Renato Sobral earned a title shot for the Strikeforce light heavyweight title when he defeated Robbie Lawler at Strikeforce’s show at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles in June. That may seem curious as Lawler is a middleweight and the two fought at a catchweight at 195 pounds, but don’t fret too hard on those points. Sobral eschewed the title shot against friend and then-champion “King” Mo Lawal in order to settle a score with Dan Henderson.
Henderson and Sobral originally met in the final round of the inaugural RINGS King of Kings tournament in 1999. Each man fought twice previously in the night. Henderson bested Gilbert Yvel by unanimous decision, and then squeaked by Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira by split decision (Nogueira would later avenge the loss in Pride). Sobral submitted Mikhail Illoukhine by armbar in the third round and then defeated Kiyoshi Tamura in a two-round decision. Henderson ended up with a majority decision after a very close two rounds.
Round 1: Look how young these guys are. And the pudge around Babalu’s midsection. Henderson lands right hands from the clinch. Dirty boxing. They break, only to clinch in the corner. Babalu throws punches and knees to the midsection. Henderson attempts a throw and lands on top, clutching Babalu’s legs.
Round 1 (continued): Henderson trying to trap Babalu’s right leg in order to pass. Babalu frees it up, and we’re in a loose butterfly position. Henderson complaining about something. Looks like a shot to the back of the head. The referee stands the fighter and warns Babalu. The action restarts. Henderson shoots for a single. Babalu resists, but Henderson finishes the takedown anyway. Henderson in half guard now, and answering Randy Couture’s calls for body shots. Babalu drags the arm, works to take the back, but the referee breaks up the action as the fighters are entangled in the ropes. Standing now. Henderson with uppercut after uppercut from the clinch. Babalu shoots for a double, Dan defends, and grabs a front headlock. Babalu with a bodylock in the corner. He drops for a takedown, but Henderson falls through the ropes, and the referee calls for a standing restart. Leg kick from Babalu lands. Henderson shoots, but is stuffed with Babalu ending up on top in north-south. The round ends with Babalu landing a couple shots to the body. 10-9 Henderson
Round 2: Overhand right from Henderson misses. Babalu shoots and ends up in a front headlock. Knees from Henderson. Babalu with a trip takedown, ending up in side control. Heavy breathing from the fighters near the ropes. Referee calls for a standup with the fighters tangled under the bottom rope. Kick from Babalu. Babalu grabs the Thai clinch and throws knees. One-two and a kick from Babalu. Henderson responds with punches. Good low kick from Babalu. And another. And another. Henderson looks tired. He throws an overhand, but is countered by a leg kick which drops him momentarily. Another hard leg kick from Babalu. Babalu shoots a double and gets caught in a guillotine. Henderson uses it to sweep. Henderson in Babalu’s guard now. Referee calls for action. He stands them up. Shot from Henderson, and he quickly moves to side control. Babalu works back to his knees. Henderson working from the front headlock position. We’re at a stalemate here. Neither fighter able to advance his position.
Round 2 (continued): Referee calls for a break and the round is over. Henderson raises his arms and lets out a primal scream. Babalu looks much less confident. 10-9 Babalu
I don’t know what the Rings judging criteria looked like for this tournament. Judging from the fact that some tournament fights went three rounds, I assume there was some sort of “sudden death” round like the Ultimate Fighter. Looked to me like Babalu did enough to warrant a third round, but…
Judge 1: Draw
Judge 2: Henderson
Judge 3: Henderson
About the author