Can Billy Evangelista finally break through into the lightweight picture in Strikeforce by beating Jorge Masvidal? Photo by Esther Lin/Strikeforce
I sat down Friday night to answer four burning questions for tonight's "Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson," one for each fight on the main card. I will be on-site and will have live coverage for Bloody Elbow throughout the show, which will be live from Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, starting with the preliminary bouts at approximately 7:30 p.m. ET.
Wrap your head around this: Evangelista will be fighting in Strikeforce for the ninth time. Yes, he will be a nine-time veteran of Strikeforce when this fight is over. That's a long time for a fighter to be fighting in one organization without having made his debut on a big show yet. Since Strikeforce reincarnated itself with Showtime, Evangelista has yet to appear on a main show, having three Challengers series fights in that span. Now he gets a real tough test in MMA nomad Jorge Masvidal, a fighter who is looking to make Strikeforce his home after bouncing from promotion to promotion during his career. This is a tough fight for Evangelista because Masvidal is going to hit him. Despite winning the bout, Evangelista was hit repeatedly by Jorge Gurgel in their bout in 2009 and we know Masvidal hits harder than Gurgel. This is Evangelista's first real test and it's a big one. If he hasn't improved his defense since the Gurgel fight, I don't see him being able to break though.
Everybody knows Manhoef's credentials on the feet. They're impressive. He has real power in his hands and is a big threat standing. That said, his ground game is lacking severely and Kennedy would overtake Chris Tuchscherer as the early leader for "Worst Game Plan of the Year" if he traded with Manhoef for an extended period of time. I think Kennedy's talk is mainly posturing. There's just no way he can think standing and trading is a good idea, even if he has confidence in his striking ability, when he has such a decided advantage on the ground. Let's put it this way: If Kennedy takes the fight to the ground, he has a 99.9 percent chance of winning. If he doesn't, that percentage decreases dramatically. It really is a numbers game.
Real tough fight for Carmouche to take. Miesha Tate, a fighter with much more experience than Carmouche, was going to have a tough time with Coenen, one of the most experienced women's fighters in the game. Carmouche, coming in on real short notice, is going to have to come out and blitz Coenen. She can't afford to get into a war of attrition, especially considering this is a 25-minute fight. Carmouche isn't going to out-skill Coenen considering she has 10 months of professional fighting experience and Coenen's got 10 years. This could get ugly. I know this is an MMA fight and anything can happen, but I'd be absolutely shocked if Carmouche won this fight. Considering the tough circumstances, we should all give her a tip of the cap if she is simply competitive.
In 34 professional fights all across the world, Henderson has faced the best the world has had to offer. He's fought Wanderlei Silva, Anderson Silva, Vitor Belfort and Murilo "Ninja" Rua. These men all have one thing in common (and it's not that they're all Brazilian): None of them could knock out Dan Henderson. In fact, Henderson has never been finished with strikes in his 34 fights. It's bound to happen at some point, though, isn't it? Can "Feijao" be the man to do it? Fact is, Henderson isn't getting any younger and, over the last two years, hasn't exactly faced anybody who has skills comparable to Feijao's. If Feijao gets a clinch and starts bombing Henderson with knees, elbows and punches like he did to Muhammed Lawal, can Henderson withstand it? And that's not even taking into account what could happen if Henderson gets tired. This is Henderson's fight to win early, but if this gets past the second round, I expect it to be all Feijao. I don't think he'll stop Henderson (he'll win by decision), but Feijao getting a stoppage isn't out of the realm of possibilities here.