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Lessons Learned From Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Henderson

Holy cow!  It is now Tuesday and I’m still reeling from the spectacular Strikeforce main event Saturday night.  As we enter a UFC heavy August, it’s reassuring to know that Fedor vs Hendo did more than enough to whet the appetite of MMA fans. 

A few observations from Saturday night’s Strikeforce card:

 - Look, Dan Henderson’s legacy in the sport of MMA was crafted long before he knocked Emelianenko silly.  The former PRIDE, UFC, and current Strikeforce champion will go down as one of the greatest fighters to ever enter the cage.  But, boy, did he ever put an exclamation point on his career with his performance Saturday night.  Granted, there is some controversy surrounding referee Herb Dean’s perceived quick stoppage but in any and all combative sports you have to err on the side of caution.  But, to the naysayers, I say check the replay.  Fedor was clearly knocked silly and to allow the fight to continue on would have risen the percentages for some serious damage to have been inflicted on the head of the Russian great.

 - As for Fedor Emelianenko, well it’s hard to say what his next career move should be.  You have to be almost certain that Strikeforce will release the former PRIDE great given that there is no sense in paying such a king’s ransom to a fighter who has seen his stock fall faster than Enron’s did.  A three fight losing skid against Fabricio Werdum, Antonio Silva, and now Dan Henderson is more than ample reason for Fedor to find himself in the unemployment line.  Emelianenko has stated that he wishes to continue fighting, and his name does carry a bit of weight, but what we are clearly looking at with “The Last Emperor” is a fighter who is very near to hanging up his gloves.  

 - I have to give credit to newly crowned Strikeforce women’s champion Miesha Tate for her title winning performance over Marloes Coenen.  Initially, I though Coenen submission attacks and vast edge in experience would overcome Tate’s wrestling.  Chalk that up to another prediction of mine that went horrible wrong.  Granted, Coenen was doing well throughout the fight but Tate was tenacious with the takedowns and the ground control.  Liz Carmouche may have exposed Coenen’s Achilles Heel but it was Tate who capitalized on Coenen’s lack of wrestling defense in route to winning the title. 

 - With Tate’s camera friendly good looks, I would expect her popularity to soar now that she has a belt around her waist.  Coenen was a great champion but the fact that she was not based here in America hurt her popularity in this country (though she is extremely popular in her native Holland).  It may sound a bit jingoistic, but that’s how American fight fans roll more often than not.  Unlike former women’s MMA poster child Gina Carano, Tate seems more than eager to be a fighter first and celebrity second. 

 - I truly appreciate the skill set that Tyrone Woodley brings to the table but in grinding out a win over Paul Daley, Woodley looked like anything but a complete MMA fighter.  Look, we know that Woodley is a wrestler and that fact has carried him to an undefeated record in professional MMA, but if he truly wants to take his talents to the next level he will have to work on his overall fight game.  His striking is nothing to write home about and he should try to incorporate more submissions in his ground game.  Still, I’m not giving up on the title prospects of Woodley, especially in the barren wasteland that is the Strikeforce welterweight division, but there are vast holes in his game that need to be filled.

 - Tim Kennedy is still a force to be reckoned with in the middleweight division, but on Saturday it looked like he was trying too hard to win impressively.  Robbie Lawler is as dangerous and skilled a fighter as you will ever find and credit should be given to Kennedy for grinding out a win.  But, Kennedy looked like he was trying too hard to put on a show for the folks at home and was not letting the fight flow naturally for him. 

 - As much as I have been a fan of Scott Smith, the sad fact is that maybe he should be looking at hanging the gloves up.  Saturday night he looked slow and unable to return the punishment he was eating in great amounts at the hand of Tarec Saffedine.  While Smith’s power will always keep him in a fight, the fact that he has to absorb such an ungodly amount of punishment in attempts to land the one big shot does not bode well for his long term physical health. 


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