Strikeforce: Rafael 'Feijao' Cavalcante vs. Dan Henderson Preview

Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante prepares to defend his title against UFC veteran Dan Henderson tonight at Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson, airing live on Showtime. Photo by Ken Pishna, MMAWeekly.com

In the main event of the evening, Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Rafael Cavalcante (10-2) returns to the cage after nearly seven months to defend his belt against former PRIDE champion and UFC veteran Dan Henderson (26-8). Cavalcante defeated Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal back in August in what many fans believed to be a minor upset. "Feijao" will now need to prove that he isn't a one-time champion like his predecessor, a feat that's easier said than done.

In his path, Dan Henderson stands. The former PRIDE middleweight and welterweight champion hasn't been heralded lately as the impenetrable force that many considered him to be when he made the transition to the UFC. Losses to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, Anderson Silva, and his most recent to Jake Shields have created questions whether Henderson's wrestling should be considered a major benefit in his skill-set. Against most opponents, Henderson still possesses the wrestling prowess to easily control the ground, but there is some truth to the notion that Henderson isn't as effective against better wrestlers in the division despite the Olympic tag attached to his credentials.

Unfortunately for his challengers, Henderson proved in December that he's still one of the most devastating power punchers in the sport, throwing Renato "Babalu" Sobral like a ragdoll into the canvas and crushing him with brutal ground and pound shots. The knockout victory was a reminder that even at 40 years of age, Henderson is still a major threat.

The gameplan for Saturday night should be similar to the Lawal fight for Cavalcante. Maintain the feet, use knees and strikes to batter Henderson, and hope you can stifle any attempt by Henderson to gain the advantage on the ground. There is the added threat of Henderson's massive right hand however, something that Lawal didn't possess. But "Feijao" may have an easier time avoiding Henderson's wrestling, mainly due to the fact that he's more prone to trying to knock opponents out and he simply isn't as good of a pure wrestler as Lawal is in the sport of mixed martial arts.

Henderson's one shot knockout strategy leaves him less open for counters, something that "Feijao" may be relying on to win this fight. Those openings won't be there, and that's a historical trend that won't end on Saturday. Henderson's offensive output is low because of it, but he makes up for it with bone-crushing power.

With that type of strategy, how can Cavalcante penetrate the defenses of Henderson? Speedy footwork is the key to defeating Henderson on the feet. I don't think "Feijao" has the ground game to survive or work over Henderson. That limits what "Feijao" can do, but he does have the power to hurt Henderson and slow him down, edging him out in the end on the scorecards.

I don't think "Feijao" can produce that kind of offense in this fight, especially if Henderson stalks and eventually topples Cavalcante in the clinch. If Henderson can consistently bring "Feijao" down to the ground, he either wins this over three rounds by tiring Cavalcante out or brutally murders him with powerful strikes from the top. It's difficult to look past those two major advantages in this fight. I'll go with Henderson via TKO.

SBN coverage of Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson

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