DAN HENDERSON BELONGS IN THE UFC
It’s not like Henderson’s departure last year had anything to do with his skills in the cage; it was a financial decision on both sides.
Since leaving the UFC, Henderson has not only banked some serious cash, but he’s also figured out that he’s much more suited to life as a light heavyweight. Now that his Strikeforce contract has expired and the organization is in decline, a move back to the UFC makes sense.
Being Strikeforce champion shouldn’t earn Henderson an immediate title shot if a trip back to the Octagon does occur; there are too many fighters who have paid their dues against better competition to move “Hendo” to the head of the class.
Henderson would be a quality match-up for Lyoto Machida, a rematch of his UFC 75 battle with Quinton Jackson could be entertaining, and a meeting with Tito Ortiz would be capable of carrying a pay-per-view with the right supporting cast.
There isn’t much left for him in Strikeforce other than a meaningless belt and extra spending money. Here’s hoping those don’t become the determining factors in Henderson’s next decision.
END OF AN ERA
Saturday night’s defeat should bring the Fedor Emelianenko Era in Strikeforce to a close. After entering the organization without a legitimate loss in his career, Emelianenko has lost each of his last three contests, leaving his record at 1-3 with the company and 31-4 overall.
Each of his previous two defeats could be explained away — he made a careless mistake against Fabricio Werdum, was physically outmatched by the much larger Antonio Silva — but his loss to Henderson had none of those elements. Fedor was beaten. It was a give-and-take of good shots with the light heavyweight champion, and in the end, Fedor couldn’t take the best Henderson had to offer.
Whether Emelianenko continues fighting outside of the organization is undetermined. As always, the Russian heavyweight will leave his fate in God’s hands. A return to Japan and more favorable fight bookings is a possibility, and working exclusively for the company he is a stakeholder in — M-1 Global — might make sense as well.
Either way, his days as a featured attraction on North American soil are over.
DEBATING THE STOPPAGE
Some people think it was too soon. They look at Fedor turning over after Herb Dean was in the process of waving off the bout and believe “The Last Emperor” wasn’t given enough time to adequately show whether he was capable of continuing or not.
Some see a pair of Henderson strikes to the back of the head and cry foul, believing the inadvertent illegal blows were the cause of the finish.
Others believe Dean did a good job and made the right call. I count myself among the numbers in this last group, and here’s why:
When Henderson connected with his under-the-armpit uppercut, Fedor went from being on all fours to being landing face-first on the canvas. His arms went limp. He offered no immediate defense. That’s the sign of a fighter who is knocked out.
It’s not that I excuse the blows to the back of the head; they clearly landed and undoubtedly did some damage, but much like Melvin Guillard’s final knee to Evan Dunham, they came after the fight was decided. They might have even been the shots that brought Fedor back to his senses.
Past history doesn’t matter either. Citing Fedor’s survival against Kazuyuki Fujita or Henderson’s inability to finish Jake Shields are pointless; you don’t base your decisions on past events. Only the ones that take place in the cage in front of you count.
CHAMPIONSHIP VICTORY SHOWS TATE’S MOXIE
After battling through a second round that saw her back-mounted for three-quarters of the frame, Tate looked tired to open the third. I expected Coenen to find a submission or win the stand-up battle, but instead, Tate secured another takedown and narrowly won the round.
She looked spent to start the fourth as well, but just like in the third, she brought the fight to her comfort zone, controlling Coenen on the mat. Then she did something that had never been done before — she submitted Coenen. It was a slick finish from a smooth set-up and transition, floating across Coenen’s prone body to cinch the arm triangle choke in deeper.
That kind of resolve cannot be taught. It is learned over time, through repetition and sweat in practice.
REMATCH WITH KAUFMAN ON THE HORIZON
Tate’s first title defense will come against a familiar foe.
The first fight was contested as three three-minute rounds, so the extra time will play a factor in the fight. But truthfully, that bout can be thrown out the window. Both fighters have progressed a great deal since the first fight. Kaufman has even better boxing and takedown defense, while Tate has shown improved conditioning and control on the ground.
The only take away from the bout may be psychological. Tate will have to get over the fact that she was beaten by Kaufman in the past, and Kaufman cannot draw too much confidence from the win.
While it feels like we’re saying this with increased frequency, this fight now becomes the most important fight on the schedule for women’s MMA. Tate is the kind of marketable star the sport has been missing since the departure of Gina Carano. Kaufman was given the first chance to put the women’s 135 pound ranks on the Strikeforce map, and came up short, underwhelming in all but one of her fights.
It should be very interesting to see how this one plays out.