Strikeforce Title’s Unstable History of No Concern to ‘Feijao’

By Brian Knapp Mar 5, 2011
On June 27, 2008, Bobby Southworth successfully defended the Strikeforce light heavyweight championship in a unanimous decision over Anthony Ruiz. In the nearly three years since, three other men -- Renato “Babalu” Sobral, Gegard Mousasi and Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal -- have tried and failed to follow suit.

Now comes Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante’s turn.

Cavalcante (Pictured) will put his 205-pound title on the line against Dan Henderson in the Strikeforce “Feijao vs. Henderson” main event on Saturday at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. The history of past promotional champions matters little to the 30-year-old Brazilian, who will enter the cage on the strength of a three-fight winning streak.

“I don’t care that no one has successfully defended the title [since Southworth],” Cavalcante said during a pre-fight press conference. “I care about preparation, training and getting inside the cage to fight.”

In Henderson, Cavalcante faces arguably his most difficult test. The 40-year-old two-time Olympian was a two-division titleholder inside Pride Fighting Championships and has more than a decade of experience on which to fall back. Henderson has won four of his last five fights and wiped out Sobral in less than two minutes in December, as he staked an emphatic claim to 205-pound contention. Cavalcante claimed to have tunnel vision as he prepared for his first title defense.

“I prepare for the next fight, and I train for that opponent,” said Cavalcante, who has not fought since he dethroned the previously unbeaten Lawal in August. “I’m thinking about Dan Henderson and not thinking about the championship.”

Cavalcante trains alongside two men who know Henderson well: UFC middleweight king Anderson Silva and former Pride heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, both of whom have defeated him. Feijao plans to rely heavily on the expertise of his camp.

“I always train like a family,” Cavalcante said. “Antonio Rodrigo is like my mentor. He helped me a lot. He’s always there with me. My coaches and I have made a strategy for this fight.”

Always a hard nut to crack, Henderson wields one of the sport’s most enduring resumes. His list of victories includes Nogueira, former Pride middleweight king Wanderlei Silva and ex-UFC champions Carlos Newton, Murilo Bustamante (twice), Vitor Belfort and Rich Franklin. Cavalcante recognizes the considerable obstacle standing before him. In fact, it motivates him.

“With a big challenge, you train more and more,” Cavalcante said. “Henderson is a big challenge, and that is what makes this sport exciting.”
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