Thrill of the chase motivates Henderson

I have a different strategy for each opponent. He’s well-rounded and tough. It’s a big challenge. The challenge is exciting for me.” Henderson has failed in his last three attempts to win titles – the UFC light heavyweight (a decision loss to Quinton Jackson), UFC middleweight (a submission loss to Anderson Silva) and Strikeforce middleweight (a decision loss to Jake Shields). But he is still a two-to-one favorite to join former training partner Randy Couture as one of only two men in the history of the young sport who have captured major world championships past the age of 40.” “It’s icing on the cake once the job is done,” he said. “But you have to get the job done first. No point in worrying about that now.” Cavalcante also sees the belt as secondary on Saturday. “What’s most important is to fight a legend like Dan Henderson,” Cavalcante said about the biggest name opponent he has ever faced. “I don’t think so much about the defense of the belt. What I’m looking forward to is the fight, not the belt.” Henderson (26-8), who beat Renato “Babalu” Sobral by knockout in just 1:53 on Dec. 4 in a match to determine the top contender for the title, is still the only man in history to hold two major world championships in different weight classes at the same time. He held the PRIDE championships at 183 and 205 pounds when the organization folded in 2007. Henderson has gone back and forth between the two weight divisions since, but prefers light heavyweight, even though he gives up size every time out. For him, size is never an issue as he fought heavyweights in his Japanese days. He currently walks around at 203 pounds, a good 15-30 pounds less than most light heavyweights. And Henderson said he would have had no qualms facing the monsters in this year’s heavyweight Grand Prix tournament. “They asked me if I was interested, and I said, ‘Sure,’ and they obviously went into a different direction,” Henderson said. Cavalcante (10-2), 10 years younger than Henderson, trains with such luminaries as Anderson Silva and the Nogueira Brothers as part of the Black House camp in Southern California. Cavalcante captured the Strikeforce championship from another decorated wrestler, “King” Mo Lawal, on Aug. 21 in Houston. The match theme was simple: Cavalcante’s takedown defense was enough to keep it standing, and he was the superior striker, finishing the formerly undefeated Lawal in the third round. That made his ninth stoppage with his fists in a career where, win or lose, he has never gone the distance. That’s a contrast with Henderson, who has gone the distance 18 times in his 34 pro fights, which could play a factor late in a five-rounder. “Mo and I are two totally different styles of wrestling,” said Henderson, who doesn’t see anything close to the same fight playing out. “He’s more outside. Most of my takedowns are from the clinch. My MMA is either out in the open or in the clinch. I feel like Mo didn’t set up his takedown all that well with his striking. I typically try to do some damage with punches so they’ll respect my hands, and that sets up the takedown.” Henderson said a retirement time frame isn’t even in his thoughts right now. “I have no plans to stop fighting,” he said. “My body’s feeling pretty good. As long as I can still compete with the top guys, I’m going to stay in the sport.” Carmouche thrilled about title opportunity Unlike Henderson, Liz Carmouche (5-0), who challenges Marloes Coenen (18-4) for the women’s welterweight (135-pound) belt, is focused on more than just the challenge but also the championship, something that wasn’t even on her radar two weeks ago. A college student just out of the military, Carmouche has never won an individual championship in sports. And she’s had virtually no time to prepare for her opponent. On Feb. 20, her trainer, Nolo Hernandez, asked her, “Are you ready for an opportunity of a lifetime?” “I could tell by how he said it that it was something big,” said Carmouche, when offered the championship fight on 13 days notice when Coenen’s original challenger, Miesha Tate, suffered a knee injury in training. “When I heard, I was really excited.” “I keep myself in shape year round, so in case an opportunity for a fight comes up, I can take it,” Carmouche said. “It’s a great Rocky story,” said Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker about the matchup of an inexperienced rookie facing one of the most skilled and experienced women fighters in the sport. Carmouche, a former Sergeant, has plenty of unique life experiences, growing up in Japan and speaking two languages on the U.S. Air Force base in Okinawa. She enlisted in the Marines at 17 to test herself, saying she believed the other branches of the service were “too soft.” She went on three tours of Iraq, in 2006, 2007 and 2009, so she has plenty of life experience under different types of pressure. But her cage experience is limited. Her first listed professional fight was only nine months ago, although she had an unsanctioned fight in March of 2010 in Mexico that was actually her debut. Her opponent, Coenen, is from the famed Golden Glory Gym in Amsterdam, Holland. Even though she’s only 29, Coenen is a pioneer of the sport. She debuted in 2000 in Japan, where the first high-profile women’s fights were taking place, winning the sport’s first major championship for women, the ReMix World Cup. “I have a lot of respect for her,” Carmouche said. “She’s the best in the world, she’s the champion. “I’m giving up a lot in experience, but I don’t have the wear-and-tear, so that’s an advantage.” Carmouche played sports like volleyball and soccer growing up and hoped to pursue the latter in the Marines, but once she got there, she found there was simply no time. The other soldiers could see how hard she attacked the weights in the gym. She said she trained hard and heavy, for size and power, for help in carrying around equipment. A few soldiers talked her into watching some UFC shows with them. She was immediately hooked and started training for the sport. It wasn’t until leaving the service and moving to San Diego that she actually had a taste of U.S. culture. She grew up with her mother and a stepfather in Japan, going to an English language school, but she was capable of reading and writing Japanese. The only time she spent on U.S. soil was with her father, who lived in Alaska. “And that’s very different from living in the lower 48 (states),” she said. Carmouche is one of two Iraq veterans on the event airing on Showtime, as Army Sgt. Tim Kennedy (12-3) faces Melvin Manhoef (24-8-1) in a middleweight match. Kennedy, who lost a decision to champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, faces perhaps the most exciting striker in the middleweight division in Manhoef. Manhoef, who has lost four of his last six fights, is known for his knockout power, as well as for his ground deficiencies that have plagued him when facing top-level opponents.

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