By Alex Donno
Fedor Emelianenko returns to Showtime this Saturday night, as Strikeforce and M-1 Global present “Fedor vs Henderson” from the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Illinois.
“The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko meets fellow ex-Pride FC star Dan Henderson in the main event. To put it in simple terms, this is a fun matchup. Despite the fact that the two fighters are technically separated by a weight class, it’s a fight that Strikeforce needed to make. Fedor and “Hendo” are the two biggest stars in the promotion. To have these two fight one another makes all the sense in the world. For Henderson, it’s a chance to beat a legend, and perhaps steal whatever bit of aura Fedor has left. For Fedor, it’s a chance to prove to fans he’s still relevant, and can still win a big fight.
Not too long ago, Fedor was riding a 27 fight winning streak, but now he comes off two straight losses, the first of which was a somewhat fluky first round submission against Fabricio Werdum. He followed that up with a severe beating at the hands of the massive Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. “Bigfoot” represents the new breed of MMA heavyweight, standing six-foot four inches tall and cutting weight to reach the 265 lb heavyweight limit. Fedor, on the other hand, is a throwback heavyweight, generously listed at 6-feet tall with a pudgy 230 lb physique. In reality, a loss to a physical specimen like Silva should not raise too many eyebrows, but many fans viewed it as a sign that Fedor was overrated all along. A win over Dan Henderson would go a long way to help salvage Fedor’s legacy.
At age 40 (6 years older than Fedor), Dan Henderson appears dangerous as ever. “Hendo” has won two straight fights, both by knockout, and holds the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Title. This fight will be contested at heavyweight, and Hendo expects to weigh about 206 lbs on fight day, making him considerably lighter than his opponent. To me, Henderson has very little to lose in this fight, if anything at all. If Fedor comes out victorious, fans will note the fact that Henderson was at a significant weight disadvantage. He will still have his light heavyweight title, and can move back down in weight to defend it. For Fedor, this fight may be his last chance to prove to fans that his nearly 10 year unbeaten streak wasn’t merely a side-effect of questionable matchmaking.
Now that we’ve set the table, here are my fight picks for the entire event:
Main Event: Fedor Emelianenko vs Dan Henderson – Heavyweight
Both men possess knockout power in their respective right hands. Both have an exellent chin, at least on paper. Henderson has never been knocked out, ever. Fedor has suffered a pair of TKO losses, but has never been knocked out clean. Unless Fedor pulls out a submission, which is certainly a possibility, I expect this one to reach the judges’ scorecards. In this fight I lean slightly to Dan Henderson for 2 reasons. 1) Speed. And 2) wrestling. As a 2-time Greco Roman Olympian, Henderson should be able to dictate where the fight takes place. If Fedor starts controlling him in the standup, Hendo will have the ability to take him to the ground. My Pick: Dan Henderson by Decision.
Co-Main Event: Marloes Coenen (champion) vs Miesha Tate- Women’s welterweight championship.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I think wrestling will be the difference in this fight. Tate is an accomplished wrestler, coming from a wrestling heavy camp in Team Alpha Male. We’ve seen Coenen struggle to stay vertical against wrestlers in the past, but she does offer a serious submission threat off her back. There’s no question in my mind that Tate will take her down repeatedly, but the difference in the fight will be whether or not Coenen can catch her in a submission. In a 5 round fight, Coenen will have plenty of chances, but I have faith that Miesha will stay out of trouble and grind out a decision. My Pick: Miesha Tate by Decision.
Tim Kennedy vs Robbie Lawler – Middleweight
This fight should be fun. Lawler will hold the advantage in the standup, with his undeniable knockout power. Kennedy will have the edge if and when it goes to the ground. I’d also give Kennedy the advantage in the clinch. Expect some fireworks in the first round, but eventually, Kennedy will wear him out and take him down. When I look into my crystal ball, I see Kennedy winning this one with ground and pound in the second round. My Pick: Tim Kennedy by TKO, Round 2.
Paul Daley vs Tyron Woodley – Welterweight
Up and comer Tyron Woodley (8-0) faces the biggest challenge of his young career. Knockout artist Paul Daley (27-10-2) thinks Strikeforce put him in this fight against an accomplished wrestler expecting him to lose, given the fact that wrestling has always been his Achilles heel. Daley says he will prove his doubters wrong, though, citing his experience, and self proclaimed improving wrestling defense. Maybe he has a point, but logic tells me Woodley will win this fight with takedowns and top control. Finishing Daley won’t be easy, so I’m expecting a decision. If you need evidence of Daley struggling against wrestlers, check out his fights against Josh Koscheck and Jake Shields. My Pick: Tyron Woodley by Decision.
Scott Smith vs Tarec Saffiedine – Welterweight
I expect Saffiedine to be better than Smith in every aspect of the fight, with the only x-factor being Smith’s tendency to pull off amazing and somewhat lucky comebacks every now and then. Consider his miraculous comeback wins over Pete Sell, Cung Le, and Benji Radach for reference. At this point, I question Smith’s chin, and I look to the well rounded and technically superior Saffiedine to win by TKO. My Pick: Tarec Saffiedine by TKO, round 3.
Strikeforce and M-1 Global Present: Fedor vs Henderson takes place this Saturday Night, July 30th, Live at 10pm EST on Showtime.