In hindsight, the three-fight skid that punctuated the end of Fedor Emelianenko’s glory years is interesting because of how slow on the uptake the MMA universe seemed to be. By the time he faced Dan Henderson in the main event of Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson, he had lost two straight fights by definitive stoppage, stumbling into a triangle armbar against Fabricio Werdum, then being mauled on the ground by Antonio Silva on the way to a doctor stoppage. Nonetheless, fans and media alike looked at fellow former Pride Fighting Championships titleholder Henderson, who was both much smaller and much older, and generally agreed that this was a favorable matchup for the Russian. Oddsmakers agreed, as they installed “The Last Emperor” as nearly a three-to-one favorite.
The entire card that took place in Chicago on July 30, 2011, was jammed with talent; one of Strikeforce’s most loaded lineups of fights. In addition to the owners of three of the final Pride divisional titles, it featured three future UFC champs in Miesha Tate, Robbie Lawler and Tyron Woodley. Filling out the lineup were a generous handful of future contenders and UFC roster mainstays, coincidentally including two fighters who are scheduled to appear on the main card of UFC Fight Night 173 this weekend in Bobby Green and headliner Derek Brunson.
Once the main event started, Emelianenko was aggressive immediately, coming forward and throwing a flurry of punches. Henderson was stumbled but answered in kind. A minute into the fight, Emelianenko was already bleeding from under one eye and had taken a warning for grabbing the fence, yet he came forward and rocked Henderson with another combination. Henderson went down, Emelianenko pounced, but in the ensuing scramble the American made a slick backdoor escape and short-circuited Emelianenko with a single crushing ground strike from behind, under the armpit. Emelianenko went facedown as Henderson landed another shot, and referee Herb Dean was already there for the stoppage. While Emelianenko would later question the timing of the stoppage, he never made any formal protest and the result remains a TKO win for Henderson at 4:12 of Round 1.
While Emelianenko was cut by Strikeforce after the loss, he continued to fight and is 8-2 since that night, eventually reuniting with Strikeforce boss Scott Coker under the banner of Bellator MMA. Henderson would go on to make one more run in the UFC, challenging Michael Bisping for the middleweight title in his final fight before hanging up the gloves.