Is the great Fedor Emelianenko finished?
If he loses to Dan Henderson on Saturday, many people will suggest that, yes, the Russian heavyweight is a shell of the man who stood as mixed martial arts' king last decade.
To this I say: perhaps not.
First, can we agree that there's no shame to be found in Emelianenko's two-fight losing streak? Not if facts about mixed martial artists losing, even in the harshest ways, apply to the Russian in the same way they apply to every other star in the sport.
Fabricio Werdum, one of the best submission fighters in the heavyweight division, caught Emelianenko in a mistake. So be it.
Antonio Silva is skilled and experienced and owned a 50-pound weight advantage over the former Pride champion. Plus, let's not forget that after two rounds of being treated like ground chuck, Emelianenko stood in his corner, ready and willing to come out for another round. He was not, in a broad sense, a beaten man.
As for Henderson, by any objective or subjective standard he deserves to be ranked among the top five fighters to have competed in this sport. So, no, no shame in falling to him if it happens.
I fancy myself a pragmatist, thus the notion of Emelianenko continuing with his career regardless of what occurs in the cage Saturday makes no sense -- even if it makes Hot Buttoning less fun.
Therefore, a stipulation or two:
1. A cold-cocked knockout.
Henderson's right hand has put down many fighters. Emelianenko has never been knocked out. If the American becomes the first fighter to KO Emelianenko, and does so viciously, then I could be persuaded.
I'm not in the camp that sees Emelianenko as unmotivated. Intransigent in his training habits, sure. But lacking desire? Don't think so. If I'm wrong about that, and Emelianenko seems genuinely disinterested in fighting, then he shouldn't need to wait -- as he said he will when it comes to his career -- for God to determine what' next. He should simply pack it up, seclude himself in Stary Oskol and live the ordained life he appears to want.
No one would begrudge Emelianenko if he left, at least no one with a vested interest.
Should Emelianenko walk away? If his health isn't in doubt, and his desire remains, then of course he shouldn't hang 'em up.