One of the most decorated and widely respected fighters in the history of Mixed Martial Arts, Dan Henderson, knocked out defending champion Rafael “Feijao’’ Cavalcante at 0:50 of the third round to capture the STRIKEFORCE World Light Heavyweight Championship in Saturday’s main event live on SHOWTIME® before 7,123 at the Nationwide Arena.
For the remarkable 40-year-old Henderson, the only fighter to simultaneously hold two world titles in two different weight classes with a major promotion, it was his fifth MMA world title and, perhaps, the sweetest.
“Leading up to this fight there was a lot of talk about fighting for the title but I didn’t give it much thought,’’ said Henderson, who left the UFC on a three-fight winning streak to sign with STRIKEFORCE in December 2009. “But now that I have it, it is really nice.
“I wanted to be real patient. Feijao is a tough, real powerful guy especially in the first round. Hopefully, now, I can break that curse.’’
By winning, Henderson (27-8), of Temecula, Calif., became the fourth consecutive challenger since November 2008 to dethrone a defending champion in the deep, talent-laden STRIKEFORCE 205-pound division. It began with Bobby Southworth losing to Renato “Babalu’’ Sobral, who was dethroned by Gegard Mousasi, who in turn was ousted by Muhammad “King’ Mo’’ Lawal, who fell to Feijao.
“I’m just thankful it turned out like this,’’ said Henderson, a two-time United States Olympic Games wrestler before turning pro. “I want to thank Feijao for giving me the opportunity.’’
A winner of five of his last six, Henderson threw what appeared to be a glancing right hand that landed on Feijao’s head. While off-balance, Hendo pushed Feijao to the mat. Feijao landed face-first, and from there Henderson pounced. After five huge right hands, the referee stepped in and stopped it. Going into the third, Hendo was ahead 20-18 on one of the scorecards. The other two had it 19-apiece.
“I made a lot of mistakes,’’ said Feijao (10-3), of Rio de Janiero, Brazil. “You can’t make these kinds of mistakes. I’ll go home, and come back stronger than ever.’’ Feijao entered the fight having won three in a row and six out of his last seven.
In other televised action on STRIKEFORCE: Feijao vs. Hendo presented by Rockstar Energy Drink, Marloes Coenen (19-4) of the Netherlands turned back a determined challenge by late substitute and previously undefeated Liz “Girl-Rilla’’ Carmouche (6-1), of San Diego, Calif., to retain her 135-pound title with a come-from-behind fourth-round submission (triangle choke) in the opening half of a STRIKEFORCE World Championship Doubleheader.