Once widely considered to be the greatest fighter in all of mixed martial arts, Fedor Emelianenko has now lost three straight bouts for the first time in his storied career.

Emelianenko’s latest defeat came Saturday night at the hands of Dan Henderson in the titular main event of Strikeforce and M-1 Global’s co-promoted card at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Ill. Recovering from a series of blows courtesy of his heavier foe, Henderson quickly turned the tables and seemed to turn out Emelianenko’s lights with a short uppercut that slid under the Russian’s armpit.

Referee Herb Dean quickly jumped in to stop the contest, a fact with which Emelianenko (Pictured; file photo) took issue afterward.

“I think [the stoppage] was early. I don’t want to say anything bad about the referee or anything, but it seems to me it was early,” Emelianko said in his post-fight interview. “I was clearly hit, but I wasn’t hit flush and directly. I think I could have continued, but the referee decided to stop it.”

The finish came only minutes after a furious exchange to begin the contest. Henderson took the initiative early, countering Emelianenko’s aggression by landing a sharp left hook and pressing “The Last Emperor” against the cage.

The Russian recovered, however, and Emelianenko returned fire by stunning Henderson with a flurry of blows that dropped the American. Emelianenko pounced to finish the job, but the wily Henderson managed a slick escape. Grabbing a leg and sliding out the back door, Henderson soon found himself behind his foe. The American seized the opportunity, cracking Emelianenko with a short uppercut that crumpled the former Pride Fighting Championships heavyweight king.

The loss to Henderson marks the Russian’s third defeat since June 2010 after compiling a nine-year undefeated streak. Losses to Fabricio Werdum, Antonio Silva and now Henderson have some calling for Emelianenko to hang up the gloves and call it a career. Even Fedor himself hinted at retirement following his February loss to Silva in the quarterfinals of Strikeforce’s heavyweight grand prix.

However, following his defeat on Saturday night, Emelianenko was not as revealing, instead opting to issue a familiar response in regard to his uncertain fighting future.

“It’s God’s will if I will fight again. [I] thank God for everything.”

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