I've included a video below with Dan Henderson talking about his win last night at Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson. Specifically, he talks about his feelings of winning the belt. Henderson says his focus going into the fight was merely to get a fight against an opponent, that presuming he defeated, would prove he's still a top-level competitor at light heavyweight. After the middleweight loss to Jake Shields, Henderson had to turn in a truly redemptive performance against a highly-regarded fighter that was capable of putting him through the ringer. In short: a meaningful win over a hard-nosed, respected opponent that could offer serious pushback meant more to Henderson than merely winning a belt. The belt represents more his late-career light heavyweight ascendancy.
I don't know how long Henderson can reign as an over-40 champ in a young man's game, but in a way he's the perfect kind of fighter to hold the Strikeforce belt. He's clearly still a UFC caliber fighter, but he's also one we know wouldn't be winning any UFC belts if he were to return to Zuffa. That leaves us free from the annoying questions about where Strikeforce champs Gilbert Melendez and Renaldo Souza stand in the top ranks of their division.
We know where Henderson stands in the light heavyweight division, in the top 10 but outside the top 5.
Henderson is also still one of Strikeforce's more popular fighters. His years in the game combined with his UFC run (which also included a stint on Spike TV's "The Ultimate Fighter", culminating in a brutal knockout of Michael Bisping at UFC 100) have turned him into a certifiably popular figure. Given that Strikeforce light heavyweight are excellent but not elite, it also means Henderson has a reasonable chance of stopping the hot potato trend of 205lbs champions turning over the belt as soon as they get it.
Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson was improperly promoted and barely registered as a traffic driver for the major MMA sites, but Strikeforce had luck smile upon them as one of their marquee players solidified a late-career turnaround. Strikeforce generally has a much greater need for bankable names, but particularly as they make the move into pay-per-view. Henderson's win last night puts him at the top of the list for any future fight cards that Strikeforce plans to sell for purchase to MMA fans.
We'll explore how much more Henderson can accomplish at this juncture in a later piece, but this win - combined with his quick knockout of Renato Sobral - washes away all the remnants of bad taste left in the mouths of fans after his middleweight loss to Shields. At the time, many fans probably agreed with UFC President Dana White's assessment that Henderson "got old overnight". That's a distant memory now.
He stopped the bleeding with his Sobral win. He's certfiabily back after stopping Feijao. Champion or not, Henderson's got a few fights left in him and I suspect they're going to be very competitive.