It looks more and more like Dan Henderson is going to fight Fedor Emelianenko July 30th in Chicago. That is pretty cool when you think about it. Two guys who are legends in the sport, careers going in opposite directions fighting for you the fans. There is no title on the line, but it is still a very interesting fight between two guys who have meant so much to MMA.
I have to be honest; I’m a little surprised that Fedor accepted the fight. This fight has “no win situation” written all over it. If Fedor wins, people will say he beat a 40 year old light heavyweight. If he loses, that would be 3 straight losses and the legacy of “The Last Emperor” is forever tarnished. If I had to guess, I would say Fedor took the fight because Dan is on a roll right now, and a victory over Henderson puts Fedor right back in the game. It seems everybody wants a shot at these two guys. Last week UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones said he would like to fight Fedor. This past weekend on “Clinch Gear Radio” Tim Kennedy said he wants to fight the winner. Talking to guys that were in Japan for the glory days of Pride, they never thought they would see the day where guys called out Fedor. They said it was more the opposite, where guys tried to avoid fights with Emelianenko. Who could blame them? The guy had more than 30 wins without a legit loss, and had beat up some of the biggest names in the sport.
I’m one of many fans that never saw Fedor fight in Pride. I’d read about most of those fights on the internet, but in fights that I have seen Fedor is 1-2. When you have such a small sample you lean towards calling a guy over-rated. It’s a trend of all sports fans, what did you do lately and who did you do it against? OH…you had a great run in Japan? Who cares! You beat 17 guys whose names I can’t pronounce? Great! You are a Samba champion? What the hell is Samba? Are you bragging about being a good dancer??
You have to go back almost 5 years to find a quality win for Fedor. On December 31st 2006, Emelianenko used a kimura to defeat Mark Hunt. Fedor entered the ring that night with a record of 25-1. Hunt was 5-2 having defeated Mirko Cro Cop and Wanderlei Silva. Hunt had lost his previous fight to Josh Barnett.
(Fedor did KO Andrei Arlovski in January of 2009. That win may not seem as impressive today as Arlovski seems to get knocked changing his shirt, but we have to remember The “Pitbull” entered the ring that night having won 5 straight including back to back KO wins over Ben Rothwell and Roy “Big Country” Nelson.)
In almost the identical 5 year time-frame, Henderson has defeated Vitor Belfort, Wanderlei Silva, Rich Franklin, Michael Bisping, Babalu Sobral and most recently Feijao.
That is a huge advantage in competition for Henderson. Add in tough losses to “Rampage” Jackson, Anderson Silva and Jake Shields and the gap grows larger. Talk to a coach in any sport, the only way you get better is by challenging yourself against the best teams or in this case fighters.
To clear up a major misconception about this fight, it will not be at a catch weight. If you are a Hendo fan, you know that isn’t his style. He will let Fedor enter the ring at his normal weight of 230lbs. Dan will probably enter the cage at 210lbs.
To give up 20 pounds in a fight is almost insane. When “Sugar” Ray Leonard defeated Marvin Hagler in 1987, people freaked out because a true welterweight (147lbs) defeated the middleweight (160lbs) champion. That was a jump of 13 pounds, and people were blown away that Leonard was able to still dictate the pace and tempo against a bigger man like Hagler. It’s not the 35 pounds that Billy Conn gave up to Joe Louis in 1941, but it’s a lot.
There may be some people who think Henderson no longer sees Fedor as unbeatable, and that’s why he is asking for the fight. I don’t think that’s it. I think Dan is a guy who at this stage of his career is looking for the biggest challenges out there, and there is no comparison between Fedor and the current contenders for Henderson’s light heavyweight championship. This is backed up in a video that is currently on our facebook page. It’s a commercial that Dan taped for Clinch Gear last fall. In the voice over, Dan mentions “I sponsor the greatest heavyweight of all time…and someday I would like to fight him.” It’s shows that the fight has been on Dan’s mind for a long time, but it took some unforeseen circumstances to make the dream fight a reality. Good for us.
What happens in the fight? I don’t have any idea. Dan’s right hand has ended a lot of nights, but Fedor has been hit by some of the biggest punchers in the game and has never been knocked out. What happens if the fight goes to the ground? Can Dan avoid the numerous submission holds that Fedor uses so well? Is this a three round or five round fight? Since it’s a non title fight, I would guess three, but Dana White has said he would like certain fights to be five rounds even without a title on the line. This seems to fit the bill as a fight that fans would like to see for five rounds. If it is signed for five, who does that benefit? Can Henderson put up with the bigger man for 25 minutes? These are all great questions that will be answered in a little more than 2 months. It’s a huge gamble for both guys; let’s hope the fight itself makes it all worthwhile.