A rematch nearly 11 years in the making will finally happen Saturday when Dan Henderson and Renato Sobral meet in the main event of "Strikeforce: Henderson vs. Babalu" live on Showtime. Also on the card, Paul Daley meets Scott Smith in a welterweight bout and former EliteXC middleweight champion meets Matt Lindland in a middleweight affair.
Here's what your fearless MMA For Real prognosticators see happening Saturday night at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Matt Bishop - This fight hasn't had a ton of hype but this is pretty much the most marquee 205-pound fight Strikeforce can put on. I think Babalu surprised a lot of people with his ability to stand with Robbie Lawler in June. Dan Henderson hasn't done much in the wrestling department of late, so I expect this to be a mostly standup affair. Henderson has to answer for his conditioning, though. Was he really just sapped because of the weight cut against Jake Shields or is he getting old? I like this fight on paper but I don't think it's going to be all that great. Babalu via decision.
Charles Walker - So this is a sequel numerous years in the making. In that time, Henderson has gone on to win two PRIDE belts and Sobral went on to the Strikeforce belt before running into the buzzsaw known as Gegard Mousasi. You know, looking at this it seems like an easy win for Henderson as he'll have an advantage on the feet and I'd say so on the ground too. However, this will basically tell us if father time has finally crept up on 'Dangerous' Dan or if he has something left in the gas tank. I'll say he does, which means he'll probably beat up on Sobral for at least two rounds before finally putting him away. Henderson in the third via TKO.
Rich Wyatt - Matching these two veterans in a light-heavyweight main event should make for an entertaining show in Missouri this weekend. My guess is that we see Dan come in with better conditioning that he showed against Shields. I think it will be a hard-fought match but I foresee Henderson winning via decision.
Anthony Pace - This is a battle of two men who've been in the Top-15 of the light-heavyweight division ever since they first met almost a decade ago, when Henderson edged out Sobral in an unspectacular decision victory. Henderson's obviously accomplished far more than Babalu in that span of time, but neither man has really evolved into different, more complete fighter than at their first meeting. I see Henderson, not drained by a cut to 185, shrugging off Babalu and landing some clean shots to earn himself a shot at Feijao in the Spring. Henderson by TKO, Round 2
Matt Bishop - For the most part, Scott Smith has been a punching bag during his Strikeforce tenure. Strikeforce always manages to match him up with strikers and he delivers exciting fights. He has the ability to get beat on or be in serious trouble and still be lethal enough to deliver a knockout blow. I feel bad for Smith, though. This is going to be a tough fight for him. Daley, who's never been stopped by strikes, is going to have his way with the extremely hittable Smith. Daley via second round TKO.
Charles Walker - Don't blink, this fight will probably only see some ground game from the referee helping the loser get up. Other than that, this will be Smith's first foray into welterweight for Strikeforce and it's kinda weird that they'd put him against someone as qualified and as dangerous as Daley before they see how the weight cut effects him. Taking all that into consideration never count Smith out but Daley is likely the faster of the two and probably hits just as hard if not harder, with that going against you AND a big weight cut...all signs point to a first round Daley KO win.
Rich Wyatt - The long trip across the Atlantic will not have been in vain for Paul "Semtex" Daley. I see him taking a close first round, then dialing up the pressure even more in the second round and putting away an always-tough Scott Smith. Daley over Smith by TKO in the 2nd.
Anthony Pace - Maybe the most exciting fight of the month, on paper at least. Daley doesn't really have to worry about getting Koscheck'd here, so I expect them to exchange blows early and often. Smith is famously hard to finish, but Daley has the cleaner Thai Boxing and that's all that matters here. Daley via Decision
Matt Bishop - I'm really wavering on this fight. Earlier in the week, I liked Lindland by decision. Now I'm not so sure. My problem is that you really never know what kind of offensive output you're going to get from Lawler. Mostly he's been patient and that really hasn't been working in his favor lately. I don't feel good about it, but I'm going to stick with Lindland via decision.
Charles Walker - Is it me or does Lindland look like one of those old men that are out working in their yards all the time? This is just not a good matchup for Lindland, though if he can move halfway decent he could drag Lawler to the ground and beat up on him. It's just that Lawler is the much fresher of the two and his takedown defense has been very good lately. Look for Lindland to make it interesting early before getting Vitor'd again. Robbie Lawler via TKO in Round 2.
Rich Wyatt - It would not surprise me at all to see Matt Lindland get off to a great start in this one, using his wrestling to stifle Lawler early. But I think age has caught up with Matt (at least in regard to competing at this level) and I see Robbie catching him with a fight-ending combination later in the fight. Lawler over Lindland by TKO in the 3rd.
Anthony Pace - I think Lawler's years with Pat Militich have prepared him well enough to defend the expired wrestler Lindland. Lindland could smother Lawler for three rounds, but I don't think this one gets out of the first. Lawler via KO, Round 1
Matt Bishop - Well, I'll give Strikeforce credit with coming up with Mike Kyle to fight here on such short notice. I don't think this is going to be a good night for him, though. Antonio Silva is big and fast and we just saw him take apart Andrei Arlovski in his last fight. I like Silva by decision.
Charles Walker - Kyle probably needs a paycheck and will more than likely get compensated for stepping in on very late notice and against a very tough opponent. Kyle had worked his way into the light heavyweight title picture but now has to deal with a massive heavyweight. He'll come to bang only to be put on his back and submitted within a round. Silva via submission, round 1.
Rich Wyatt - Maybe this is just my remembrance of Kyle's unsportsmanlike antics in the past talking, but Antonio Silva should win this fight in the first round. He may have to work for a minute or two for the takedown but, once achieved, Kyle won't last long. Silva by submission in the 1st.
Anthony Pace - I wouldn't pick Kyle even if he wasn't stepping in on a week's notice as Valentijn Overeem's replacement. Silva is obviously the better grappler, but I think size, durability, and general momentum propel Bigfoot to a comfortable win here. Silva via Decision
Matt Bishop - This is a really solid fight to put together at the last minute. Radach has been absent from the cage for 19 months since his loss to Scott Smith at Strikeforce's first Showtime event. He'll face Ovince St. Preux, who beat Antwain Britt by decision Nov. 19. That was a tough fight for St. Preux, who showed some conditioning issues, but also the ability to get a win while battling them. Radach has so much experience that it's tough to bet against him. Radach's last two fights have been barnburners. I don't expect this to be any different. Radach via TKO, round 2.
Charles Walker - Hmmmm Ovince is a pretty good prospect and we know what Radach brings to the table. To put it short I think Ovince has a great chance of surprising a lot of people and I'm glad he gets the opportunity on the main card of a decent Strikeforce event. St. Preux will get a TKO victory either late in the 2nd or early 3rd.
Rich Wyatt - Former University of Tennessee linebacker Ovince St. Preux has a shot in this one but I think that Radach's experience will likely win over. I see him catching the Tennessee fighter in a submission in the 2nd round. Radach via submission in the 2nd.
Anthony Pace - Ovince St. Who? That win over Antwain Britt is decent, but I think Radach takes this one. Radach via TKO, Round 3