COLUMBUS, Ohio — Dan Henderson was the much smaller man facing off against the bigger Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Rafael ‘Feijao’ Cavalcante, but Henderson’s right hand is always the great equalizer.
However, it was the right hand of ‘Feijao’ that made the first real impact in the fight as he clipped Henderson behind the ear and dropped him in the first round. Henderson immediately scrambled and secured a leg of the champion, gaining top position and using the time to clear the cobwebs before the referee restarted the action after a stall in action on the ground.
Henderson came out more aggressive in the second stanza, landing his powerful right hand, and bringing the war to ‘Feijao’ in close quarters with a flurry that forced the champion to look for a take down of his own. After a scramble it was Henderson that was on top instead, but ‘Feijao’ used a slick half-guard sweep to reverse position.
Once again, there was a stand up from the referee, and when the action resumed, Henderson continued the role of the aggressor, stalking the champion and landing combinations before using a body lock to take the fight back to the mat.
In the third round, ‘Feijao’ looked to establish his range with a snapping leg kick, but Henderson countered with the right hand then came forward with a flurry with ‘Feijao’ on the cage. ‘Feijao’ pushed off the cage and separated as Henderson took the center of the cage.
Henderson threw a jab, then unleashed his big overhand right that connected and floored the champion, face planting him face first into the mat. Henderson followed him to the mat and delivered 5 unanswered right hands to the prone ‘Feijao’ as the referee stepped in to stop the fight.
With the dramatic finish, Henderson (27-8 MMA, 5-2 UFC, 2-1 SF) becomes the Strikeforce light heavyweight world champion.
“You know, leading up to this fight, everyone was talking about the belt, and I didn’t really give it much thought until now,” said Henderson. “It’s definitely going to be an honor to have that Strikeforce belt, but my main focus was to win that fight.”
Marloes Coenen comes back to submit Carmouche
After Coenen established her stand up game in the first round with snapping leg kicks and strong counter right hands, Carmouche came out in the second stanza and took it to the champion.
Carmouche defended against a standing guillotine attempt from Coenen early in the second, and after a scramble, ended up on top of the champion. Carmouche then moved to a high full mount position and punished Coenen with a blistering attack of ground and pound. Coenen survived to the bell, but found herself right back in the same position early in the third frame.
Just as in Round 2, Coenen found herself unable to reverse position from the bottom, with Carmouche on top dropping huge hammer fists and alternating big left and right hands to the face of the champion. Once again, time would run out on the round before Carmouche could finish the fight from a dominate position.
Carmouche came out in the fourth, looking again to get the fight to the mat, but it was Coenen who ended up on top after a scramble. Coenen landed a couple of right hands, but Carmouche defended from her back nicely kicking Coenen out of range with upkicks to the legs and hips.
Coenen looked for an opening to land big punches from the top but gave up too much space, and Carmouche seized the opportunity to roll to her knees and snatch up a double leg take down, putting Coenen on her back once again.
This time the champion was better prepared, locking up an arm of the Challenger as she went to her back. Coenen managed to create enough space to swing her hips and throw up a triangle attempt, and this time Carmouche was not quick enough to posture out of trouble.
Coenen locked up the triangle and pulled down on the head forcing the tap from the very game Liz Carmouche.
It was a stunning and sudden turn around of events for the champion, who showed her ability to overcome adversity to defend her Strikeforce title.
With the win, Marloes Coenen moves to 19-4 overall, and 3-1 under the Strikeforce banner.
Tim Kennedy submits Melvin Manhoef in Round 1
There was no secret that Tim Kennedy would look to put Melvin Manhoef on his back early, but it took several attempts before he would successfully get the fight to the mat. Manhoef showed improved take down defense, stuffing and scrambling out of several take down attempts, while remaining patient and looking for the perfect time to unleash his deadly kicks.
Kennedy got a taste of what it feels like to get kicked by Manhoef, finding himself on the mat after a big leg kick took his lead leg out from under him. Manhoef would score with two more kicks, but Kennedy found his opportunity against the cage, and used a body lock to get the first take down of the fight.
Manhoef found himself in trouble quickly with Kennedy landing side mount from the take down and quickly transitioning to full mount. Kennedy softened up Manhoef with big right hands forcing him to roll and give up his back.
Kennedy (13-3 MMA, 4-1 SF) immediately went to work on a rear naked choke and locked it up within seconds, eliciting the tap from Manhoef almost immediately.
Jorge Masvidal dominates Billy Evangelista, ends unbeaten streak
Jorge Masvidal used his reach advantage and a stiff jab to frustrate and dominate Billy Evangelista over three rounds of action. Evangelista never found an answer for the length of Masvidal, and in addition was completely shutdown when he tried to take the fight to the ground.
Masvidal stuffed 7 of 8 take down attempts by Evangelista, and earned several of his own take downs, but it was on the feet and in the clinch where he did the most damage. Masvidal’s jab was his biggest weapon in the fight, as he peppered Evangelista continuously with it, in addition to mixing in body punches and knees in the clinch over three rounds.
After 15 minutes of action, Masvidal (21-6 MMA, 3-0 SF) was awarded the victory via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27.)
The loss was the first in the MMA career of Billy Evangelista, and drops him to 11-1 overall and 7-1-1 in Strikeforce.