Dan Henderson: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com
Strikeforce “Henderson vs. Babalu” on Saturday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis kicks off with televised bouts running opposite “The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale” Finale in Las Vegas. Which one do you watch? Your DVR can provide the answers.
Who wins at Strikeforce’s final show of 2010 remains a worthwhile question, so let us take a closer look for a breakdown of the fights.
Dan Henderson (No. 8 MW) vs. Renato Sobral
The Matchup: As the cadre of MMA’s legends creeps toward inevitable replacement by the newer breed, Henderson soldiers along and will probably be the last of the circa-2000 stars left at the world-class level. His last performance, a loss to Jake Shields, saw him come up flat and out-grappled in a bout where his huge right hand scored early, only to see Shields dominate en route to a five-round decision win. He will be better returning to 205, where he will not have to cut huge amounts of weight. Plus, his takedowns are still dominant at light heavyweight.
Sobral, meanwhile, does pretty much everything well without one world-beating skill set, at least at the world-class level. His stand-up is functionally effective, with good jiu-jitsu, though he is probably not dangerous enough from his back to threaten Henderson, whose submission defense is excellent.
Matching up against Sobral, Henderson has a lot of options open to him. He does not have to worry about being outwrestled or outstruck. Henderson’s big right hand remains a dangerous weapon that can be used to set up room for a takedown or land simply of its own accord to change fights. With room to operate and think about what he wants to do, Henderson’s age and mileage are not likely to be readily exploited; Shields survived his opening round onslaught to counter with solid takedowns and top control to keep Henderson on the defensive, but Sobral seems unlikely to follow suit unless he can hurt Henderson standing and pounce.
Sobral’s decision win in June in a 195-pound catchweight bout against Robbie Lawler was not particularly impressive. The two largely negated one another, as Sobral seemingly sleepwalked to a snoozer decision. At times, he has been a far cry from the effective fighter that worked his way to a shot against then-UFC champion Chuck Liddell, with a trio of submission wins in the organization. Some fighters simply are inconsistent, and Sobral appears to be the prototype. At the top of his game, however, he has proven himself a very talented fighter.
To be effective against Henderson, Sobral will have to land something significant early and dictate where the fight goes, preferably moving into top position during an exchange or a scramble, where he can work his jiu-jitsu to control position and land stamina-draining strikes. Essentially, Sobral will have to play like a football team waiting for a turnover.
The Pick: Henderson should be able to pace himself, pick his spots and take the fight to the mat when he wants. He will control from top position, landing sporadic ground-and-pound while wearing down Sobral en route to a third-round stoppage.