Esther Lin for Strikeforce
Fans always wondered how well Fedor Emelianenko -- undersized for a heavyweight -- would fare if he fought competition closer to him in size. Well, they found out the hard way, thanks to an "H-Bomb" from the heavy-handed Dan Henderson.
The Strikeforce: "Fedor vs. Henderson" event held on July 30, 2011, which aired live on the Showtime network from the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, was supposed to be the rebirth of Fedor Emelianenko.
Sure, "The Last Emperor" had been defeated in back-to-back fights heading into the outskirts of "Chi-Town," but he made a mental error against Fabricio Werdum and was just too small to hang with Brazilian "Bigfoot," Antonio Silva.
Yeah, that was it.
A win over a storied veteran like Dan Henderson would affirm what most mixed martial arts (MMA) fans had been saying for years: The Stary Oskol-native, who stands just a hair under six-feet tall and weighs in the neighborhood of 225 pounds, is too small to compete in the land of giants.
A place where monsters like Silva often cut weight to make the heavyweight mark.
Indeed, the stage was set for Emelianenko's second run under the Strikeforce banner, thanks to a unholy alliance with M1 Global, and few people outside of Team Quest figured Henderson, who just over a year prior was fighting at middleweight, had much of a chance.
That explains his role as a +255 underdog.
Apparently, security was lax at the Sears Centre that warm summer night in "The Prairie State," as the ex-Olympian and former PRIDE FC champion had somehow managed to smuggle an "H-Bomb" into the arena, and just when it looked like he was taking the wrong turn down queer street, it detonated.
Here's how it happened.
Round one gets underway with a touch of gloves and Emelianenko rushes in to grab a half-hearted low kick attempt from his foe, who looks a bit surprised at the impromptu bumrush. Live bloggers around the globe panic as both fighters go batshit and swing for the fences.
First Henderson is in retreat, then it's Fedor.
"What a start to this fight!" screams longtime play-by-play man Gus Johnson, later adding that "Neither one of these fighters has ever been knocked out." Chants of "USA! USA! USA!" erupt as the combatants clinch and trade knees against the cage.
Blood can be seen trickling from the right eye of Emelianenko.
Henderson hoists his rival up and over for a takedown, but Fedor sneaks a few fingers into the fence and keeps it upright, drawing a warning from referee Herb Dean. Sitting somewhere cageside, Matt Lindland shakes his head in sympathy. "Hendo" smothers the one-time WAMMA champ against the fence and uncorks intermittent knees.
A few audible boos are heard as the action crawls to a stop.
Henderson shoves off and cracks Fedor with a right before pedaling in reverse. They meet in the center of the Hexagon and Emelianenko adjust his shorts before recklessly running in with punches. "Hendo" covers up and circles out of danger.
But only momentarily.
Just as the crowd shows its love for the Russian interloper, "Dangerous Dan" gets clipped and stumbles backwards onto his keister. Fedor rushes in for his patented ground-and-pound, but his absence of disciplined positioning allows Henderson to roll out of harm's way and sneak in from behind to take his back while still upright.
Suddenly, an H-bomb explodes from underneath.
Emelianenko slumps to the ground, face first, and Henderson follows up with two to the dome. Dean rushes in to call the fight and just like that, it's all over. While questions would linger about the timing of the stoppage, the record will reflect a technical knockout win for "Hendo."
One he hopes to replicate this Saturday night (Feb. 23, 2013) at UFC 157 in Anaheim, California.
That's where Henderson will fight former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Lyoto Machida, with the winner getting a crack at the 205-pound crown later this year. But against Jon Jones or Chael Sonnen? That's to be decided at the UFC 159 pay-per-view in April.
Until then, beware of the "H-Bomb."