Henderson more than justifies ranking with victory over Fedor
Dan Henderson remains in the Top 3 at light heavyweight after beating Fedor
Nick Diaz (No. 3 at welterweight) will prove irreplacable to Strikeforce execs
The top two lightweights (Edgar and Maynard) will at last meet again on Oct. 8
The most common way to secure your position in a mixed-martial-arts weight division's rankings for another month is to defeat another top fighter in the division. Dan Henderson is an uncommon athlete, though, so he went one better.
If you follow MMA even a little, you know what the Strikeforce light heavyweight champion did Saturday night. You probably even saw it. His soul-stirring conquest of Fedor Emelianenko might even have you lobbying for Hendo to crack the SI.com heavyweight rankings.
I'm not going to go that far, although it'd actually be fun to go ahead and toss him in among our top big boys and then wait for the vitriolic reaction to come pouring in from the same folks who've been calling me a dope for including the 40-year-old in our light heavy Top 3 these past several months. No one else has ranked "Dangerous" Dan in the Top 5, even.
Yeah, I feel vindicated. Not as much as I would if this victory had come over Lyoto Machida, "Shogun" Rua or "Rampage" Jackson, the threesome who'd be vying for that No. 3 spot if Henderson weren't occupying it. And yes, I know the playing field isn't level. I know Hendo isn't being thrown into the cage with the crème de la UFC crème anymore. But last time he did perform in the Octagon, I was impressed. An impression was left on Michael Bisping, too.
Saturday night made it clear that Henderson is more than a big right fist. The left hook that stopped the feisty Fedor in his tracks in the opening seconds was the best punch of the fight until the finishing blows. Both of Hendo's hands were more damaging -- and of no less importance, more accurate -- than Emelianenko's.
Henderson also used those Greco-Roman-trained hands to neutralize the Russian heavyweight, whose sambo and judo background did not give him even the least bit of an edge along the cage. It'd be an exaggeration to say Fedor was manhandled, but Henderson clearly got the better of the hands-on action.
Something for those light heavyweights to think about.
1. Cain Velasquez (9-0)
2. Junior dos Santos (13-1)
3. Alistair Overeem (34-11, 1 NC)
You know that thing I said above about feeling vindicated regarding my ranking of Henderson? I'm not feeling the same way about Overeem, who has been getting more love in these SI.com rankings than in other outlets' rankings -- or in the chastising e-mails I've received for including him. I've persisted because I believe the big Dutch striker is among the three best heavyweights in the world, but how is he supposed to prove it now?
First, "The Demolition Man" was replaced in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix after he declined a September fight so he could heal a toe injury. Then, in recent days, news got out that he'd been dropped entirely by Strikeforce and that he'll fight in Moscow in October for a promotion called United Glory. It's hard enough to stack up Overeem against the UFC heavies based upon how he looks against Strikeforce competition. But United Glory? Sounds like a brand of blue jeans.
1. Jon Jones (13-1)
2. Rashad Evans (15-1-1)
3. Dan Henderson (28-8)
I was going to use this space to discuss what would have happened to this Top 3 if Henderson had lost over the weekend. But I'm going to be a man of mystery, at least for now, and leave that topic alone. Instead, let's shift gears to this Saturday's UFC 133 in Philadelphia. Big night for Evans, who hasn't fought in more than a year. A victory over Tito Ortiz would secure "Suga" a title shot -- against either teammate-turned-nemesis Jon Jones or nemesis-turned-still-a-nemesis "Rampage" Jackson, who'll square off next month in Jones' first title defense. Even more important, a win this weekend would mean Rashad finally, finally is earning his keep in these rankings.
1. Anderson Silva (27-4)
2. Chael Sonnen (25-11-1)
3. Yushin Okami (26-5)
"I ask Brazil for a fight, and Machida answers. I ask for a REAL fight, and a Marine steps up. I see you hiding, Lyoto, and I won't forget this." That's all you've got, Chael?
