- Strikeforce: Emelianenko v Henderson
Dana White smirks as Henderson stops fallen Fedor
UFC president Dana White could not resist having a small chuckle as Fedor Emelianenko suffered a third straight defeat against Dan Henderson on Saturday, losing via TKO after being dumped face-first into the mat.
Emelianenko has long been labelled the world's greatest ever mixed martial artist by a fiercely-loyal section of the sport's fanbase, but by the age of 34 his career at the top level is surely finished. The incredible longevity of Randy Couture is certainly not evident, neither - it can always be argued - is the proof that Emelianenko beat the best MMA has to offer.
Facing a 40-year-old Dan Henderson who got absolutely bullied by natural welterweight Jake Shields just over a year ago, Emelianenko took on the former UFC man in his own heavyweight terrain on Saturday. Henderson, who spent the majority of his career at middleweight, was facing a man who tipped the scales at 227lbs, leaving White to tell Fedor pre-fight: "Dude, you're fighting a 185-pounder."
Following four minutes and 12 seconds of violent action, during which Emelianenko hurt Henderson before getting stopped himself, White offered a second opinion, once again mocking those who forever put Fedor above the likes of Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre and previously Matt Hughes and Couture as the world's best.
"Michael Jordan of MMA!? Dumbest thing ever said!!! So stupid," tweeted the UFC president.
The fight itself was spectacular. Henderson, who has now stopped three opponents on the bounce to confirm himself as the most dangerous man on the Strikeforce roster, came out swinging to instantly show Fedor his stalking approach would play no part in the fight. To Emelianenko's credit, he fired back, but his right eye got busted up before Hendo clinched and controlled against the cage. A second wave was coming, both men were just gathering themselves.
When they broke Emelianenko appeared to have landed the telling blow as a swarm of punches saw Henderson hit the mat. Fedor attempted to attack, but that only allowed Henderson to scramble and then, from behind, he surprised the Russian with an uppercut that planted him face-first into the mat. Ref Herb Dean quickly stepped in as Henderson moved in for the finish, leaving Emelianenko a little annoyed with the stoppage.
"I think [the stoppage] was early," said Fedor. "I don't want to say anything bad about the referee or anything, but it seems to me it was early. I was clearly hit, but I wasn't hit flush and directly. I think I could have continued, but the referee decided to stop it."
The question now remains as to whether Emelianenko fights again, although Henderson asked his rival to keep going, stating: "As a fan of Fedor's, I hope he keeps fighting."
Earlier in the night, Britain's Paul Daley battled gamefully but was once again left rueing his Achilles heel as Tyron Woodley wrestled and clinched his way to a unanimous decision victory. It wasn't the dominant display to confirm Strikeforce has a star of the future, but Woodley nevertheless took a 29-28 decision on all scorecards.
The American is certainly no Josh Koscheck, who utterly dominated Daley in the Brit's final UFC bout. Koscheck's explosiveness in the takedown is far superior to the Strikeforce fighter, but the undefeated Woodley has other tools. His clinch work, from which he landed some serious knees in rounds one and three, was significant, while his stand-up is good enough to keep even a striker like Daley busy until wrestling can take over.
Rounds one and two went to Woodley, damaging Daley's body from the clinch in the first round before delivering the first of only two takedowns in the second. He spent almost three minutes in Daley's guard to leave the Brit needing a finish in the third, and that proved enough as he absorbed a desperation flurry from Daley in the final five minutes.
Elsewhere, Tim Kennedy is hunting down middleweight champ Ronaldo Jacare Souza after he took a unanimous 30-27 decision against Robbie Lawler. Kennedy outwrestled Lawler, who grew increasingly fatigued despite inflicting early damage to Kennedy's face.