Sunday, July 31, 2011 | 2:05 a.m.
Main card results from Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson
History has shown a number of legendary fighters reaching the end of their careers after a string of uncharacteristic losses.
Fedor Emelianenko may have joined that unfortunate group after a first-round TKO defeat to Dan Henderson in the heavyweight main event of Saturday’s Strikeforce card in Chicago. Emelianenko, one of the greatest mixed martial artists of all time, has now lost three fights in a row after going undefeated for nearly a decade.
“I've been a huge fan of Fedor's forever,” Henderson said in the cage after his victory. “I respect him so much as a fighter and for what he has done for this sport. For me, that's a huge accomplishment compared to a lot of things I've done in this sport. As a fan of Fedor's, I hope he keeps fighting."
Henderson (28-8 MMA, 3-1 SF) should realize that’s a lot to ask. With each defeat, the 34-year-old Emelianenko (31-4 MMA, 1-3 SF) is endangering his otherwise sterling legacy.
But Henderson, 40, might get his wish. Emelianenko didn’t sound ready for the end Saturday. Emelianenko said he was disappointed that the referee decided to stop the fight after Henderson dazed him with one uppercut.
“I was clearly hit, but I wasn’t hit directly,” he said through a translator in his post-fight interview. “It seems like I could have continued.”
Both men had their moments in an entertaining four minutes to start the bout before the deciding sequence unraveled. Emelianenko worked his hands and threw a combination to send Henderson backpedaling.
An uppercut from the Russian put Henderson to the ground. But Henderson, who said he was never out of it, grabbed a hold of Emelianenko’s right leg as he rushed down.
Henderson used the leverage to get behind his opponent and then slipped in an uppercut straight to the bottom of Emelianenko’s chin. The hunched-over Emelianenko fell to the floor. Henderson could only throw a couple more hammer fists before it was all over at 4:12 of the round.
“That's something I do all the time in practice,” Henderson said. “I just don't think he was expecting that punch to come up underneath."
Henderson is now 6-1 over the last three years. Unlike Emelianenko, the demand to see Henderson fight has reached an all-time high.
There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding what’s next for Henderson, a man whose name is at least as equally revered as Emelianenko’s in MMA circles. Henderson has completed his contract with Strikeforce, making a third run in the UFC a possibility.
But he holds the Strikeforce light heavyweight championship belt after beating Feijao Cavalcante earlier this year.
“I've got it and I'd like to defend it,” Henderson said. “But right now it's all up to Strikeforce and Zuffa. We'll see what happens. I'm just going to enjoy this victory for a while."
Henderson, who has spent most of his career fighting 50 pounds lighter than Emelianenko, isn’t going to stop hearing about Saturday’s performance any time soon. He may even go down as the final fighter to defeat “The Last Emperor,” although Emelianenko gave no indication on whether or not he would retire.
“It’s God’s will,” he said. “God will have it for me and that’s what we’ll do.”