Strikeforce on CBS set for April 17

By Dave Meltzer, Yahoo! Sports Feb 27, 4:44 am EST

SAN JOSE, Calif. – The second Strikeforce event on CBS will be held on April 17 at the Sommet Center in Nashville.

However, Fedor Emelianenko, generally considered the top heavyweight fighter both currently and of all time, will not be part of the show. He long was expected to be the headliner of the April CBS event.

M-1 Global, Emelianenko’s main promoter, held a press conference in Europe on Thursday which announced that Emelianenko (32-1, 1 no contest) would face Fabricio Werdum (13-4-1) in his next fight, in May. There has been talk of Strikeforce doing a May 15 show in St. Louis.

Emelianenko competed last weekend in a Russian sambo tournament, won by his younger brother Aleksander Emelianenko. Fedor Emelianenko withdrew after reportedly receiving a hand injury, which was believed to be not serious. He had surgery on his hand after his last fight, a win over Brett Rogers on CBS on Nov. 7.

With Emelianenko out, the April 17 show is expected to be headlined by middleweight champion Jake Shields (24-4-1) defending against Dan Henderson (25-7).

Henderson is the only man in major league MMA history to hold championships in two weight classes at the same time, while fighting for the PRIDE organization.

Coming off a season as a coach on The Ultimate Fighter reality show, and a knockout win over Michael Bisping on UFC 100, the biggest pay-per-view MMA event in history, Henderson is at the peak of his U.S. popularity.

But there is some question whether he and Shields would be able to carry a show that has to do network prime time-level ratings.

While not official, it is believed a second title match will take place on the bill with light heavyweight champion Gegard Mousasi (28-2-1) defending against Mohammed “King Mo” Lawal (6-0). Lawal, a world-class amateur wrestler, has made a great transition into MMA, but with less than a year and a half in the game would be giving up tremendous experience to the Dutch fighter working on a 15-match winning streak, with 13 finishes. Lawal, who took on the “King Mo” name in his debut in Japan, where the sport has a more theatrical tone, would be the home town favorite, having grown up in nearby Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Other names talked about for the show include Herschel Walker and Bobby Lashley, who were the two biggest draws on the Jan. 30 event on Showtime, which did the third-biggest rating for MMA in the history of the network.

Walker was at the show in San Jose, watching one of his training partners, Luke Rockhold, score an impressive win. Walker didn’t commit to if or when he would fight again, saying he was leaving it up to his coaches, Javier Mendez and Bob Cook. Cook said that Walker had not been back training in San Jose but expected he would start soon, indicating he has decided to fight again.

Walker is the key because for major network prime time, the show needs a mainstream hook. Henderson is the only one of the four headliners who would have a chance to be that draw, as Lawal and Mousasi have not yet established names past the Hardcore audience in this country. Walker, who turns 48 next week but has the body of someone 20 years younger, is significantly better known than Henderson. Even though he’s not a top-level fighter, his first fight proved to be a ratings winner and garnered a level of publicity than most Strikeforce events have been unable to get.

Lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez also talked on the Friday night show about prospective opponents Josh Thomson and Shinya Aoki. Melendez won the title from Thomson on Dec. 19 in San Jose in a five-round decision that was one of the year’s best fights. Melendez said that a third match between the two needed to be done because Thomson beat Melendez to win the title in their initial meeting. He also spoke of wanting to win the Dream lightweight title, held by Aoki, and to bring it to San Francisco.

Neither that event, nor any shows except a March 26 minor Challengers Series event in Fresno, Calif., were officially announced at the company’s Friday night event at the San Jose Civic Center. The company said it planned a major announcement for Monday.