After a great start to the year for Strikeforce, the company is back on Showtime this weekend with a title fight double header. While this card might lack star power, like any Strikeforce card, it’s filled with exciting match ups and match ups that will end up being exciting because of how one-sided the match-making is. The main event could determine the best light heavyweight not in the UFC and the co-main event features quite possibly the most complete women’s fighter in the sport. Plus there is Kelli Hutcherson and who the heck doesn’t love Ms. Hutcherson?
Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Title Fight: Dan Henderson vs. Rafael Cavalcante ©
Trying to defend his Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Title for the first time, Rafael Cavalcante takes on Dan Henderson, looking for his first title since winning the PRIDE Middleweight Title in 2007.
With almost 15 years of MMA expierence and at the age of 40, one shouldn’t expect Henderson to change his game. He’s a heavy-handed striker with one of the most powerful right hands in MMA history. While he has a reputation for just simply winging his right hand, he actually sets it up very well. He has a sneaky good jab and left hook and he also uses a lot of inside leg kicks. Henderson’s strength is his clinch game and wrestling. He’s not an explosive wrestler but he does a good job of getting inside so he can use the clinch to get takedowns. In the clinch, Henderson will need to look out for the knees of Cavalcante and try to use them to get takedowns but Cavalcante showed against “King Mo” Lawal that he has very stout takedown defense and when he does get taken down, he is quick to get up. Henderson has a very controlling top game and if he can get Cavalcante down, he’ll need to work the body. Cavalcante does a good job covering up his head on the ground but in doing so, he leaves his body wide open. He has the same problem on the feet although Henderson has never been much of a body shot artist standing. Despite his top-notch wrestling, Henderson’s takedown defense is a bit questionable due to his aggressiveness standing. Henderson doesn’t have much of a game off his back either so even though Cavalcante isn’t known for his wrestling, don’t be shocked if he goes for a takedown or two if Henderson begins swinging wildly. This fight could come down to conditioning. Henderson has always been in a good condition at Light Heavyweight, having gone 25 minutes before and been in a number of 15-minute fights in his career. Cavalcante on the other hand has always had questionable conditioning, has only been past 10 minutes twice in his career, and has never gone 15 minutes. Expect Henderson to try and make this a grinding fight, use his superior wrestling, and better conditioning. I’m sure he’ll look for his right hand when the opportunity presents itself but I more or less expect him to put Cavalcante against the cage, rough him up with some dirty boxing, and just try to take his gas away. Henderson has the power to put Cavalcante away with one punch or he could win a comfortable decision by using his wrestling.
Coming off the biggest win of his career, Cavalcante now looks to take out a legend. Cavalcante is a very good technical striker. Against Lawal, he showed a quick and accurate jab along with a good straight right hand. He also throws very heavy leg kicks, which we should see a lot of against Henderson as they’ll take away the speed and power of Henderson. Cavalcante has improved his striking defense a lot over the years, using a good double forearm guard, but in doing so he leaves his body wide open. Luckily he makes his opponents pay for going to the body too long with knees and uppercuts but if Henderson is smart, he can get away with one, maybe two, body shots at a time. Cavalcante showed very incredible balance and takedown defense against a high-level wrestler like Lawal. He’s going to need that same balance and takedown defense against Henderson because Henderson is going to be just as aggressive, probably even more so, than Lawal was. Cavalcante is Brazilian, which means he was born with a purple belt around his waist, but we’ve never seen him with an active submission game off his back. In a strange but true fact, Henderson has only been finished three times in his career, all by submission, and all against Nogueira trained black belts. It justso happens that Cavalcante trains jiu-jitsu under the Nogeuira brothers and is a black belt. I’m sure Cavalcante will want to keep this fight standing because he trusts his striking and power, even though Henderson has never been finished by strikes. I expect Cavalcante to keep the distance with his jab and leg kicks, avoid Henderson’s right hand, and land a right hand of his own. If Henderson tries to clinch, Cavalcante will no doubt look to grab the plum clinch and throw some knees. If Cavalcante finds himself on his back, he’ll obviously needs to quickly get up because if he’s content on lying on his back, Henderson will be content with just lying on top of him. Although Henderson has never been finished by strikes, Cavalcante has the power to do so. He could also submit Henderson if you believe that Henderson can’t stop the submissions of a Nogueira trained grappler or he could win a decision if he can keep the fight standing for 25 minutes and pick apart but not finish Henderson.
I’m really looking forward to this fight because it’s an interesting clash of styles and eras. Henderson is the old dog looking for one more title to add to his collection while Cavalcante is the young lion looking to make a run at greatness. I’m leaning towards Cavalcante because of the improvements in his takedown defense that we all saw against Lawal. If Cavalcante can keep things standing, I think he can chop down Henderson with leg kicks and use his speed to get in and out with his strikes. This might be going out on a limb but I think Cavalcante will be the first person to stop Henderson with strikes on the ground after rocking him on the feet.
Prediction: Rafael Cavalcante to defeat Dan Henderson by TKO in Round Three
Strikeforce Women’s 135 lb Title Fight: Liz Carmouche vs. Marloes Coenen ©
Originally scheduled to face Miesha Tate, Marloes Coenen looks to make her first title defense against the undefeated Liz Carmouche.
