In a little more than four minutes, Dan Henderson may have wiped away what was left of the mystique surrounding former Pride Fighting Championships heavyweight king Fedor Emelianenko.

Henderson (28-8, 3-1 SF) brought a violent end to a brief but violent fight, as he stopped the Russian icon on first-round punches in the Strikeforce/M-1 Global “Fedor vs. Henderson” headliner on Saturday at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Ill. A series of right hands from the two-time Olympian and former two-division Pride champion polished off Emelianenko and forced referee Herb Dean to intervene on his behalf 4:12 into round one.

“I’ve been a huge fan of Fedor’s forever,” Henderson (Pictured, File Photo) said. “I respect him so much. That’s a huge accomplishment compared to a lot of the things I’ve done.”

With that, a man many consider to be the greatest heavyweight mixed martial artist of all-time had lost for the third time in as many appearances, leading to intensifying speculation that “The Last Emperor” may have fought his last fight.

“As a fan of Fedor’s,” Henderson said, “I hope he keeps fighting.”

Emelianenko (31-4, 1 NC, 1-3 SF) rushed forward from the opening bell, stalking his opponent in aggressive fashion. Henderson unleashed under fire, connected with a left hook and followed it with a right that backed up the Russian and slowed his attack. The blows left visible damage on Emelianenko’s right eye, and the two spent an extended period in the clinch, perhaps gathering themselves for another push.

When the two broke apart, Emelianenko swarmed Henderson with punches, driving him to the mat and into a vulnerable position. However, Henderson scrambled up from the bottom, broke free and cracked Emelianenko with a wicked right uppercut, shooting the punch from behind and dropping the legend face first on the canvas. More blows followed, as a dazed Emelianenko rolled to his back and Dean stepped in.

“At the end of the fight, he hit me with a little uppercut. I was aware the whole time, and I just kept going,” Henderson said. “I’m trying not to get hit and then trying to recover and get back up on top. That’s something I do all the time in practice, and I don’t think he was expecting that punch to come up [from] underneath.”

The fight was the last on Henderson’s current contract. A winner in three straight bouts, the 40-year-old has not yet defended the light heavyweight title he won from Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante in March.

“We’ll see what happens,” Henderson said. “I’d like to defend that belt in Strikeforce, but, right now, it’s all up to Strikeforce and Zuffa. I’m just going to enjoy this victory for a while.”

Miesha Tate submitted Marloes Coenen with a fourth-round arm-triangle choke to capture the Strikeforce women’s welterweight championship in the co-main event. The competitive fight came to a dramatic close 3:03 into round four.

Tate (12-2, 5-1 SF) controlled vast stretches of the encounter with takedowns, top control and sporadic ground-and-pound, as she exposed the glaring vulnerability in Coenen’s game. She scored with takedowns in rounds one, three and four and avoided prolonged danger in the second. In that round, Coenen transitioned to Tate’s back in a scramble, cinched a body lock and searched for a rear-naked choke for more than three minutes. Those attempts failed, breathing new life and renewed belief into the challenger.

In the fourth round, Tate landed a takedown, defended a guillotine choke and passed to side mount. She glided seamlessly to the choke, cleared her legs and tightened her grip on victory. Coenen (19-5, 3-2 SF) tried to free herself, but her efforts were in vain and she reluctantly tapped out. The 30-year-old Golden Glory standout had never before been submitted in a career that spans more than a decade.

“I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Tate said. “She had never been submitted, and that’s what I came in here to do. She’s really tough. I told everyone I wasn’t going to come in here with such a [rigid] game plan. If I saw an opportunity, I was going to take it, and I did.”

Tim Kennedy File Photo


Kennedy is closing in on a title shot.

Tim Kennedy moved one step closer to a rematch with Strikeforce middleweight champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, as he outworked and outhustled Robbie Lawler en route to a unanimous verdict on the scorecards in a 185-pound showcase. All three judges scored it 30-27 in Kennedy’s favor.

