Strikeforce returns to St. Louis with a loaded fight card headlined by Dan Henderson’s second fight for the Strikeforce promotion in what is a decade-long rematch with Renato “Babalu” Sobral. Henderson is coming off of a loss to Jake Shields, albeit at middleweight, which is a weight he struggles to make as he is now definitively over the hill. Backing these two veterans up on the main card are what should be a slam-bang punch-up between young strikers Paul Daley and Scott Smith, as well as an odd but strangely appealing bout between two more MMA old-timers: Robbie Lawler and Matt Lindland. Rounding out the card, Mike Kyle steps up to fill the shoes of an injured Valentijn Overeem to face always dangerous Antonio Silva.
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Dan Henderson versus Renato Sobral
Both men have vied for the UFC light heavyweight championship and lost: Henderson to Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Sobral to Chuck Liddell. Both have losses to Strikeforce champions in recent fights: Henderson to Jake Shields at middleweight in his last fight when he challenged for the belt earlier this year, and “Babalu” lost his belt to Gegard Mousasi at light heavyweight in 2009. Not to mention their first match (see above), and all the fights they’ve accumulated in a what’s what of MMA promotions in the meantime. This fight will clearly come down to who is still relevant and who wants it more. This fight, again, is for title contention at light heavyweight versus current light heavyweight champ Rafael Feijao. Brazilian fighters currently hold three of Strikeforce’s seven available belts. Americans hold two. It’s not just reputations on the line, it is valor and patriotism.
Henderson is a dangerous and savvy all-around fighter, with knockout power in his perenially-cocked right hand, while he is a mastermind in the clinch and wields soul-crushing top-control. Sobral is a submission specialist with good wrestling. In other words, a classic matchup.
This fight could be determined on the feet. Henderson’s weakness is when he is on his back, while Sobral has a questionable chin. On paper Henderson is the better wrestler, but in MMA this does not always quantify. From any angle, this is a ridiculously close fight to guess. I give the nod to Sobral as he has more momentum and holds the size and age advantage. Henderson, it could be argued, is fighting for paycheques like his training compatriots Randy Couture and Matt Lindland. If he has the gumption to work hard for another belt, the fight is his, but I suspect Sobral wants it more.
Prediction: Sobral by submission