Days after Sonnen had his fighter license reinstated, the UFC announced that his comeback fight will be Oct. 8 in Houston against Brian Stann, and Sonnen's Twitter account (@sonnench) exploded with trash talk, as you'd expect. But it was just more of the same mockery of everything Brazilian -- its fighters, its culture, everything but its bikini waxing. Not so much as a single nasty word spat in the direction of the Marine nicknamed "All-American"?
More than his 14-month layoff, this total lack of animosity is going to throw Sonnen off his game.
1. Georges St-Pierre (22-2)
2. Jon Fitch (23-3-1, 1 NC)
3. Nick Diaz (25-7, 1 NC)
Strikeforce sure is going to miss Diaz, who surrendered that promotion's championship belt so he could take a shot at St-Pierre's UFC leather. Last Saturday night, on the Fedor-Hendo undercard, we saw the future of Strikeforce's 170-pound division, and it's a little rough around the edges.
Tyron Woodley remained undefeated and Tarec Saffiedine was dominant, and their respective wins set up an expected meeting between the two for the vacated title. The thing is, Woodley and Saffiedine already have fought, with Tyron winning by unanimous decision just this past January. The bout was part of a Strikeforce Challengers card, one of those events held to showcase up-and-comers. Which is what these two fighters still are. They're solid, but not yet polished enough to be champion. Neither has that special something that'll entice fans to tune into Showtime. Neither can truly replace Nick Diaz.
1. Frankie Edgar (13-1-1)
2. Gray Maynard (10-0-1, 1 NC)
3. Gilbert Melendez (19-2)
We finally have a date to look forward to: Oct. 8, the night of UFC 136 in Houston, a fight card headlined by Edgar-Maynard III. This has been a long time coming for us fans; imagine what it must feel like for the fighters, who've been focusing their training on each other since August 2010, when they both won fights that set up their second meeting. I don't think I've ever spent so many consecutive months thinking about just one person -- other than extended spells focused on my wife and, during one NFL season back in the '80s, Lawrence Taylor.
Meanwhile, there's still nothing on the dance card for Melendez. Can Jim Miller nudge him out of the way this month with a dominant performance against Ben Henderson?
1. Jose Aldo (19-1)
2. Kenny Florian (15-5)
3. Hatsu Hioki (24-4-2)
Oct. 8 is a big night for little guys. On the same fight card as Edgar-Maynard III, Aldo defends his belt against Florian. I'm not sure if "KenFlo" can beat the Brazilian dynamo, but he'll give him a stiffer test than we've seen the 24-year-old champion face.
A piece of advice: If you intend to order that night's pay-per-view, be sure your TV remote's slow-motion button is working, because the action is going to be faster than the naked eye can handle.
Later that month, at UFC 137 on Oct. 29 in Las Vegas, Hioki makes his UFC debut against George Roop. Don't you look forward to seeing what the Japanese star can do?
1. Dominick Cruz (18-1)
2. Urijah Faber (25-5)
3. Joseph Benavidez (14-2)
Cruz vs. Faber, animosity and all, didn't do a huge PPV number last month, so now the UFC is getting creative in its attempt to build "The Dominator" into a fan favorite. His next title defense -- vs. Demetrious Johnson on Oct. 1 -- will be on a free TV.
OK, it's not really free, but UFC on Versus 6 is on basic cable, making the fights available to anyone who cares to tune in that Thursday night. Johnson has some momentum going, coming off a win over former champion Miguel Torres. This fight might actually make those lightweight and featherweight title bouts mentioned above appear to be really happening in slow motion.
1. Georges St-Pierre
2. Anderson Silva
3. Cain Velasquez
Silva steps in the cage Aug. 27 in Rio de Janeiro, facing Yushin Okami in the UFC 134 main event, a rematch of a bout in which Anderson was disqualified for an illegal up-kick. That was way back in 2006, and "The Spider" hasn't lost since.
Questions? Comments? To reach Jeff Wagenheim or contribute to the SI.com MMA mailbag, click on the e-mail link at the top of the page.
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