Strikeforce: "Henderson vs. Babalu" has come to a close from the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri, and former Pride FC welterweight and middleweight champion Dan Henderson finally has his first win since parting ways with the UFC in 2009.
It took him nearly a year and a half, but the wait was well worth it.
"Hendo" added another one to the highlight reel, putting Renato Sobral's name right there next to Michael Bisping's, Wanderlei Silva's and others who have fallen victim to Henderson's knockout power. "Hendo" hurt "Babalu" with one of his trademark power right hands early in the fight and didn't waste any time finishing off the Brazilian grappling specialist with a series of devastating ground strikes shortly after that.
Henderson finished Bisping in similar fashion in his last fight under the UFC banner, but he had yet to find success in Strikeforce before tonight. He faced off with Jake Shields for the title in his first fight for his new employers nearly eight months ago. He came up short in that five round contest as Shields out-worked and out-lasted him for the win.
But he made sure cardio wouldn't be a factor tonight.
He had that right hand cocked and loaded from the opening bell, and Sobral didn't do enough to avoid it, both on his feet and on the ground. The highlight reel footage didn't end there, though.
The co-main event also lived up to expectations.
Welterweight knockout artists Paul "Semtex" Daley and Scott "Hands of Steel" Smith collided in a fight that just about everybody knew would eventually end with one man standing and the other one sleeping on the mat. Unfortunately for Smith, Daley never left his feet.The powerful British striker put a beating on Smith and spoiled his debut in the 170 pound division with a brutal left hook that had the battle tested veteran sleeping before he even hit the mat.
The win makes three in a row for Daley since being booted by the UFC earlier this year. As usual, he wasn't shy at all afterward, either. When asked who he wants to fight next, this is what "Semtex" had to say:
"I want to fight KJ (Noons) next. Then it's Nick Diaz. I'm not messing around. I'm here to be the champion, and I'm going to be the champion. That's what's up."
Perhaps he's forgetting that Noons is a lightweight and Diaz has a ground game. I like confidence, though.
Former Elite XC middleweight champion "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler also got into the highlight reel theme of the night, scoring a gorgeous knockout victory of his own over aging veteran Matt Lindland. "The Law" made the mistake of testing the waters on his feet with Lawler early, and he didn't last very long because of it. Lawler timed a couple of stiff punches on some early exchanges before finishing the fight with a perfectly placed two punch combination that knocked Lindland out cold less than a minute into the fight.
Lawler gave him one more punch for good measure on the ground before the referee rushed in to pull him off, but Lindland never had a chance after the first punch landed. The HIT squad member said afterward that he's ready to fight anybody and he'll be ready to do so immediately.
Heavyweight contender Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva was originally scheduled to square off with Valentijn Overeem, the brother of current Strikeforce heavyweight champion Allistair Overeem, on this card, but an injury to the Dutch fighter forced Strikeforce to scramble at the last minute to find a suitable replacement. The promotion had to dig deep to find someone willing to take on the talented Brazilian on such short notice, but hard-hitting American Kickboxing Academy light heavyweight standout Mike Kyle eventually stepped up to accept the challenge.
The forty or so pound size difference would eventually prove to be too much for Kyle, but to his credit, he came out guns blazing with a nothing to lose attitude and almost stole a huge victory when he dropped the big man with a right hand early in the first round. The AKA product tried desperately to finish his opponent, but Silva managed to weather the storm and survive the onslaught.
After catching his breath, the Brazilian giant immediately took Kyle to the ground and went to work with his jiu jitsu in round two. He overpowered his way into full mount and then pounded away with punches until the referee stepped in to award him the win.
Kyle deserves a ton of credit for taking the fight on short notice against a much bigger opponent, and Strikeforce should reward him handsomely for making it a competitive fight. Still though, Strikeforce talks a lot about it's heavyweight division and has promised big match-ups for 2011. Hopefully those will be against other heavyweights.
Former University of Tennessee linebacker, Ovince St. Preux, made his second start in less than a month under the Strikeforce banner, and both times now he's managed to come away with an impressive win over a credible opponent. Benji Radach, a twenty-four fight mixed martial arts veteran, was his victim this time around.
"Razor" had no answer for the bigger St. Preux, and he ended up on the losing end of a dominating unanimous decision. St. Preux basically held his back for most of the fifteen minutes, and he landed a ton of punches from there. Radach did well to minimize the damage, but he was beaten soundly in this fight. One of the judges even scored it 30-25.
The win makes six in a row overall for the surging light heavyweight prospect.
Next up for the San Jose based fight promotion will be the thirteenth installment of the Challengers series on Showtime on January 7. Strikeforce announced tonight that welterweight prospects Tyron "T-Wood" Woodley and Tarec Safferdine will headline the card. United States Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier has also been booked for the event.
Stay tuned to MMAmania.com for more on that developing fight card.