When Dan Henderson left the UFC and signed a four fight deal with Strikeforce he instantly became one of the promotions biggest stars and a number of headline bouts with the likes of middleweight champion Jake Shields, light-heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi and heavyweight hero Fedor Emelianenko appeared to be in the works.
Things can change quickly in the fight game however, and after a disappointing loss in what arguably looked the easiest of the three bouts on paper, where does the 39 year-old go from here?
Before last night’s fight the feeling was that if he could defeat Shields then Gegard Mousasi’s 205lb belt could be his next big challenge. While the two may still fight, it’s a bout that has now lost some of it’s headline appeal after both men lost last night. Also, with the two being key components in Strikeforce’s future plans, they may wish to keep them apart rather than risk one of them going 0-2.
It’s not outside the realms of possibility that Henderson could move up to 205lbs to face the new champion ‘King Mo’ however. While it’s hardly ideal after just being beaten at 185lbs, this is a road the fighter has been down before – albeit in reverse.
when he re-signed with the UFC back in 2007 after a stint in PRIDE, Hendo fought for the 205lb title, losing to ‘Rampage’ Jackson, before moving down to compete for the 185lb title against Anderson Silva, resulting in another loss.
With a move up to heavyweight to face Fedor now highly unlikely in the near future, Henderson’s other option is to remain at 185lbs for the time being, and there are still opponents there for him if that is the case.
For instance, before sparking off a riot in the cage by calling out Jake Shields in the aftermath of the Shields – Henderson fight,Jason ‘Mayhem’ Miller had hinted he would be eager to fight either of the two headline fighters next.
A less marketable fight to casual fans, but certainly an exciting one for the hardcore contingent would be against jiu-jitsu specialist Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza who disposed of Matt Lindland in his Strikeforce debut back in December. Scott Coker implied after the Nashville event that he may be getting lined up as Shields next opponent though.
Though either Scott Smith or Cung Le would also be worthy middleweight adversaries rumors suggest that those two are set for an immediate rematch, ruling them out for now, along with Robbie Lawler who is a friend of Henderson.
So which match-up will Strikeforce opt for?
Henderson is believed to be getting paid a considerable sum of money to fight for Strikeforce and only has three fights left on his contract so it seems doubtful that they will want to put him in anything other than a high profile fight next, despite his loss.
Therefore I wouldn’t be surprised if does make the jump up to light-heavyweight to face either Mousasi or King Mo.
I’m going to suggest that the latter option may take place. It might seem ridiculous to suggest that a fighter who has just lost should fight another champion at a different weight-class. It’s worth bearing in mind however that Strikeforce has a limited roster, and have already made unconventional decisions, such as scheduling Brett Rogers (who lost to Fedor in his last fight) to face current heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem next month. Logic doesn’t always apply here!
If they do go down this route then it also gives time for Mousasi to get back to winning ways, and sets him up nicely to face the winner of Hendo Vs King Mo at a later date.
There is also a suggestion that Henderson had difficulty making the cut to 185lbs which gives Strikeforce a promotional angle to work by suggesting that he will be in better shape at 205lbs – and to be fair others have suggested that in the past.
As I suggested above though, it’s not easy to second guess what Strikeforce will do given their slightly chaotic style of match-making. My only hope is that they don’t keep us in suspense for too long as I’m intrigued to see what they do next with one of their key fighters.