Sunday, July 31, 2011
Updated: August 1, 8:45 AM ET
Hendo adds chapter to storied career
By Josh Gross
How do the final throes of an overrated icon's career equate to Dan Henderson's best mixed martial arts accomplishment? Because the life and times of Fedor Emelianenko make for interesting math, that's why. And the interpretation of events following Saturday's showdown depends greatly on one's perspective.
If you're Dana White or his acolytes, and you despise what the Russian has come to represent, the heavyweight's first-round stoppage against Henderson is proof definitive that the Pride heavyweight king is, was and forever will be a joke.
If you're Henderson, or you've similarly enjoyed the chance to challenge Emelianenko, there is reverence and little else as he slides back to earth.
If you're among the legion of Emelianenko fans rounded up over an unprecedented decade of dominance, the end of his third straight unthinkable loss was premature and inconclusive.
If you're familiar with the bell-curve trajectory of MMA's dominant fighters, if context and facts don't conflict with an agenda, if you can recognize that a man who bucked the odds is simply coping with the house cashing in, then there's nothing to experience save the realization that one of the sport's greats isn't what he once was, nor will be again.
Is Emelianenko the GOAT?
Surely he is destined to be one of those fighters whose exploits are always in dispute. Heavyweight standouts, whether they aim to be or not, will be compared to the Russian. Such is the shadow cast by his time in Pride, those run-ins with the UFC and a recent tumble from the top.
Henderson can't do much more than he has. All that's left, really, is a rematch against Anderson Silva or another shot at the UFC light heavyweight title. Regardless, unlike Emelianenko, his tale is written in stone.
Two legitimate legends of mixed martial arts -- the best heavyweight of his era versus one the most versatile fighters imaginable -- came to blows over the weekend. It was a fight few people clamored for, yet as they went to war the proceedings unfolded organically, with respect.
There's a lesson in there somewhere.
And, likely, something to argue about.
From A-minus to D, here's how the televised Strikeforce card stacked up:
Josh Gross covers MMA for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at JoshGrossESPN.