Strikeforce will be dropping the curtain for the final time Saturday night. While most mixed martial arts fans can’t wait to pour dirt on the hexagon’s grave, it’s hard to imagine what could have been if Fedor Emelianenko (Pictured) was able to replicate the success he had prior to joining the UFC’s biggest rival to date.
When Emelianenko spurned the UFC for Strikeforce in late 2009, it was unquestionably the biggest free agent signing the sport had ever seen. David broke out his slingshot on Goliath and swiped the most decorated heavyweight in the game’s history.
“The Last Emperor” owned an unprecedented 31-1 (1 NC) professional résumé and rode a 27-fight winning streak into the organization. Emelianenko started things off with a bang by posting a TKO victory over then-undefeated Brett Rogers in his promotional premiere. However, things quickly turned south for the Russian and his new employer.
Fabricio Werdum served up arguably the largest upset special MMA has ever witnessed by submitting Emelianenko in his next outing (Pictured). No biggie, Fedor was just a tad careless with his attack (according to Strikeforce). I mean, even Michael Jordan made mistakes during his heyday.
Strikeforce then formulated an eight-man Heavyweight Grand Prix that it, and broadcast partner Showtime, hoped would shoot their golden boy back to glory.
Unfortunately for all involved, Emelianenko was simply mauled by an oversized Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in the quarterfinals. And just like that, whatever aura of invincibility he had dissipated right before our eyes.
Making matters worse, Emelianenko’s abrupt exit from the tournament erased a semifinal fight against Alistair Overeem, which would have marked the most anticipated 265-pound affair in MMA history.
It still wasn’t time to push the panic button (according to Strikeforce). Emelianenko was far too small for “Bigfoot,” so they set him up with a more physically comparable Dan Henderson, who was Strikeforce’s light heavyweight champ at the time.
Yeah, about that…
Emelianenko had him on the ropes early, but Hendo rallied and had Emelianenko planking on the canvas within five minutes.
Strikeforce had sold to UFC-owned Zuffa, LLC three months prior to the shootout, which afforded UFC president Dana White with the last laugh on the fighter who shunned him countless times. White cut Emelianenko after running the reverse trifecta.
Emelianenko proceeded to ride off into the sunset, leaving Strikeforce to play the woulda-coulda-shoulda game. Should we have put all of our eggs in Emelianenko’s basket? Could we have done a better job of developing stars around Fedor? Why did we give M-1 Global so much power? What would have happened if we showcased Gilbert Melendez and Ronda Rousey more?
The questions can go on for days, but that ship has sailed. It’s time to pour out a little liquor for Strikeforce.
The promotion certainly left its mark on the sport. Unfortunately, the dent could have been the size of a crater instead of a rock.