Strikeforce's Pockets Not Deep Enough for Fedor Emelianenko Vs. Dan Henderson

Joe SchaferCorrespondent IMarch 7, 2011

After MMA legend “Hollywood” Dan “Hendo” Henderson released his “Fat Man” H-Bomb on Rafael Cavalcante’s face for the title last Saturday night at Strikeforce: Columbus, legitimate concerns over the company’s shallow talent pool at 205 lbs. began to surface.

Now the newly crowned Henderson, an iconic warrior with numerous accolades throughout his 14-year stretch as a mixed martial artist, will be faced with the fallout of being a Strikeforce champion in a division that has little to offer.

Winning a belt in such a competitive and growing sport like MMA is only half the struggle—the other half is defending it. Popular sentiment claims that a fighter is not yet a champion until he enters the ring with the belt and leaves with it on the same night.

It’s hard to consider Matt Serra, Rashad Evans and Forrest Griffin for any lifetime achievement awards after failing to keep the strap after their first respective title defenses. If only there was a word to represent that gray area between contender and champion.

To be fair to those fallen stars, MMA is filled with such high level athletes in every division, making it very difficult for any competitor to start and preserve a divisional dynasty—unless, of course, your name is Anderson Silva or Georges St-Pierre, freaks of nature who might never be replicated.

Where does that leave Henderson in Strikeforce’s light-heavyweight division? The previous three 205 lbs. kingpins all fell victim to short reigns under Scott Coker’s banner: Gegard Mousasi, King Mo Lawal and recently dethroned Calvacante.

Hendo has far more experience than all three of those fighters combined, giving him the odds to stay on top of the mountain. But, like most Strikeforce champs, he’ll have a hard time finding a challenging test, especially at light-heavyweight.

With the dried up talent mirage surrounding the start of Hendo’s reign, people are already calling for a superfight between the champ and ex-undisputed Pride heavyweight title holder Fedor Emelianenko.

Both fighters match up well in weight, Fedor a naturally small heavyweight and Henderson cutting near nothing to make the 205 lbs. limit, making catchweight a suitable solution. Stylistically, neither guy steers away from moving forward, constantly ready to pull the trigger champion or not—a unique characteristic of many old school fighters.

Despite the decisive loss, Fedor still has enough stock in his name to get people interested about him taking on a newly crowned opponent in a different weight class. Fedor vs. “x” still has the drawing power and allure to make, not only promoters, but also fans salivate at the mouth.

That might sound odd considering how he was recently manhandled by Antonio Silva in the opening round of the Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament, but that headliner smashed all previous Strikeforce ratings on Showtime, clocking in at an average of 741,000 viewers.

Not bad for a guy coming off a first-round loss to Fabricio Werdum back in June of last year.

Human curiosity is a funny thing, a driving force for any passionate fan of anything. Fedor’s unquestioned mythical dominance in the sport may be waning after his first consecutive losses, but his drawing power is not.

Whether you want to see him win or loss, watching the soft spoken Russian go to work is a special bi-annual event which promises excitement. He has a high success rate of producing those “special” moments that fans yearn for during events—the same moments that make MMA intoxicating.

Fedor is a calendar fighter, a guy who gets his own spot on your calendar every year like your favorite holidays. He shares this treatment with guys like Anderson Silva, George St-Pierre and BJ Penn.

Unfortunately, a potential bout with Henderson will more than likely be sidelined for that every reason. Henderson is no slouch himself when it comes to stirring up general interest in the particular cards he fights on—there’s an undeniable spot in most fans hearts for him, especially after he decapitated Michael Bisping at UFC 100.

Commanding that kind of attention and admiration typically requires heavy financial compensation. Henderson banked a flat fee of $250K fighting Calvacante and that was as the challenger.

Backing down from such an opportunity would never enter neither fighter’s minds; in fact Henderson expressed a desire to fight Fedor when he first came over to Strikeforce. The real culprit would be management and Strikeforce’s inability to put on a show big enough to pay their top two earners on the same card in the same fight—at least not in the near future.

In addition to whatever champion’s clause Hendo might have signed ensue of more money, Strikeforce would have to contend with M-1 Global’s demands, even if their leveraging power got knocked down a couple of notches after Fedor’s loss. They would still want a Donkeylip’s portion of that chedda pie (who said a Salute Your Shorts reference in a MMA article was impossible?).

Simply put: there’s not a Strikeforce card big enough for the two of ‘em.


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