Dan Henderson celebrates his win over Fedor Emelianenko. | AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski
Billed as a battle of legends, Dan Henderson’s stoppage of Fedor Emelianenko was likely the end of one.
In a rollicking scrap that started fast and had palpable tension for just over four minutes of action, Henderson finished Emelianenko with a booming right hand moments after being stunned and seemingly put in trouble.
Now loser of three fights in a row after piling up a nine-year, 28-fight unbeaten streak, Emelianenko’s prime is decidedly behind him -- albeit that prime is reflective of a great career and belonged to the sport’s most accomplished heavyweight ever.
Henderson’s win also puts the Strikeforce light heavyweight champ in a great position, with both the belt and a win over one of the sport’s biggest names.
In the semi-main event, Miesha Tate scored an impressive fourth-round submission to take Marloes Coenen’s 135-pound belt. Here’s a closer look at who’s up, who’s down and who’s holding with the Strikeforce/M-1 Global “Fedor vs. Henderson” Stock Report.
Dan Henderson: In picking Henderson to win in my Sherdog preview, the reasons were simple but based on time-proven assumptions. The veteran has incredible punching power, a stout chin, and didn’t figure to buckle when Emelianenko struck. That scenario played out precisely, with Henderson hurting Fedor with a big left hook in the opening moments, before the duo clinched against the cage for a stretch, with little action until being separated by referee Herb Dean. Then, moments later, Fedor struck, landing a glancing right hand and then a booming uppercut that put Henderson on decidedly thin ice.
But “Hendo” spun out from the bottom with a nice escape, and snuffed out the rally and the fight itself, with a devastating right uppercut on the turtled-up Emelianenko, who went limp to end the fight (Fedor impressively woke up after being popped with a couple more glancing blows -- but the fight was essentially over).
Since losing a five-round decision to Jake Shields, Henderson has registered three brutal knockouts in a row. This is a huge win for him and given the likelihood of the UFC absorbing Strikeforce, gives him a great marketability boost should that happen.
Miesha Tate: She said that her wrestling would make the difference, but what Tate may have hedged on was an underrated submission game. In a bout where she seemed to be tiring in the third round, Tate surged in the fourth, setting up a nice arm-triangle choke and driving it home to finish the job, winning the 135-pound title in the process.
With Tate slated to defend against Sarah Kaufman next, who defeated her via decision two years ago, the Strikeforce women’s slate will have some helpful promotional mojo and intrigue. Also, with Coenen’s win over Kaufman, this trio, along with Liz Carmouche, could make for some interesting fights at the top level of the division.
Tim Kennedy: Given a five-week training camp, there weren’t a lot of ways Kennedy was going to beat Robbie Lawler, but he executed a near-perfect game plan given the style matchup. Hitting takedowns when he needed them and limiting standup exchanges worked well for Kennedy in a bout that was uneventful in spots with a dearth of standing action or meaningful strikes landed.
Tarec Saffiedine: Perhaps Saffiedine went into his bout with Scott Smith determined not to hurt the rally artist that is the “Hands of Steel,” which has typically been a dangerous move for Smith’s foes. That said, he utilized a full-spectrum attack to outpoint and outclass Smith, who was largely relegated to firing big strikes without setups, and couldn’t seem to get untracked. Saffiedine was precise, consistent and workmanlike in his one-sided conquest.
Tyron Woodley and Paul Daley: The welterweight showdown had added implications with Nick Diaz vacating the Strikeforce title to challenge UFC champ Georges St. Pierre. Both showed flashes of what makes them effective but neither could really wrest control of the bout outside of Woodley’s consistent takedowns in the first two rounds, which won the fight. It’s the second straight decision win for Woodley where his wrestling and little else dominated the fight.
Fedor Emelianenko: Three losses in a row means Emelianenko should retire, in my opinion (tell me what you think below). Whether or not he actually will is a question that will answer itself in the future. It’s also a largely unimportant one in the context of the current heavyweight division rankings, because he’s nowhere near the top 20 at this point.
Marloes Coenen: A tough loss for Coenen, whose improved wrestling seemed to be powering a mid-fight surge on Tate. Style-wise, Coenen is still a tough assignment with her calm demeanor and slick subs. However, the submission loss to Tate cost her the belt and will definitely require some re-tooling if she’s to make another run at the title.
Robbie Lawler: Normally an offensive dynamo, Lawler simply couldn’t let his hands go against Kennedy. With his spry takedown defense, scrambling and athleticism, Lawler’s one of the most exciting sprawl-and-brawl artists in the game. But the duo’s styles just seemed to cancel one another out, making the ground battle more interesting than the standing phase of the bout.
Scott Smith: I’ve always said that Smith should not be cutting to 170, as he’s simply too big for welterweight. Fighting Saffiedine, Smith was unable to generate the volume of strikes and high-octane combinations that defined his career as a middleweight. Perhaps it’s the product of hard wars in his career, the weight cut, or some combination of both. But tonight’s decision loss clearly showed a fighter in decline. If he’s to continue competing, he would be better served to do it at 185 where he’s got a puncher’s chance if he connects. At 170 he looks like he’s fighting underwater, and that’s not the Scott Smith fans are used to seeing.
Jason Probst can be reached at Jason@jasonprobst.com or twitter.com/jasonprobst.