Dan Henderson rocked the MMA world Saturday night by defeating Rafael Feijao Cavalcante and winning the Strikeforce light heavyweight title. The 40 year old former Olympiad knocked out Feijao in Round 3 at Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson to win his first MMA championship in four years.
Dan Henderson was a -220 favorite going into the fight on most sports books with Rafael Cavalcante as a +180 underdog. I was surprised at the odds going in as Feijao had been on a tear lately in Strikeforce going 3-0 in his last fights, winning all by either TKO or KO. I just thought he was too big and too fast for Hendo, but I was dead wrong. Henderson recovered from an early Feijao right hand to wear down the champion for three rounds and wrest the title from Cavalcante.
[adinserter block=”2″] This was a real exciting fight as Henderson opened up looking for the “H Bomb”. Henderson connected on a right but was rocked by a counter punch by Feijao . The punch took the former Pride FC star off of his feet and this one looked close to being over in the first 30 seconds. Henderson recovered and dominated Feijao for the remainder of the fight. Henderson put on a wrestling clinic setting up the takedowns with his strikes and out working Feijao on the ground in Round 2. Henderson caught Feijao with a right hand in the opening moments of Round 3 that floored the champion, from there Henderson swarmed in with punches until the fight was stopped and a new champion was declared.
The win is truly a remarkable story for a guy that looked like a bust in his debut after opting to sign with Strikeforce over the UFC last year. Henderson debuted in a high profile fight against Jake Shields and was dominated on the ground for four and a half rounds. Henderson moved to light heavyweight and rebounded with a fantastic one round knockout of Renato Sobral back in December. The move to light heavyweight was obviously a big factor as Henderson is 3-0 in his last three light heavyweight fights going back to the UFC as opposed to 1-3 in his last four middleweight fights.
In Strikeforce winning the light heavyweight title appears to be a lot easier than keeping it. The last four Strikeforce light heavyweight champions have all lost the championship in their first title defenses. Not since the inaugural champion Bobby Southworth in 2006 has a Strikeforce light heavyweight champion made a successful title defense.
The win is big for Strikeforce as it opens up the light heavyweight division to a variety of potential matchups. The light heavyweight division in Strikeforce may be one the of most underrated divisions in all of MMA with former champions King Mo, Gegard Mousasi, Cung Le, and now Rafael Cavalcante all viable challengers.
There is also huge money in a potential Dan Henderson vs. Fedor Emelianenko Strikeforce light heavyweight title fight. Following his early exit from the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, there has been a lot of buzz about the possibility of Fedor moving down to light heavyweight. Fedor nor his M1 management team have commented on it, but the move seems to make sense after seeing Fedor greatly outsized against Antonio Silva. Henderson has already said that he’d like to fight Fedor and with all of Fedor’s potential heavyweight opponents locked up in the Grand Prix tournament, this one just makes a lot of sense. Then again this is Strikeforce so I wouldn’t expect it.
[adinserter block=”1″]I can’t help but wonder why the UFC let Henderson walk after seeing Henderson rise to the elite class of light heavyweights after returning to the division. I have blogged several times since the split that I thought the UFC made a mistake. Henderson was one of the most popular fighters in the UFC after knocking out big mouthed Michael Bisping at UFC 100 with a record number of UFC fans watching him do it. With the rash of injuries last year in the UFC, Henderson seemed like a reliable money fighter with the flexibility of floating between light heavyweight and middleweight. The Bisping win earned Henderson a fight against Anderson Silva which he never got and Silva never wanted. The fight would have been huge yet instead for some odd reason Dana White decided to play hardball on a contract and allow Henderson to walk.
I also have to mention the dramatic win by Strikeforce women’s welterweight champion Marloes Coenen over challenger Liz Carmouche. While I understand female MMA fighting may not be your thing, even the biggest skeptic would have to appreciate the Marloes Coenen vs. Liz Carmouche fight. Carmouche brutalized the champion with ground and pound for two and a half rounds and was on her way to pulling off a huge upset as Coenen was a -500 favorite on the books which are the kind of odds guys like Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva get so you understand the mismatch on paper here. Coenen caught Carmouche in a triangle off of her back as Carmouche was continuing to unload and wound up tapping out the challenger in Round 4. This was almost identical to Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen including the finish. If you are going to go out of your way to watch a fight, this is a must see fight for any MMA fan.
All in all Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson was a real fun show and definitely worth going out of your way to see the replay.
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