The Last Emperor Falls; Hendo Victorious

The jaws and hearts of many MMA fans dropped last July 30th when Dan “Hendo” Henderson defeated “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko. The highly-anticipated super fight between the two MMA legends and former-Pride Champions lived up to its billing and ended in dramatic fashion. Ultimately, it begged the question, “where do these two veterans go from here?”

But before we venture too far off into the future, let’s take a look back at the days leading up to the fight.

Pre-fight: First off, we have Hendo, the Olympic wrestler turned MMA knock-out artist, who was both the Light-heavyweight and Middleweight champion over at Pride and fought for a UFC title twice. Famed for his powerful right hand, Hendo was entering the Fedor fight on a two-fight win-streak, which included a win the earned him the Strikeforce LHW belt against Rafael Cavalcante. In his fight with Fedor, Henderson was the smaller fighter but he expressed that he chose not to fight at a catch weight because he didn’t want Fedor to have any excuses when he beats him. For years, Dan Henderson has made a living out of fighting bigger guys, and for this fight, he felt that he could take out the once touted “pound-for-pound greatest MMA fighter on the planet.”

Fedor, on the other hand, is the former-Pride Heavyweight champion, who is known for overcoming adversity and delivering legendary victories. The mystique of the Judo and Sambo-based Russian was tarnished however, when he suffered his first real loss via submission to Fabricio Werdum in 2010. That loss, which was dismissed by fans as a fluke, was followed by another defeat, this time via doctor stoppage against Antonio “Big Foot” Silva. His loss against Silva was also downplayed as a matter of Silva’s size being too overwhelming for the smaller Emelianenko. However, in his fight with Henderson, Fedor would have no size disadvantage. Realistically, there’s more pressure on Fedor to win the fight than on Hendo. Fedor fights for his legacy in this bout to salvage what’s left of a wilting legacy.

The super fight: June 30th at the Sears Center, Illinois, the match every fight fan had been waiting for took place. Fedor was in terrific shape for this fight and had around 20 pounds on the once-UFC contender. The size difference was not apparent though as the two men stood face-to-face in the octagon. Guns a blazing, both fighters went toe-to-toe from the opening bell, cracking each other back and forth. Late in the 1st round, after a brief clinch-fighting battle, the two men separated and Fedor knocked Henderson down with a right-hand and landed some ground and pound. Thanks to the Olympian’s wrestling skills, Hendo was able to take Fedor’s back and land a flush uppercut to the Russian’s chin in a matter of seconds. Fedor fell face-down on the canvas and took a number of unanswered shots to the head, causing Referee Herb Dean to stop the fight. Many fans argue that the stoppage was premature, but in a post-fight interview with YahooSports, Herb Dean said that he’s confident that he made the right decision in stopping the fight.

After the fight: The fight that transpired found a fallen legend in Fedor and a reinvigorated victor in Dan Henderson, who improved his fight record to 28-8. After the fight, Fedor was non-committal and vague on whether he planned to keep fighting or not, stating that his future was in “God’s hands.” He also told the press that, after the fight, Dan Henderson asked him not to retire and to keep fighting. Unfortunately, Strikeforce under Zuffa is already in the process of cutting Fedor from the company.

While Fedor’s future is uncertain, Henderson’s is bright. With a recently expired contract with the said organization, Henderson is a huge draw and would most likely get a shot at a UFC belt if he chose to sign on. He has already expressed his interest in fighting the winner of the Rampage-Bones bout, but he’ll have to wait a while since Rashad Evans has cemented his spot as the next title contender. Either way, Dan Henderson has reinforced his legendary status with his win over Fedor.

On various MMA forums, many fight fans have expressed how much they want to see Fedor fight and win one last time. Hopefully that does happen, so that the MMA great can go out on somewhat of a high-note. For Henderson though, the sky’s the limit. All we can do now is just wait and see where the paths of these two legendary fighters lead them.

Gab Pangalangan

Gab Pangalangan is a former collegiate national Judo champ and the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of You can find his other works in the Philippines' leading magazines and websites.
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