USCS Fight of the Week: Fedor Emelianenko Meets Dan Henderson in Superfight That Could Mark End of an Era
If you were a fan of mixed martial arts pre-Ultimate Fighter the names Fedor Emelianenko and Dan “Hendo” Henderson were etched in your brain as the cream of the crop, the best of the best, and certainly among the top pound-for-pound fighters the sport has ever known.
Those were the days of Pride Fighting Championships.
Both an entire decade and an organization have came and gone since then. When Zuffa purchased Pride and failed to obtain the contract of the man that came to be known as the Last Emporer, MMA fans wondered what would become of the legacy of Fedor.
The mystique behind the Russian fighter is unique in that he does not look like a mixed martial artist. How did a small heavyweight dismantle so many larger opponents? Where was his impressive physique?
How did a fighter who swings hammers and relied heavily on Sambo become known as the world’s best?
Last year when fellow Strikeforce heavyweight Fabricio Werdum dismantled Emelianenko via triangle armbar fans across the globe felt their hearts sink a few inches deeper into their chest.
The legacy had been tarnished. While happy for Werdum and his newfound stardom, fans were angered that their hero had let them down.
Nearly a year later, a repeat, only this time a more devastating beat down at the hands of Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva would nearly seal the image in the minds of fans everywhere that Fedor was done.
Many called the lost to Werdum a fluke, but that opinion may have changed when Silva put an “L” on Fedor’s win-loss record.
Was it a fluke or was Emelianenko just outworked by much larger men? Was Fedor part of an era that is being completely outclassed by younger more talented fighters?
We have seen it time and again. Jon Jones over Shogun, Brock and Machida over Randy, and Shields over Hendo.
Speaking of Hendo, he’s not out of the water yet himself. Yes he hold the Strikeforce lightheavyweight crown, but the pool of fighters there is not nearly as deep as in the UFC.
When the UFC and Hendo could not come to terms he then signed with Strikeforce. Two fighters in both Fedor and Hendo who could not come to an agreement with the parent organization, Zuffa, are now left to face each other in a legendary heavyweight showdown.
A loss for Fedor would mean three in a row and quite possibly a cut from the roster. While fans will say they would not want Emelianenko to retire, purely out of love and respect for him, the end result is that he just could not hang anymore because he has not evolved as a fighter.
While Hendo is no spring chicken or young pup himself, Fedor has not aligned himself with a strong camp that will push him to the point of no return and simply cannot compete with the top fighters several years younger than him.
A loss for Henderson means nothing. He holds the belt at 205lbs. and with the fight being at 220lbs, the title is not on the line. A loss means that he lost to an icon in the sport.
All the pressure is on Fedor. A loss means a possible cut or retirement. For Hendo, a loss means that Fedor is back.
The key to the fight is submission. If Fedor can get Hendo down he has a good chance of submitting him, but if he can’t, Hendo might send Fedor into retirement with a right hand.
Fedor is great at avoiding takedowns. He has good hips and pushes his opponents away, often connecting a shot or two of his own in the process.
But what will be Fedor’s state of mind going into this fight? As stated before, all the pressure is on him. After his last loss he was contemplating retirement but was given this superfight with Hendo. He knows he needs a win to stay somewhat relevant in the sport.
But the only way to do that is to get past Hendo and ask for an immediate fight against another top contender. Fighting once or twice a year simply will not do if Fedor wants to maintain the legacy he worked so hard to build.
Predicted Winner: Henderson by decision