Seldom in any fighting sport will you see two legends like Fedor Emelianenko and Dan Henderson meet.
The two giants of mixed martial arts, Henderson (27-8) and Emelianenko (31-3) will meet on Saturday, July 30 at the Sears Centre in Chicago, Illinois. Strikeforce and M-1 will present the mega fight that will be televised by Showtime.
It’s a fight that could be glorious or could be over in a flash.
For the past five years or more Henderson had fervently sought a match with the Russian juggernaut who was belting guys out of the ring for the past 10 years with impunity. Then, during the past year, Fedor lost back-to-back fights.
The luster is suddenly gone. Or is it?
“I expect the best Fedor ever,” says Henderson, who trains in Murrieta, California.
Henderson has seen and done it all in the fighting sport and has survived supposed career-ending losses with shocking wins. Well, not shocking to Henderson, who can fight at 185 to heavyweight if desired.
When the Southern California MMA giant meets Fedor he expects the Russian to show up at 225 but doesn’t care whether the legendary fighter will be at his best or not.
“I don’t know what to expect,” said Henderson, 40, via telephone press conference. “I’ve been around a long time. I’m not worried about it.”
Throughout his career Henderson has fought against a myriad of fighting styles and personalities since his first days as a professional fighter that began in 1997. Whether they were Brazilian Jiu-jitsu artists to former Olympic wrestlers like himself, Henderson always had a not so secret weapon at his disposal.
“I hit hard,” says Henderson, almost apologetically.
His very first opponent, Brazil’s Crezio de Souza, discovered that first. Soon the MMA world accounted for the punching prowess of Henderson, who then resorted to his other skills to win fights. But in 2001, another Brazilian, Renzo Gracie, may have forgotten and he was put to rest with the Henderson right hand that is now known as “the H-bomb.”
Big guys or little guys found themselves victims to the H-bomb that proved to be the equalizer when all else failed. More than a few dared test Henderson’s punching prowess on occasion. Will Russia’s Emelianenko be prone to the H-bomb?
The talented MMA fighter had fought for 10 years without a loss before losing back-to-back fights the past year. Before those losses many felt the Russian fighter was the best of the best.
“I’m not thinking about wins or losses or opponents in the future,” says Emelianenko, a very soft-spoken and humble person. “Right now I’m just thinking about the fight.”
Emelianenko dominated MMA from his pro debut until now in the heavyweight division. After suffering a loss due to a doctor stoppage from a bad cut, the fighter who utilizes a Russian commando style called Sambo had blitzed through opponents with surprising lightning reflexes for a man weighing more than 230 pounds. His hand speed and footwork are uncanny and instrumental in most of his prior wins. And when that was not enough, his brute toughness enabled him to prevail.
Many point to Emelianenko’s near neck breaking loss to Mark Coleman where the Russian was pile driven on his head. It seemed he was about to be defeated when he turned things around suddenly and nearly wrenched the American’s arm off until that fighter submitted in anguish.
Toughness runs in his fighting veins.
“Obviously I had found that God had blessed me,” said Emelianenko, 34, who wants people to know that he is a Christian warrior. “God has given us a certain path and I have to go down that path.”
It’s also the same path that Henderson has walked. He’s a fighter who was looking for a path after the road of competitive wrestling ended. Though his wrestling skills served him well to a degree, it’s his punching ability that has maintained Henderson as one of the greats of MMA.
“I hit hard,” Henderson would reason.
Fights on television
Fri. ESPN2, 6 p.m., Lamont Peterson (28-1-1) vs. Victor Cayo (26-1)
Fri. Telemundo, 11:30 p.m., Dante Jardon (17-1) vs. Adrian Tellez (11-7-1).
Fri. Telefutura, 11:30 p.m., Beibut Shumenov (11-1) vs. Danny Santiago (31-4-1).
Sat. Showtime, 7 p.m., Dan Henderson (27-8) vs. Fedor Emelianenko (31-3).
Sat. Fox TV, 8 p.m., Mike Alvarado (30-0) vs. Gabriel Martinez (27-2-1).