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Strikeforce Preview: Dan Henderson vs. Renato "Babalu" Sobral

Can Renato "Babalu" Sobral (black trunks) avoid Dan Henderson's big right hand and earn a title shot? <em>Photo by Esther Lin/Strikeforce</em>
Can Renato "Babalu" Sobral (black trunks) avoid Dan Henderson's big right hand and earn a title shot? Photo by Esther Lin/Strikeforce

Veterans Dan Henderson and Renato Sobral will meet in a Strikeforce light-heavyweight title eliminator bout in the main event of "Strikeforce: Henderson vs. Babalu" on Saturday night from Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Here is MMA For Real's preview of the fight:

Dan Henderson:

Record: 25-8-0 overall, 0-1 Strikeforce

Key wins: Murilo Bustamante (PRIDE Shockwave 2005), Wanderlei Silva (PRIDE 33), Rich Franklin (UFC 93), Michael Bisping (UFC 100)

Key losses: Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (PRIDE Total Elimination 2005), Kazuo Misaki (PRIDE Bushido 12), Quinton Jackson (UFC 75), Anderson Silva (UFC 82), Jake Shields (Strikeforce: Nashville)

How he got here: The first man in major MMA to hold titles in two weight classes concurrently, Dan Henderson is a sure-fire MMA hall of famer. In the twilight of his career, Henderson is still relevant due to his killer right hand. After 18 fights in PRIDE that saw him capture the promotion's welterweight and middleweight titles, Henderson entered the UFC and fought for both the UFC light-heavyweight and middleweight titles in his first two fights. Unfortunately for him, he dropped both fights, losing a "Fight of the Year" candidate to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 75 before being submitted by Anderson Silva at UFC 82. Henderson rattled off three straight wins, including an all-time highlight reel knockout of Michael Bisping at UFC 100, before a contract dispute sent him off to Strikeforce, where he received he immediate middleweight title shot against Jake Shields. A heavy favorite, Henderson hurt Shields in the first round before losing his gas tank. Shields dominated the final four rounds to retain his title via unanimous decision. Also, is there a fight in MMA with more nicknames than Henderson? "Decision Dan," "Hollywood Henderson," "Dangerous Dan," and of course, "Hendo."

How he gets it done: A two-time Olympic wrestler, Henderson has shelved his wrestling for the most part since the development of his trademark "big right hand" that has put many fighters to the canvas. Of his 25 wins, 10 have come by KO or TKO, 13 by decision and two via submission. Of those two submissions, one was due to strikes. Regardless of that, Henderson hasn't submitted anyone in any fashion in more than 11 years. Of his eight losses, five have been by decision and three by submission. Despite facing many dangerous strikers, Henderson has never been stopped by strikes.

Renato Sobral:

Record: 36-8-0 overall, 2-1 Strikeforce

Key wins: Mauricio Rua (IFC Global Domination), Chael Sonnen (UFC 55), Bobby Southworth (Strikeforce: Destruction), Robbie Lawler (Strikeforce: Los Angeles)

Key losses: Fedor Emelianenko (Rings: 10th Anniversary), Chuck Liddell (UFC 40, UFC 62), Jason Lambert (UFC 68), Gegard Mousasi (Strikeforce: Carano vs. Cyborg)

How he got here: Another long-time veteran of the sport, "Babalu" Sobral has weaved an interesting fight path throughout his career. After being knocked out by Chuck Liddell at UFC 40, Babalu reeled off 10 straight wins, including three in the UFC, to earn a shot at Liddell's light-heavyweight title. Liddell knocked him out again, this time in 95 seconds. Babalu came back and was crushed by Jason Lambert at UFC 68. He looked to keep his job with an impressive thrashing of David Heath at UFC 74, but he held his fight-ending anaconda choke too long, choking Heath unconscious with the referee ripping at him. He was fired by the UFC and had half his fight purse withheld. Sobral sandwiched two wins in Affliction between winning the Strikeforce light-heavyweight title. Once Affliction folded, his bout with Gegard Mousasi was moved back a few weeks and into Strikeforce, where Mousasi knocked Babalu out in 60 seconds to win the belt. Sobral recently rebounded with a decision win against Robbie Lawler in June.

How he gets it done: Sobral is like Henderson, except trade TKO's for submissions. Of his 36 wins, 18 have come by submission, 13 by decision and five by KO or TKO. It should be noted, however, that Babalu has not stopped anyone with strikes in nearly 11 years. Of his eight losses, four have come by KO or TKO, three by decision and one by submission.

Bottom line: Real interesting fight. These days, you never really know what you're going to get from either of these guys. This is Henderson's fight to win early and Sobral's to win late, in my estimation. Henderson's takedown defense has been suspect lately and if Babalu can take advantage of that, he'll be in great shape. Henderson really only has one weapon these days, his right hand. If Babalu can avoid that, and that's a big if, he has a great shot at winning. Just don't pull a Bisping and circle right into it. I think Babalu avoids the right hand, lands some shots of his own and gets enough takedowns to win the fight on points. I don't think this is going to be a particularly entertaining affair, though. Babalu moves on to fight for the title.

Who do you think's going to win? Let us know in the poll and express why in the comments section!