On July 30th at around midnight hardcore MMA fans everywhere get a chance to nerd-out as two of the most legendary fighters in the sport finally meet inside a cage in Chicago. The long awaited bout between Fedor Emelianenko and Dan Henderson will take place more than 10,000 kilometers from where their stars were born while fighting in Japan.Â
Â To understand why this fight is so important to the sportâ€™s history and why MMA fans have been salivating over the prospect of these two titans duking it out, we must first look back to a time when Emelianenko and Henderson ruled the MMA landscape half a world away.
Â It was New Years Eve, the event was Pride Shockwave 2005 and the upward trajectory of both fightersâ€™ careers began to steepen with outcomes of their fights. Fedor Emelianenko sat securely atop Prideâ€™s heavyweight division. Four months earlier he was successful in his first title defense with a decisive win over Mirko Cro-Cop. That December night at Shockwave, Fedor not only earned his giant killer merit badge, he also became a hero to the Japanese fans. Standing in the rotund Russianâ€™s way was Wagner â€˜Zuluzinhoâ€™ Martins, a man who dwarfed Fedor at 6 foot 8 and tipped the scales north of 400 pounds. The colossal Brazilian super heavyweight had neither the mobility nor the will to fight after Emelianenko stung him with a flurry of punches. The non-title fight ended in 38 seconds and even though it was more of a spectacle than a legitimate bout, it still served to foster Fedorâ€™s legend overseas.Â
Â The very next fight that night featured a 35-year-old welterweight Dan Henderson fighting Murilo Bustamante for Pride Grand Prix championship belt. In contrast to the freak show that preceded it, Henderson had a real challenge on his hands. He had mowed through Ryo Chonan and Akihiro Gono to advance to this stage of the tournament and had one opponent to go. Murilo and Dan had met once before in 2003 where Henderson had made short work of him winning by TKO just under a minute into the first round. This time the Brazilian grappler came very prepared and gave Hendo a run for his money. The back and forth war that ensued ended with the final bell with the judges handing Henderson a split decision victory, and the Pride welterweight title.
Â Fast forword six years, both men have experienced ups and downs in their careers leading up to this point. Their star power has been diminished by time, lack-luster performances and management disputes with promotions. Even though this fight will serve to answer questions about whose hands are more lethal and who is the better all-time fighter, there will always be those who will wonder, what would have transpired if this fight took place years ago when both men were at the top of their game.
Â Better late than never is the attitude I will have as I sit down to watch the fights Saturday night on Showtime. Hopefully the rest of you will join me on Twitter as the carnage unfolds live in this open weight super-fight. It could be one for the ages.
Â Almost forgot, there is an actual fight card preceding the main event, here is how it breaks down.
Â Fedor Emelianenko vs. Dan Henderson
Â Marloes Coenen vs. Miesha Tate â€“ Womenâ€™s 135lb championship
Â Robbie Lawler vs. Tim Kennedy
Â Paul Daley vs. Tyron Woodley
Â Scott Smith vs. Tarec Saffiedine
Â Gesias Cavalcante vs. Bobby Green
Â Eduardo Pamplona vs. Tyler Stinson
Â Alexis Davis vs. Julie Kedzie
Â Derek Brunson vs. Lumumba Sayers
Â Bryan Humes vs. Gabriel Salinas-Jones