Add the Strikeforce Light-Heavyweight Championship to the list of MMA’s Great Curses. When Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante fell victim to Dan Henderson‘s mythical “H-Bomb” right hand last night in Columbus, he became the fourth-consecutive Strikeforce LHW champ to lose the belt without making a single successful defense. (Quick refresher: Babalu Sobral lost it to Gegard Mousasi, who lost it to King Mo, who lost it to Feijao, who lost it Hendo.)
Time will tell if Dan Henderson suffers the same fate. In the meantime, the decorated vet’s arrival as champion helps bolster the 205′ers as a marquee division in Strikeforce. Besides Dan and all the former champions previously mentioned, SF’s light-heavyweight roster now includes guys like Roger Gracie, Mike Kyle, Rhadi Ferguson — tell Fedor Emelianenko to drop 20 pounds, and you’ve got the makings of another great World Grand Prix, especially if their heavyweight tournament continues to run into delays.
Both fights in the evening’s “championship double-header” ended just as well as the promotion could have hoped. In the main event, Dan Henderson’s years of experience and wrestling prowess were enough to keep him in the game after getting rattled by a knockdown in the first round. Henderson sprung back to his feet and scored an immediate takedown, resting on Feijao until the cobwebs cleared. After that, Henderson’s clinch game, takedowns, and impressively diverse striking kept Cavalcante on the defensive until Hendo landed the big right hand that he’d been loading up the entire fight, catching the champ on the sweet-spot of his jaw. If Feijao wasn’t out from the punch, the brutal follow-up shots on the ground ensured it.
Henderson mentioned after the fight that he wanted to break the curse of the Strikeforce light-heavyweight title, but he’s already broken one curse already: The Curse of Black House. The three submission losses on his record all came at the hands of current BH leaders (Anderson Silva, Big Nog, Lil’ Nog). Demolishing their protege must have made his victory that much sweeter.
In the co-main event, women’s 135-pound champion Marloes Coenen weathered a nasty storm from an extraordinarily game Liz Carmouche, who came into the fight on just two weeks’ notice and with less than a year of professional experience under her belt. After swelling up Coenen’s right eye with strikes in the first round, Carmouche spent a good deal of rounds 2 and 3 in full mount, pounding away at the champ, who couldn’t do much besides cover up. But Coenen turned the tables in round 4, responding to a takedown attempt by pulling guard and tapping Carmouche with a triangle choke. After a surprisingly tough challenge from the “Girl-rilla,” Coenen’s next title defense will be against Miesha Tate, who she was supposed to meet last night. (Tate’s succinct review of Coenen’s performance can be seen here.)
In other main card action, Tim Kennedy‘s first-round submission of Melvin Manhoef was almost depressingly formulaic: Get the Dutch striker on his back as soon as possible, and choke him out. Manhoef’s takedown defense was impressive in the opening minutes, and his leg kicks — including one that dropped Kennedy on his ass — were as painful-looking as ever. But Kennedy was tenacious in his goal to bring the fight to the mat, and once he succeeded, it was only a matter of time before Manhoef succumbed to a rear-naked choke, his fourth submission loss in his last seven fights, and his third-straight defeat overall. Back to Japan for Melvin?
In the televised broadcast’s opening bout, Jorge Masvidal made his first Strikeforce appearance in three years, dominating formerly-undefeated lightweight Billy Evangelista in all facets of their contest, but not showing much urgency to get the finish. The less said about that fight, the better.
On the preliminary card, Jorge Gurgel got back in the ‘W’ column with a 44-second guillotine choke submission of Billy Vaughan — his first submission victory since his pre-UFC days — while Ohio’s own Roger Bowling rebounded from the first loss of his career by taking a unanimous decision over Josh Thornburg. Full results from “Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson” are below:
Dan Henderson def. Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante via TKO (strikes), 0:50 of round 3
Marloes Coenen def. Liz Carmouche via submission (triangle choke), 1:29 of round 4
Tim Kennedy def. Melvin Manhoef via submission (rear naked choke), 3:41 of round 1
Jorge Masvidal def. Billy Evangelista via unanimous decision (30-27 x 3)
Roger Bowling def. Josh Thornburg via unanimous decision (30-27 x 3)
Jorge Gurgel def. Billy Vaughan via submission (guillotine choke), 0:44 of round 1
Jason Freeman def. Jason Riley via TKO (strikes), 1:52 of round 1
Brian Rogers def. Ian Rammel via TKO (strikes), 4:23 of round 1
Mitch Whitesel def. Marc Cofer via submission (guillotine choke), 3:55 of round 1
John Kuhner def. JP Felty via submission (triangle choke), 4:31 of round 2