Since Strikeforce announced their heavyweight tournament which will begin in February many people have backed ‘The Last Emperor’ Fedor Emelianenko to win the tournament outright.

While he certainly has the skills to do so, the Russian fighter has one glaring weakness that could derail his chances of winning – his right hand.

While it’s the hand that’s earned him many spectacular victories, it’s also the hand that’s frequently kept him out of competition over the years due to repeated injuries.

The root of the problem stems from a broken hand sustained against Gary Goodridge at Pride Total Elimination in 2003. In the following years continued problems lead to him pull out of several fights and sometimes come at less than 100%.

In 2006 an attempt was made to solve the problem, re-breaking the hand and resetting it correctly before inserting a small metal plate to hold it in place. Unfortunately despite the surgery he continues to suffer recurring problems with it.

That’s been evident in more recent times when even a 36 second win over Tim Sylvia in July of 2008 resulted in a 6 month injury lay-off. In November of 2009 he once again damaged it during a two round TKO win over Brett Rogers and faced another lengthy spell on the sidelines waiting for it to heal.

While the 34 year-old has been able to minimize the problem due to fighting one-off bouts with long gaps in-between giving him ample time to recuperate, the Strikeforce heavyweight tournament will afford him no such luxury.

According to Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker the Grand-Prix will be completed in 2011 and, “could wrap up as early as October.” If Fedor was to successfully make it to the end that would mean he’d have to fight three times in nine months.

Therefore one six month injury suspension is all it may take to rule him out of contention, and given that he’s recently been averaging one hand fracture in every two fights the odds don’t look promising.