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Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Henderson left UFC last year for STRIKEFORCE and the opportunity to compete on national broadcast television, and fight the sport’s best fighters.
“There’s no bigger platform and CBS was a huge part of my decision,” said Henderson, the only fighter in history to simultaneously hold two different titles in two different weight classes for a major MMA promotion (PRIDE Fighting Championships).
Shields, STRIKEFORCE lightweight (155 pounds) champion Gilbert Melendez, and STRIKEFORCE Founder and CEO Scott Coker spoke with the media on a conference call Friday.
Henderson will be looking to make a major impact and win in dramatic fashion in his STRIKEFORCE debut. If he wins, he will be able to stop the momentum of a young star and win the most prestigious title of his decorated career; a win for Shields over a seasoned, highly accomplished fighter such as Henderson, would cement his reputation as one of the world’s best competitors.
Although Shields was nearly choked out before getting saved by the bell in his last fight against Jason “Mayhem” Miller, Shields has been on a roll, winning his last 13 fights.
Against Henderson, Shields, a Cesar Gracie-trained Jiu Jitsu black belt, will face the toughest challenge of his career.
“I know he has good power, but I’m not the easiest guy to hit and I certainly can take a punch,” Shields said. “I’m ready for it, I’ve worked hard on it. I know on paper he’s a better wrestler, but a lot of times it doesn’t always stack up that way when you get in the cage.”
Even though he has the experience advantage, Henderson said he is not taking Shields lightly.
“Jake has been on a big winning streak and he’s very dangerous in certain aspects of the game,” Henderson said. “I’m sure he plans on taking me down and using some of his submissions. There are definitely things I need to watch out for and be careful for. I think it’s got the potential to be a really exciting fight.”
For Shields, 10 of his 24 victories have come by submission, a fact that “Hendo” doesn’t seem too impressed with.
“I feel like over the years I’ve fought guys as good or better than Jake on the ground that are great at submissions,” Henderson said. “I’m not too bad there myself, so I’m not really too concerned too much about it. But I am also aware that that’s probably the biggest danger for me when fighting Jake Shields, but I’m going to be very comfortable there.”
Henderson, 39, was a decorated high school wrestling champion in California. He wrestled at Cal State University, Fullerton and Arizona State University, where he competed in the 1993 NCAA championships. He also competed in the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games in Greco-Roman Wrestling.
The younger Shields, 31, wrestled at San Francisco State University, where he was a two-time All-American, and holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
The two fighters’ styles could make for a classic fight.
“Of course the two things I want to do are win, of course, but I also want to put on an exciting fight,” Shields said. “I know Henderson is a tough fight. But, the other thing is stylistically it will probably be an exciting fight. I want to go out there and use heavy striking and try to put him away with submissions or ground and pound, whatever. I’m definitely trying to end this fight.”
Henderson has not fought since July of 2009, when he knocked out Michael Bisping, earning him Knockout of the Night honors at UFC 100. He said he’s looking forward to getting back into the cage after the nine-month layoff.
“I’m very excited and hungry to just get out there and fight and fight well,” Henderson said. “It’s been a while since I’ve been out there and I definitely want to be impressive with my first fight in STRIKEFORCE. There is a belt on the line, so I’m very excited about that.”
Also on the card, Melendez will defend his crown against DREAM champion Shinya Aoki.
Aoki is a master submission wrestler with an edge. He broke his opponent’s arm in his last fight. To add insult to injury, he flipped the middle finger at his opponent after he won.
Melendez said he was not too concerned about Aoki’s antics after his last win. He’s focused on the Japanese fighter’s ring ability.
“A perfect fight would be we never hit the ground and I sprawl and brawl this guy,” Melendez said. “But, you got to be prepared for every scenario in this fight and I believe I am. I have to be able to defend all his submissions, I have to be able to be confident on the ground, and, like I said, best case scenario I never touch the ground and I knock him out. “
In the third world title fight, Gegard Mousasi of Armenia will defend his STRIKEFORCE Light Heavyweight (205 pounds) crown against unbeaten “King Mo” Lawal (6-0), a two-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestling champion and Big 12 champion who will be fighting in his home state of Tennessee.
STRIKEFORCE CEO Scott Coker said he expects millions of people across the nation to tune in into the April 17 fight.
“These are matchups that are going to be amazing and it took us a long time to put these fights together,” Coker said. “Every one of these fights could be a main event, so we’ll have a triple main event next Saturday on CBS. We’re hoping to have a great rating, that’s definitely one of our goals and we’re working hard to achieve that.”
legend and two-time United States Olympic wrestling competitor Dan Henderson (25-7) will challenge STRIKEFORCE World Middleweight (185 pounds) Champion Jake Shields (24-4-1) in the main event of a highly anticipated STRIKEFORCE fight card at Bridgestone Arena (formerly known as Sommet Center) in Nashville on Saturday, April 17.
In other featured bouts, STRIKEFORCE World Light Heavyweight (205 pounds) Champion Gegard Mousasi (28-2-1) will defend his crown against undefeated MMA star and two-time NCAA All-American wrestling star "King Mo" (6-0) while STRIKEFORCE World Lightweight (155 pounds) Champion Gilbert "El Nino" Melendez (17-2) will put his title on the line against DREAM Champion and top-ranked Japanese superstar Shinya Aoki (23-4). © EXPLOSION ENTERTAINMENT, LLC. FIGHT
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