Fedor Emelianenko vs. Dan Henderson

UFC President Dana White slipped backed into old habits when talking about Saturday’s Strikeforce main event between Fedor Emelianenko and Dan Henderson. Clearly forgetting that he was now ultimately responsible for promoting the fight between two legends of the sport, he explained what he thought was the problem with Emelianenko’s third fight in the Strikeforce cage -
“So I actually think this fight, as far as Fedor is concerned, it’s a lose-lose for him. If he knocks out Dan Henderson, he knocks out a 185-pounder. If he gets knocked out, he just got knocked out by a 185-pounder.”
White is hardly alone in holding such an opinion, with many people seeing this is as an entertaining fight with little on the line for either fighter except bragging rights. However this reading of the fight is wrong for Fedor Emelianenko and Dan Henderson are in fact fighting for their future at the top table of MMA. With Emelianenko having only one fight left on his contract with Strikeforce while Henderson’s deal with Strikeforce is up after this fight they need to impress if they’re to secure the best possible deal from Zuffa.
Emelianenko is coming into the fight on the back off two defeats and a third defeat may just force Strikeforce to cut their ties with “The Last Emperor”. While he’s by far the biggest star in the promotion his contract is prohibitively expensive if the organization cannot feature him in the main event of its shows. While excuses were made for his losses to Fabricio Werdum and Antonio Silva, a defeat at the hands of a man he outweighs by almost twenty pounds would seemingly confirm that Emelianenko was yesterday’s man and much like a Mirko Cro Cop, Wanderlei Silva or Antonio Rodrigo Nogueria no longer capable of going toe-to-toe with the best in the world. A victory on the other hand would set up marquee matches with either the winner of the Grand Prix or even his former nemesis Werdum. Indeed if M-1 Global were willing to compromise with the UFC we may finally get the chance to see Emelianenko inside the Octagon.

Fedor Emelianenko vs. Dan Henderson
Fedor Emelianenko.

The Strikeforce Grand Prix was supposed to be the most important Grand Prix on modern MMA. It was a throwback to the days of PrideFC; the glory days of fighters like Fedor Emelianenko, Mirko Cro Cop and Wanderlei Silva. It was supposed to decide the №1 – though most likely the №3 – heavyweight fighter in the world. It was.
Strikeforce built up it’s Grand Prix with the talents of Fedor Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem, Josh Barnett and others. They got fans excited and eager to watch some of the legends of old and new go head to head, breaking down the pyramid of competition until one man was left standing. Now, there is a little less interest.
In the first round of the GP, fan favorite and Pride FC legend Fedor Emelianenko was bested by Antonio Silva. A bigger and stronger man overwhelmed Emelianenko and in less than 15 minutes took out the most popular fighter on the Strikeforce roster. Good for Silva. That kind of accomplishment comes once in a lifetime and him winning is an astounding victory he should always be able to celebrate. But, from a fan’s perspective, Antonio Silva doesn’t have the nostalgia, the memories or, in some instances, the emotional connection of the fans. He is a tremendous fighter and a man-to-beat in the tournament, but he is no Fedor.
Less than 48 hours ago, it was announced that Alistair Overeem – the Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion – reigning K-1 Grand Prix champion and DREAM Heavyweight Champion was being removed from the tournament. A day later it was announced that he would no longer be fighting for Strikeforce. They cut the tournament favorite. They cut most fans last glimmer of interest in the Grand Prix. They, in one single poorly thought out decision destroyed the relevance of their Grand Prix.

The fight resumes of Fedor Emelianenko and Dan Henderson are chock full of memorable battles over more than a decade. They fought a range of opponents of all sizes and abilities in all corners of the world. Though they have never been on the same track long enough to face each other, the headliners of the Strikeforce/M-1 Global event on Saturday at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Ill., forged their reputations, in large part, against a common foe.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira spent about 75 minutes of his life locked in combat with Emelianenko and Henderson, a bruising and strenuous slate that laid bare the trio’s grit and gifts.
“I know those guys very well” – Nogueira said during a recent appearance on the Sherdog Radio Network’s ‘Rewind’ program. “I’ll tell you, [they are] very similar. Both guys … they have a very good right hand. They’re both very good Greco-[Roman wrestling] guys, so they throw the right hand and get close, shorten the distance. It’s kind of the same, the way they attack the person in the fight.”
In the year between Nogueira’s becoming the first heavyweight titleholder of Pride Fighting Championships and his 2002 rematch against Henderson, the submission master was regaled as the sport’s best heavyweight, if not its pound-for-pound best fighter. At Pride 24 in December 2002, the then-Brazilian Top Team representative put a submission attack clinic on the wily Henderson, who gave up 40 pounds in the fight and withstood several contortions until succumbing to a third-round armbar. At the next Pride, in a torch-passing moment, Emelianenko took the mantle as MMA’s top heavyweight, battering Nogueira from top position en route to a decision. Nogueira lost to Emelinaenko again in 2004 and to Henderson via split decision in 2000.

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