Sat Apr 17 11:41pm EDT
Strikeforce looks like it got a raw deal. The promotion, backed by Showtime and CBS, thought it poked the giant, UFC, by stealing away one of its top fighters in Dan Henderson. Hendo was then given what looked like an easy first fight with Strikeforce against its middleweight champ Jake Shields, a blown up welterweight. Instead, what unfolded was a grappling clinic put on by the smaller Shields. Shields consistently took down Henderson in rounds 2-5, he mounted him five times and rolled to a unanimous decision victory, 49-46, 49-45, 48-45, to retain his Strikeforce middleweight title in the main event of a card televised on CBS.
It was a great win for Shields who was almost finished in the first 25 seconds. Henderson landed a huge right that had Shields falling face first to the canvas and CBS play-by-play voice Gus Johnson screaming, "he's out!" Shields was hurt but was far from out. He recovered quickly, struggled to regain his wits for a few minutes but survived.
"I was dizzy for a while there," said Shields. "I didn't know where I was in the first minute."
Shields scored a takedown with just over a minute left in the first setting the tone for the rest of the fight. One of the top welterweights in the world, Shields used his hands well to set up single leg takedowns the rest of the way. Once the fight hit the ground, Shields dominated a tired and sluggish looking Henderson. He passed Henderson's guard pretty easily and got to mount way too often against a top level fighter.
The great victory was marred by a ridiculous postfight brawl in the cage. Jason Miller, who lost in Chicago last November against Shields, got in the champ's face asking for a rematch. Shields reacted angrily, pushing Miller and the melee was on. It was an interesting night for Strikeforce with all three fights going the five-round distance and the show finishing around 11:45 p.m. ET. To have that topped off by a brawl on live television is an utter disaster.
It'll be interesting to see what sort of disciplinary action is taken by CBS and Strikeforce. It's clear from this photo that Nick Diaz and Shields are winding up to punch Miller. Once it hit the ground, Miller was kicked and punched by several members of the Shields/Cesar Gracie entourage (video).
The brawl made for interesting television when it came to the postfight interviews as well. CBS' Johnson could be heard saying, "gentleman we're on national television!" When Johnson finally got to speak with Shields it was outside the cage. Shields took a shot at color voice and fellow fighter Frank Shamrock.
"He hasn't been my boy in the past," responded Shields when Johnson said Shamrock wanted to give him props. "Overall you're not that bad of a guy."
In the prefight, Shamrock said Henderson was going to destroy Shields. Of course, his objectivity was in question since Shamrock and Shields have been embroiled in a verbal war for several years.
The upset win by Shields, who was 4-to-1 underdog, sends ripples across the MMA landscape. UFC president Dana White planted his flag a few weeks ago when he said Strikeforce was trying to screw over Shields because he was on the last fight of his contract. White said it was ridiculous to put Shields, a true 170-pounder, in against a guy who has spent a good portion of his career fighting at 205 pounds. With a win Henderson (25-8) was being groomed for a shot at the Strikeforce light heavyweight title. If he won that, a date with Fedor Emelianenko was in the offing. Now? Who knows. The win also makes Shields' value shoot through the roof.
Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said he has a one-fight option he can pick up on Shields but he was unsure of the gameplan until after the fight. Whenever Shields is free it's almost guarantee that the UFC will pay whatever it takes to get the emerging star into its welterweight as a possible opponent for Georges St. Pierre. The 31-year-old Shields (25-4-1) has now won 14 straight dating back to 2004.
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