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Strikeforce to make Ohio debut boasting strong competitors

The mixed martial arts promotion, Strikeforce, will hold its first event in Ohio on March 5 at Nationwide Arena as the promotion looks to expand and attract fans across the U.S.

MMA and the Arnold Sports Festival have had a strong relationship for the past five years.

In 2006, the Ultimate Fighting Championship made its Columbus, Ohio, debut with UFC 68. The card featured the returning Randy Couture versus Tim Sylvia for the heavyweight championship. Couture took a decision victory and claimed his second heavyweight championship in his career.

UFC 68 sold out Nationwide Arena with 19,079 people. That event remains the highest-attended MMA in the country.

2011 marks the first time since 2006 that a Zuffa-owned promotion will not take part in the Arnold Sports Festival. Zuffa owned the promotions UFC and World Extreme Cagefighting before the WEC was absorbed by the UFC in 2010.

The WEC held an event in Columbus in March 2010.

This year Strikeforce will make its Ohio debut in conjunction with the Arnold Sports Festival.

Sporting a card featuring one of the greatest fighters in MMA history, Dan Henderson, Strikeforce is looking to make an impact and show that MMA in the U.S. is not a one-promotion sport.

Henderson prepares for 5th meeting with a Black House fighter

Henderson is one of the greatest MMA fighters ever. In his career he has faced the Black House fighters four times.

Henderson split two fights with Antônio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira between RING’s King of Kings tournament and Pride. He lost to Minotauro’s twin brother, Antônio Rogério Nogueira, in Pride and was submitted by Anderson Silva in the UFC.

On March 5, Henderson will take on his fifth opponent in the training camp, Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante.

“I’m not fighting those guys now; I’m fighting Feijao,” Henderson said in a teleconference. “I think I’m a better fighter than when I fought them.”

Black House is a breeding ground for up-and-coming Brazilian fighters. It is the training home for other notable fighters including UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo, Strikeforce middleweight champion Ronaldo “Jacaré” Souza, former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida and junior Dos Santos.

Cavalcante has been working with the Silva and Nogueira brothers in preparation for the fight. He said they have talked about their fights with Henderson and have tried to work on ways to capitalize on weaknesses in Henderson’s game.

“We train together every day. I have asked them about their fights against Dan and asked them what they think I need to do,” Cavalcante said through a translator in Tuesday’s teleconference. “They have told me what they think will work and we have been working on those things.”

Henderson’s last fight against a Black House fighter was the fight with Silva in March 2007. That fight, like the upcoming fight with Cavalcante, was held in Columbus. Henderson said he’s excited to make a return trip to Columbus and said the fans will enjoy the fight.

“I fought Anderson Silva in Columbus. I’m excited to go back there,” Henderson said. “Not excited to go back to the cold, but excited to fight in front of those fans who are always so excited to watch our fights.”

Henderson is coming off a victory against Renato “Babalu” Sobral. It was Henderson’s first fight in the 205-pound weight class since his bout against Rich Franklin in January 2009.

Henderson, who has bounced between the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions, said he prefers the light heavyweight division and plans to remain at 205 pounds, win or lose.

“I don’t feel small or weak at 205,” he said, “so what’s the point in cutting weight?”

Henderson is a keystone in the MMA community. Following his 12th-place finish in the 1996 Summer Olympics, Henderson made his MMA debut in 1997.

In his nearly 14-year career, Henderson became the first and only fighter to hold championships in two weight classes in a major promotion. Henderson held both the Pride Fighting Championships Middleweight and Light Heavyweight championships before the promotion was sold to the UFC in 2007.

Though he is 40 years old, Henderson said he has no intentions of hanging up his gloves anytime soon.

“I have no plans to stop fighting,” he said. “My body is feeling pretty good, and as long as I can still compete with the top guys, I’m going to stay in the sport.”

Cavalcante — who defeated Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal in August to win the Strikeforce light heavyweight championship — said he sees no difference in preparing to defend the title than preparing to earn it.

“It doesn’t really matter if I’m fighting for a title or I’m defending a title. It’s really about the fighter, and every fighter has different strategies they are going to throw at you,” Cavalcante said. “Of course my strategy will differ for this fight as opposed to when I fought King Mo.”

Lawal, like Henderson, was a collegiate wrestler. Both rely heavily on their ground game, but their approaches to setting up the takedowns are different.

Henderson said Lawal did not set up his takedowns well enough with striking, and that is why he did not get Cavalcante to the ground. Henderson sets up his takedowns with striking and from the clinch, and that is where he said he and Lawal differ.

“Most of my takedowns are from the clinch, and most of my MMA is out in the open or in the clinch,” Henderson said. “I typically go in there and try to do some damage on the ground, so they are going to have to respect my hands more, which will open up takedowns more when I want to take them down.”

While he is a wrestler by nature, Henderson said both he and Cavalcante are looking to knock each other out.

“I don’t think it’s much of a secret that both of us are going to look for a knockout,” Henderson said. “I definitely plan to try to knock him silly.”

Cavalcante said he matches up well with Henderson and that wherever the fight ends up, he is ready.

“I like the matchup with Dan wherever it goes: standing up, in the clinch, on the ground, boxing,” Cavalcante said. “I’ve put together a strong strategy with my training partners, and I just feel really confident for this fight. Wherever the fight goes I’m well prepared for it.”

Miesha Tate out, “Girl-Rilla” in

The night’s second title fight will feature a matchup for the Strikeforce women’s welterweight title. Marloes “Rumina” Coenen (18-4) was scheduled to defend her title against Miesha “Takedown” Tate (11-2), but it was announced Feb. 23 that Tate had injured her knee while training for the fight and Liz “Girl-Rilla” Carmouche (6-0) would take her place.

“I’m happy to fight on March 5,” Coenen said. “I was excited to fight Miesha, but I believe Liz is a very good replacement.”

Carmouche said she had no reservations about taking the fight and that she stays prepared for fights in case she ever gets a call to fight on short notice.

“I had no hesitations. This isn’t something that I could chance or turn up,” Carmouche said. “I try and stay in shape year-round so when they gave the notice I was ready for it.”

Carmouche said she respects Coenen as the best female fighter at 135 pounds and is excited to fight for the championship.

“This is an opportunity to be the best woman fighter in the world and it was an opportunity I just couldn’t refuse. I was excited and I’m still anxious to fight,” Carmouche said. “Just to be around someone at this level and to have an opportunity is something I just couldn’t pass up.”

While Coenen has been preparing for Tate, the transition to a new fighter might be difficult on less than two weeks notice. However, she welcomes the challenge of a fighter with a different style.

“I believe Liz is very talented and she’ll be a big star in the coming years. Her stand-up is OK; her wrestling is OK. I believe her stand-up is a li
ttle better than Miesha’s,” Coenen said. “It will be a fierce fight but there will be no problems for me. I’m looking forward to it and I’m all pumped up.”

Women’s MMA is not as mainstream as men’s MMA, and Strikeforce is the leading promotion for the sport. Coenen said she is happy with the promotion supporting women.

“When I started out, the word ‘MMA’ wasn’t there yet and females in the cage was a unique thing that never happened. I fought a little in Japan and it was already accepted over there,” Coenen said. “I’m very happy with Strikeforce because I believe it’s the leading women’s organization.”

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