Carmouche has only been training for just about a year now and she’s already getting a title shot. She’s a decent striker although she mainly sticks to throwing kicks. One thing she does is that after throwing a kick, if her opponent tries to counter, she’ll follow her kick with a right hand. It’s a nice little combo that works for her although against someone with as much experience as Coenen, I’m not sure how effective it will be. Carmouche is very strong in the clinch and has very good hips. What I like about her clinch game is that she’s always active. She’ll throw knees, use foot stomps, and even heel strikes. Her strength and hips allow her to get trip takedowns from the clinch. On top she’s very controlling, and like in the clinch, she’s very active. She throws a lot of punches and she knees throws knees to her opponents thighs/bottom in the guard. She makes some technical mistakes though, like leaving her right arm in, which allows her to getting trapped in armbars. Luckily for her, she’s very powerful and she’s able to get out with her power but against someone as skilled as Coenen, she’s going to need all the strength she has if Coenen is able to latch onto a limb. Carmouche has never shown much off her back and if she finds herself on her back against Coenen, she’s going to be in a world of trouble because Conen is a top-notch grappler. As mentioned, Carmouche made her pro debut in 2010, and she is taking this fight on very short notice. I don’t think her cardio will be up to the level of Coenen’s and obviously she gives up a lot of experience to Coenen. Carmouche has to get Coenen down in this fight and she’s got to avoid the submissions. She needs to get on Coenen early because the longer this fight goes, based on the fact that Carmouche didn’t have a full training camp, the more it likely favors Coenen. Carmouche’s best route to victory is by overwhelming Coenen early with strikes. I don’t think Carmouche has the submission skills to submit someone as skilled and experience as Coenen and as mentioned, the longer things go the more it favors Coenen.
Coenen has been competing in MMA for over ten years and I believe that she’s the most well-rounded female fighter in the sport. I know she lost to Cristiane Santos but that fight was at 145 and Santos is an absolute powerhouse who gets by a lot of fighters based on sheer strength and toughness. Coenen is a very technical striker, training at Golden Glory with the likes of Alistair Overeem. He has a nice jab, throws a good one-two, and uses a lot of kicks. She’s also light on her feet and moves very well. She can be controlled in the clinch but she throws a lot of knees, which gets her opponents uncomfortable. She’s not a great wrestler and her takedowns are rather weak but I feel like she initiates takedowns just to start a grappling exchange, feeling comfortable that if she ends up on her back, she’ll be fine. She’s extremely slick off her back, throwing punches in order to get her opponent to open up so she can lock on an armbar. Coenen should be comfortable wherever this fight goes. I’m sure she’ll keep things standing early and welcome a kickboxing contest against Carmouche. If Carmouche is getting the better of things, don’t be surprised if Coenen initiates a clinch and goes for a takedown or possibly pulls guard. If she can get on top of Carmouche then she should make short work of her but if she’s on her back, she’ll no doubt look for the armbar. Coenen could overwhelm Carmouche with strikes late in the fight, catch her in a submission at any point, or win a decision by winning in every area but not being able to finish.
If Carmouche had a full training camp, maybe she could beat Coenen but given her lack of training time, lack of experience, and Coenen’s skills, I have to go with Coenen in this fight. Coenen should be able to win this fight no matter where it takes place and I think the fight will eventually hit the ground, thanks to a Carmouche takedowns after taking too many kicks, and that’s when Coenen will lock up an armbar for the victory.
Prediction: Marloes Coenen to defeat Liz Carmouche by Submission in Round Two
Middleweight Fight: Melvin Manhoef vs. Tim Kennedy
After being scheduled to fight Jason Miller and then Luck Rockhold, Tim Kennedy finally gets settled with dangerous striker Melvin Manhoef.
Manhoef is one of the best strikers in all of MMA but unfortunately for him, MMA is more than just a striking battle. He throws good combinations, has heavy leg kicks, and his power is second to none. His main combination is his right straight followed by a left hook. He has quick hips and a low base, which helps his takedown defense but otherwise he doesn’t have much in the way of takedown defense. Manhoef really needs to use an uppercut in this fight to stop Kennedy in his tracks when he shoots in. If he’s able to time Kennedy’s shot and catch him with an uppercut, he could easily put Kennedy down and out. If Manhoef finds himself on his back, well, he’s pretty much screwed. He is an explosive guy so if it’s early in the fight, maybe he’ll be able to explode to his feet but he’ll only be able to do that so many times before his questionable conditioning becomes a factor. Obviously Manhoef needs to keep this fight on the feet and not get overaggressive. If he’s able to do so then he could easily put Kennedy away with strikes. I’d be very shocked if Manhoef submitted Kennedy and maybe even more shocked if Manhoef won a decision.
After losing the vacant middleweight title to Ronaldo Souza, Kennedy tries to rebound and he’s been given the perfect opponent. Should Kennedy be dumb enough to stand with Manhoef, chances are he’ll throw with power, lead with his left hand, and then follow with a right hand or a leg kick. Of course everyone should expect Kennedy to go for a takedown within the first 10 seconds of the fight. Kennedy is a very strong wrestler who throws to get inside and if he doesn’t get the takedown right away, he will put Manhoef against the cage and continue to work until he gets Manhoef down. On the ground, Kennedy should have his way with Manhoef, who poses very little threat off his back. Kennedy has a strong top game, hits hard, and will have a variety of submissions at his exposal. Kennedy has grappled with strong guys like Trevor Prangley and good grapplers like Miller so one would think that he should be able to do what he wants against Manhoef. It’s possible that Kennedy is overlooking Manhoef given Manhoef’s spotty record, lack of ground game, and the fact that Kennedy was scheduled for a high profile fight before getting a fight against a guy coming off two losses but if you read