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Dan Henderson vs. Jake Shields Preview

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On Saturday night two of the best middleweights in the world square off for the Strikeforce belt in primetime on CBS.  Current Strikeforce champion Jake Shields puts his title on the line against the challenger, Dan Henderson, who is making his Strikeforce debut.  Here is what you need to know about both fighters.

Dan Henderson (25-7) (5-2 UFC, 13-5 Pride)

Notable wins: Michael Bisping, Rich Franklin, Wanderlei Silva, Vitor Belfort, Kazuo Misaki, Murilo Bustamante (2), Akihiro Gono, Ryo Chonan, Kazuhiro Nakamura, Murilo Rua, Renzo Gracie, Babalu Sobral, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Gilbert Yvel, Carlos Newton

Notable losses: Anderson Silva, Rampage Jackson, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Ricardo Arona, Wanderlei Silva

Dan Henderson is a flat out legend in the sport.  He won the middleweight tournament at UFC 17 beating Allen Goes and Carlos Newton on the same night.  At King of Kings in 1999 he defeated Yvel, Big Nog, and Babalu all in one night.  And with back-to-back victories over Vitor Belfort and Wanderlei Silva, Hendo became the champion of both the 183 and 205 pound divisions in Pride.  He is the only fighter to simultaneously hold belts in 2 separate divisions for a major organization. 

When Pride went under, Hendo returned to the UFC for the first time in over 9 years.  He lost consecutive title unification bouts, first to Rampage at Light-Heavy then to Anderson Silva (who he did take a round from) for the Middleweight crown.  Following those losses, however, he ripped off 3 straight victories, but was not retained by the UFC. 

I believe Henderson is still a Top 10 Light Heavyweight and according to the last Boston Throwdown Rankings, we have him as the #2 Middleweight in the world.  He combines top notch (Olympic even) wrestling with a devastating right hand.  (The KO victories over Wanderlei Silva, who seemed unbeatable at the time and Michael Bisping come to mind.)  

The knockout over Bisping came after the two were coaches on TUF 9.  I was surprised the UFC did not bring back Hendo, especially after both his impressive win and all the time they spent pushing him as part of their reality show.  Hollywood Henderson now joins a growing crop of talented Strikeforce fighters, like the current Middleweight Champ. 

Jake Shields (24-4-1) (2-0 Strikeforce, 4-0 EliteXC)

Notable wins: Jason “Mayhem” Miller, Robbie Lawler, Paul Daley, Nick Thompson, Carlos Condit, Yushin Okami, Dave Menne, Hayato “Mach” Sakurai

Notable losses: None.  Last loss came in 2004. 

Shields enters Saturday night’s bout on a 13 fight winning streak, and it was in his last victory that he became the Strikeforce Middleweight Champ.  He defeated Jason “Mayhem” Miller by unanimous decision for the vacant title in only his second Strikeforce fight; his first was even more impressive. 

The former EliteXC Middleweight Champ Robbie Lawler was picking up steam in the 185 pound division.  Shields, who was the only EliteXC Welterweight Champ, and was the top ranked 170 pound fighter not in the UFC, moved up in weight (182 pound catch-weight) for a new challenge.  On June 6th, 2009 Shields surprised many fight fans with an impressive submission win over Lawler just past the 2 minute mark of the 1st round. 

Shields, at times, can certainly be labeled boring.  He’s not going to win “Knockout of the Night,” as he had just 3 TKO victories out of his 24 to go along with 11 by decision.  But like many wrestling based fighters Shields is always in control.  But can he control someone the caliber of Dan Henderson?

You look at the resume of Jake Shields, and 13 wins in a row is very impressive.  Wins over Jason Miller, Robbie Lawler, Paul Daley, and Nick Thompson jump out, but on Saturday night Shields will undoubtedly face his toughest challenge. 

Shields finds himself in a group that includes: Gegard Mousasi, Shinya Aoki, Eddie Alverez, Alistair Overeem, and most notably Fedor Emelianenko, of the best fighters in the world who have never stepped into the UFC’s octagon.  Does it mean he is less of a fighter?  No.  But it’s a lot tougher to find the best competition.  A win over Hendo and people will be asking for a match up with either Anderson Silva or GSP.  Much like Hendo was a champ at 183-205; Shields could be 170-185.  (Of course to be Strikeforce Welterweight champ, he would have to fight teammate Nick Diaz, and that’s another article.)

Before my prediction here is just a brief side note.  Both Henderson and Shields have ties to The Ultimate Fighter.  Hendo of course was the coach on Season 9, while Shields is a long time training partner of Chuck Liddell, and is an assistant on this season (TUF Season 11: Liddell vs. Ortiz.)  They obviously aren’t going to air many Shields interviews on the show, but look for him in the background. 

Prediction:

In a battle of two first class wrestlers, you need to look at who has the advantage in other areas.  Although Shields has improved his striking in his last couple fights, it is no where near as precise or as dangerous as Henderson’s.  Dan is also a bigger middleweight and won’t let Shields control him for 5 rounds on the ground.  I think Shields’ 13 fight winning streak comes to an end on Saturday. 

Dan Henderson def. Jake Shields via TKO 2nd round.   

This is just 1 of 3 Championship bouts on the Strikeforce: Nashville card.  The Light Heavyweight title is on the line between the champ Gegard Mousasi and Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal and Stikeforce Lightweight Champ Gilbert Melendez welcomes DREAM Champ Shinya Aoki to the U.S.

We will continue to break down this stacked card throughout the week here on BostonThrowdown.com 

And you can follow Keefe and the rest of the guys from Boston Throwdown on twitter at www.twitter.com/BostonThrowdown.

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