expecting the most aggressive fight we’ve ever seen from him.

    I think the ring vs cage thing barely matters. Tim has cage experience, but the ring favors strikers and most of his training is done in a ring anyway. He should be fairly comfortable. On the other hand, Fedor has no cage experience (which would be a big issue) but he’s used to grappling in a ring and specializes in standing grappling. It shouldn’t be much of an issue for either fighter.

    I think the bigger issue might be Fedor dealing with how intimidating and aggressive American crowds can be. That’s rattled more than a fair share of fighters. Sylvia seems to thrive on it. Now, he’s going to have people actually rooting for him as the American fighter. He’s going to be pumped.

  • Nate says:

    great analysis, especially mentioning the Mark Hunt fight. That was always one of my favorites.. and even vs Fujita… the one I think he came the closest to losing.

  • b.w. says:

    #31-32. are you the same mtufc from mma mania. if so iw ondered what ever happened to you.

  • b.w. says:

    what happened to “more than ufc’s” posts?

  • Marc S says:

    #19 If you say so than it must be, because you say so! I’ll start looking for another sport to be a fan of since Tim’s ass is going to go thru the ropes causing a restart. So, they’ll restart them, so what! Majority of Tim’s fights were in cages (including at least his last 16 fights, maybe more dating back to at least 2002). Except his numerous Sambo fights, Fedor’s last 29 fights have occurred in a ring (yes, that’s all of them). But I’m no longer a fan, due to your ingenious insight and opinion. However, when I was a fan I noticed that Fedor punches kinda hard and Tim doesn’t enjoy getting hit too much…and he doesn’t take a great shot. That’s what he briefly has to look forward to. Fedor will wobble Timmy, Timmy falls and gets pounced on, eventually asking Fedor to take an arm- request granted and Fedor releases just prior to snapping the arm in half. Ass thru the ropes!

  • Jim Y says:

    I just can’t wait to see Timmy once again get his arm broken. These men’s past fights show who has talend and who doesn’t. I respect all mma fighters and who knows it happens alot that a fighter gets lucky and throws a haymaker and catches buddy on the ko button. Hands down sylvia is going to be scared of darth fedor because he is a machine.

  • Jim Y says:

    and I meant to TALENT


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