Excitement, Controversy, Uncertainty: Where Does Dan Henderson Go Post-Fedor?

July 31, 2011

Dan Henderson

Dan Henderson

Already people are calling it one of the most action packed rounds in recent MMA memory.

The fight between main eventers Fedor Emelianenko and Dan Henderson at Saturday night’s Strikeforce & M-1 Global: Fedor vs. Henderson event in suburban Chicago may not have been short, but it sure didn’t lack for excitement.

And of course, there was a dash of controversy thrown in.

The action was ferocious from the opening bell, Henderson landing his patented left hook and Fedor giving it all right back, eventually rushing Henderson, connecting with a few punches, and putting him on the mat.

Fedor followed Henderson down to finish, but he scrambled out and took Fedor’s back, sneaking in an uppercut that put Fedor face first on the canvas.

Henderson kept going and it took a moment for referee Herb Dean to call a stop to the fight at 4:12 of the first round.

Clear-cut right? Not completely.

As Henderson followed with more punches to the apparently KO’d Fedor, “The Last Emperor” turned to his back, presumably to try and mount some sort of defense.

To be honest, it looked like a warranted stoppage to most, but Fedor and Henderson had different takes on the stoppage… although both men believed as you expect they might.

“I think it was early,” Fedor said about the stoppage. “I don’t want to say anything bad about the referee, but it seems to be that it was early.”

“I felt great about the stoppage,” retorted Henderson in a post-fight interview. “I felt that had the ref not stepped in, I would’ve definitely not moved off the top of him and probably knocked him unconscious.”

While Henderson of course felt the stoppage was appropriate, even with his reputation for a savage left hand, it wasn’t how he envisioned the fight unfolding.

“I thought I was gonna fight a three-round war with him. Obviously I would like to have caught him like I did, but I felt he was gonna be hard to knock out. He’s a veteran. If he gets hurt he’s gonna be able to recover like he did the first flurry of the fight,” Henderson commented.

“He was able to come back a little bit and he landed a couple punches after that.”

Fedor’s punches never knocked Henderson “silly,” but they got his attention.

“I ain’t gonna lie, they were hard. They hurt. He gave me stitches. But he didn’t hit me in the right spot I guess.”

They did, however, flip Henderson’s switch, putting him into finishing mode. As mentioned, after he went down, Henderson became as dangerous as ever, sneaking the uppercut in from behind Fedor, finding that “right spot.”

As much as people want to talk about whether or not Fedor will retire following his third consecutive loss, there is also the question of what’s next for Henderson.

The heavyweight non-title fight with Fedor was the last on the Strikeforce light heavyweight champion’s contract. Even though he’s a champ without a contract, usually a position of power, no one wants to see the champ walk away; Henderson is also one of the promotion’s highest paid fighters.

It’s not clear just how much negotiating leverage he has.

Strikeforce was recently purchased by Zuffa, the parent company of the UFC. And if nothing else, they’ve already shown that a belt doesn’t mean a fighter’s name appears in permanent ink on the roster.

Nick Diaz was moved over to the UFC to challenge its welterweight champion, Georges St-Pierre, at UFC 137 in October. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem was released from his contract for undisclosed reasons following some controversy over why he is out of the company’s Heavyweight Grand Prix.

Henderson and his camp will eventually figure out the lay of the land with the new bosses, but for now, he’s going to enjoy toppling a fighter that he considers himself a fan of.

“I’d like to defend my belt in Strikeforce,” he said. “But it’s all up to Strikeforce, and now Zuffa, the new owners. We’ll see what happens, but I’m just going to enjoy this victory for a while.”

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Ken Pishna is the managing editor of MMAWeekly.com.
@KenPishna on Twitter or e-mail Ken a question or comment.

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