Benji Radach: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com
In April 2009, Benji Radach was cruising to a convincing victory in his Strikeforce debut against hard-hitting middleweight Scott Smith. Then, Smith did what he does, finding Radach’s chin and snatching victory from the jaws of defeat late in the third round.
Twenty months later, Radach will reenter the Strikeforce cage, facing up-and-coming light heavyweight Ovince St. Preux on the main card of “Henderson vs. Babalu II,” which goes down tonight at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Mo.
“I’ve got my hands full. He’s a big, tall guy. It’s going to be quite the challenge, but I’m always up for that,” said Radach during Friday’s pre-fight press conference. “I’ve never fought anybody with his height and size advantage. I just know that he’s got more skills than we’ve seen. Hopefully I can get around his strengths and find the weaknesses that he has.”
Radach has suffered his fair share of bodily harm, both during his fights and outside of the cage. Prior to joining Strikeforce, Radach received a badly broken jaw courtesy of Chris Leben in a June 2004 SportFight bout. Upon recovery, the International Fight League veteran moved to EliteXC, where he knocked out Murilo “Ninja” Rua. Then came the Smith fight.
“It seems like I’ve had a series of huge speed bumps to hurdle. My first injury, which happened against Scott, I broke my hand in the first round. Now I’ve got a metal plate and six screws in my hand,” said Radach. “I started training [after my hand recovered], and I tore my [pectoral muscle] completely from my shoulder bone. It actually balled up in the center of my chest, and I had to have it reattached. That was probably the worst injury I’ve had.”
Worse yet, surgery on Radach’s pectoral resulted in a staph infection which further prolonged his recovery. Regarding his upcoming bout, Radach foresees more “speed bumps”. St. Preux is a natural athlete and former University of Tennessee linebacker. When called to face the ex-Volunteer, Radach says he paused to think over the proposition.
“I guess I thought about the weight difference and the height, especially,” he said. “I’m just going to have to make do, and it’s a huge challenge for me to deal with those obstacles -- getting inside, working my combinations, getting out and staying away from his big left kick.”
Radach -- who once competed as a welterweight -- will not only face the disadvantage of facing a naturally larger, stronger opponent. In addition, he’ll be doing it on short notice. Both Radach and St. Preux were added to the card late to fill the lineup after Valentijn Overeem, Herschel Walker and Jesse Finney all suffered injuries.
“I needed something to get my butt kicked in gear and get back in the gym. I was actually planning on fighting on this card two or three months ago, but it ended up being full. Then I got a last minute call, and it got my nerves going,” said Radach. “I'm a competitor. I’ve been fighting in some way my whole life, whether it was wrestling or boxing or MMA, so it always excites me to get out there and compete. That’s what makes me happy. It means a lot to get back in there and throw down. I plan on putting on a good show like I always do.”
Though Radach admits that he is “a little bit” undersized heading into the fight, the slugger believes that he could contend all the way up to heavyweight simply because of his punching power. If he manages to upset St. Preux tonight, the future will once again be wide open for the 30-year-old knockout artist. When asked if he would be interested in a rematch with Smith, the ever-game Radach responded predictably.
“Any fight that I lose, I definitely want a rematch. So I’m not looking for it, but I’d definitely take it.”