Dan Henderson added another title to his collection Saturday night. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
It only took one punch. Then again, when Dan Henderson is throwing, it usually only takes one punch.
The former two-division Pride Fighting Championships titleholder found a home for his infamous overhand right and lifted Strikeforce’s light heavyweight championship from Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante in the main event of Saturday’s show at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
“I was excited for the fight and the chance to fight someone like ‘Feijao,’” the new champion told Sherdog.com following his title win. “I felt like the belt was just the cherry on top, and I love cherries.”
Though Henderson came out on top, the UFC veteran was forced to weather an early storm from Cavalcante. In the opening round, the Brazilian clipped “Hendo” with a straight right hand that sent the American reeling.
“I don’t know [how hurt I was]. Whether I’m hurt or not, I can never remember what I do to set things up half the time,” said Henderson. “He definitely knocked me down, but I felt like I had my wits about me the whole time. Luckily, I recovered fast, and he didn’t land any more shots.”
Round two was all Henderson, as the wrestler used his art of choice to bring the fight to the floor and work from top position. Additionally, Henderson won the battle of the clinch, using his experience as an Olympic-level Greco-Roman competitor to dictate the action against the larger Cavalcante.
“I’m not trying to go through his power. He would definitely out-bench me. So I’ll definitely cheat a little bit and get better position,” said the new champion. “It’s been my style throughout my whole career to not really fight through people’s power and [instead] use my technique to stay in better position and still stay fairly strong at the same time.”
Round three was action-packed in the short time that it lasted. Henderson continued to stalk his foe before unleashing his moneymaker, an overhand right that clipped Cavalcante’s jaw and sent him spinning to the canvas, his face crashing into the mat. From there, it was academic, as the 40-year-old landed several hard shots to the head of the turtling Cavalcante to earn both the stoppage and the title.
A 13-year veteran of the sport, Henderson can now add Strikeforce’s light heavyweight belt to his extensive trophy case. The title comes with a certain stigma, however, as it has been defended successfully by a reigning champion only once in its history -- a fact that Henderson plans on changing.
“[The belt] definitely looks good around [my waist], so hopefully I’ll keep it there for a few fights,” said Henderson. “I definitely want to fight. I will be fighting before June or July, then probably take the summer off and fight near the end of the year. And I will definitely be hanging on to this belt.”