By: Brian Lopez Benchimol

The name Fedor Emelianenko, for hardcore fans, was synonymous with that of Mike Tyson, Michael Jordan, and Tiger Woods–proverbial juggernauts in their respective sports whom in their heyday were considered by many to be the greatest. “The Last Emperor” is no exception.

If there’s any discrepancy between the stoic Russian and these men, it’s that up until recently, throughout a career that’s spanned over a decade, he was a seemingly unstoppable force in a division he never really belonged in. Coming in at a not-so-svelte 230-pounds, Emelianenko was always the smaller man, but defined his career on destroying opponents who were much larger in size. What he gave up in stature, he more than made up with his technique, speed, and pure athleticism. But, much like Tyson, Jordan, and Woods–all good things must come to an end. 

After a career record of 31 wins and one loss (which came by way of a controversial cut to Tsuyoshi Kohsaka, to whom he later defeated some years later) Fedor finally relinquished his air of invincibility when he suffered consecutive losses to Brazilians Fabricio Werdum and Antonio Silva, respectively. In both bouts, Emelianenko was heavily favored, however succumbed to decisive losses when he was submitted in just 69 seconds by the Abu Dhabi Submission Grappling veteran in Werdum, and than pummeled by Silva who recorded a TKO win due to Doctor Stoppage when Fedor’s eye was swollen shut at the end of the second-round.

So why should his upcoming bout with Dan Henderson, a legend in his own right, be any different?

Because this could be the last time you see Fedor grace the cage.

A man governed by god and a will to win, Emelianenko, 34, could have very well hung up his gloves this past February when he suffered his second-loss in a row, but that just wouldn’t do his legacy justice. Why should a man, who by many is considered to be the greatest mixed martial artist ever, leave a legacy tarnished and fights that never happenedby not allowing himself one last chance at victory? That’s not to say that Henderson is by any means a pushover. “Hendo”, the current Strikeforce light heavyweight champion, is much like Fedor in a lot of ways. He’s a small man who wields a big hammer. It’s called his right hand. Michael Bisping, Renato Sobral, and most recently Rafael Cavalcante, are all fighters that can attest to the power that Henderson bolts from his fists, as they have all fallen victim to knockout losses opposite of the former 2-time PRIDE champion. While Henderson will come in at slightly bloated 206-pounds, it’s not inconceivable to imagine that Fedor could walk around that same weight, but dam his appetite for all foods–he’s a connoisseur of fine cuisine.

What we can all take solace in is that we will see a very evenly matched bout that yields two of the sports biggest legends, and while it’s a roll of a dice kind of bout, Emelianenko, win or lose, has impacted this burgeoning sport with his demeanor, talent, and performances that he’s displayed over the years. So even if he doesn’t win come Saturday night, hasn’t he already​?