The underrated Kennedy was dogged in his pursuit of the takedown, which led to a wild first-round scramble between the two. Ultimately, he forced Lawler to the ground, passed guard into side control and moved to mount with roughly half a minute to go. Lawler escaped, but the tone had been set and Kennedy’s intentions were clear. An uppercut from Lawler (19-7, 1 NC, 2-4 SF) opened a nasty gash on the bridge of Kennedy’s nose in round two, but the Special Forces veteran was not dissuaded. He secured another takedown and worked his ground-and-pound from inside Lawler’s guard, leaking blood as he went.

Lawler’s offensive output was virtually non-existent in the third round, and though he was visibly fatigued, Kennedy managed another takedown. He polished off the victory, his sixth in seven appearances, with elbows to the head and punches to the body of his grounded foe.

“He bloodied me up for [my takedown attempts],” Kennedy said. “I’m glad the judges see that it’s just blood. I’m in here; I’m going to get cut. I’m going to fight to the end. Robbie is a tough guy. I think this is the first time I’ve ever won a decision.”

Afterward, Kennedy (14-3, 5-1 SF) made it clear he wanted another crack at Souza, the man who defeated him by unanimous decision 11 months ago. Kennedy still disputes the verdict.

“I’m ready to go,” he said. “Let’s [have the title fight] right now. I won it last time. I’m going to try to win every fight by knockout or submission, because that’s how I fight.”

Two-time NCAA wrestling All-American Tyron Woodley used a familiar recipe -- takedowns, clinch work and top control -- to get past the always-dangerous Paul Daley in a welterweight title eliminator. The unbeaten American Top Team representative swept the scorecards by matching 29-28 counts.

Woodley (9-0, 7-0 SF) moved to clinch almost immediately, attacking Daley with punches to the body and knees to the thighs. However, he landed only two takedowns in the fight, the first of which was not achieved until some 75 seconds had expired in the second round. Woodley operated successfully from inside Daley’s guard for more than three minutes, but the ground work seemed to take a toll on both men. After a restart, a winded Woodley retreated to his back and absorbed a few standing-to-ground blows from the Team Rough House standout.

Having worked hard to secure a lead, Woodley needed the edge in the third round. He cracked Daley with a beautiful knee from the clinch inside the first minute and delivered his second takedown. Unable to damage his foe, Woodley again found himself under heavy fire from the aggressive Brit. Punches and knees flew. Daley (27-11-2, 2-2 SF), revered as one of the game’s premier strikers, even threw in an attempted omaplata attempt from his back in round three. Still, it was not enough to dig out of the two-round hole.

Fast-rising Belgian Tarec Saffiedine picked apart Scott Smith for three rounds and claimed a one-sided unanimous decision from the UFC veteran in a featured welterweight matchup. Saffiedine (11-3, 3-1 SF) swept the scorecards -- 30-26, 30-27 and 30-27 -- in what can only be described as an utterly complete performance.

Early low kicks from the Team Quest representative left Smith stationery and easy to hit. Alternating between an orthodox and southpaw stance, Saffiedine battered Smith with wide-ranging strikes: straight lefts, knees from the clinch, punch-kick combinations and vicious short elbows. He was at his best in the second round, when he buckled Smith with a right hook roughly 90 seconds in and patiently pecked away at him near the cage. Later, he drove Smith to the canvas with a head kick and another right hand, wheeled around to his back and briefly worked for a choke. Smith escaped, only to be met by further punishment when the two returned to their feet.

Saffiedine kept his distance in the third round. Still, he cracked his beaten foe -- blood trickling from a cut in between his left eyebrow and eyelid -- with a straight left to the face and a spinning-back kick to the body. Smith (17-9, 1 NC, 3-4 SF), a 32-year-old Reno, Nev., native, now finds himself on a three-fight losing streak for the first time in his career.

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