Written by: Seamus
As the stoic man who once reigned as the sport’s greatest fighter stretched and warmed up, readying to finish his day with a fist fight, the announcers at ringside asked fans to text in a vote about whether or not the legend would retire. The heavyweight kingpin of PRIDE FC breathed as easily as if he stood alongside the Oskol River. The Last Emperor was as composed as ever even this close to what may be his final moment as MMA Royalty whether he won or lost.
Down the hall, another man was slowly beginning his warm up as well. This legend, however, held two championships. As he readied himself for the long-anticipated conflict, his student put on a show. Tarec Saffedine, who has spent much time learning grappling at the hands of a master, displayed the future of Dan Henderson regardless of how this conflict turned out. Recently saying there are a couple of years left in his body, the first man to hold a major championship in two weight classes knew this still may be the final climax of his career.
Both men breathed in deeply, both men exhaled. Both men were ready.
When the Jimmy Lennon Jr.’s voice tells us that the moment is soon at hand, the cheers rose as quickly as the excitement.
Henderson entered first, looking calm and loose. He breathes in the cheers that he has spent his lifetime collecting. Hendo exhales any nerves that might be left.
Fedor and his marvelous entrance song come next, a slow and beautiful melody that could as easily be a song of victory as it could be his swan song. A crowd’s frenzy follows with it.
His eyes stare downward, thoughts known only to him. A pivotal moment in the life of a great champion is at hand. He must be breathing, but even that is not able to be seen. Zeno would be proud.
Neither man is aggressive in their stare. Some may wonder if either one is confident. The two men know better.
They fire away early, both men looping in punches and landing bone-cracking efficiency. Both men obviously sure they could win the fire fight. Neither man had been knocked out, even against the greatest fighters in history. They seem determined to break that streak.
The Last Emperor spills his blood first, and his weaknesses are discussed by announcers who once exclaimed his invincible fortitude as the two men tangle for minutes against the cage.
Dan Henderson once dreamed of winning a gold medal for himself and for his country. One would imagine that his dream included a parade, complete with the chants of “USA” and the pride he could take in that. Hendo never dreamt of fighting, but did it because he needed the money to continue his Olympic training. In the end, he became one of our greatest competitors and ambassadors to the world of MMA in Japan and the United States. As he took control of the fight, he was serenaded with the sound of thousands of fans in his corner chanting “USA.”
Two great champions fire strikes at one another as they break and return to the center of the cage.
Fedor lands cleanly now, showing signs of what once was. Other thousands of fans, on their feet as the greatest export of Combat Sambo and possibly greatest fighter in history stalks down his opponent. Thousands of miles from home, fighting mostly in front of people he has never met before and will never see again, the greatest fighter to ever enter a cage is serenaded as well. “FE-DOR, FE-DOR” went the chorus, forward went his feet.
Henderson stumbles, committing what was once a deadly sin against the greatest heavyweight that has ever walked the Earth. Emelianenko fires downward, the man who was once the Grand Master of the Ground-and-Pound seemed to be employing what was his most fearsome weapon.
Hendo, feeling the danger, does what the last thirty years of his life have taught him to do… he grabbed a single. Like the great wrestler he has always been, he gracefully floats behind Russia’s greatest representative. And like the mixed martial artist that he has become, Dan Henderson fired a brutal uppercut beneath the defenses of The Last Emperor.
It lands directly on the chin.
In a flash, the great heavyweight crashes to the might. Unconscious for a brief moment, but it is enough.
Unable to defend himself, for the first time in his career, Fedor Emelianenko must be saved by the intervention of a referee.