On April 17th, 2010, Jake Shields will face Dan Henderson in a battle for the Strikeforce Middleweight belt. Shields is the current Middleweight Champion of Strikeforce with a record of 24-4-1 . Henderson is seasoned from monumental success in Pride as well as a five-fight career in the UFC, his MMA record being 25-7-0 .
I had a chance to speak with Shields and Henderson before their upcoming fight. Both Shields and Henderson were respectful of each other, but neither fighter felt that they were at a disadvantage. In fact, each fighter felt he was readily capable of beating the other, but they clearly showed respect for each other while voicing their opinions.
Shields adamantly made it known that he is ready for Henderson. He anticipates that his upcoming fight with Henderson will have standing, ground and clinch battles. When asked if he was confident in training for Henderson, he said, "I feel completely ready. I'm well trained in all aspects of the game and I'm ready for anything."
I asked Shields whether or not he felt confident about soon defending his title against Henderson. Shields was clear in his response. He said, "I'm very calmed. I'm relaxed. I love having the belt, but it's not really about the belt, it's about the fight. I have no intentions of Henderson taking the belt."
When asked about his desire to earn the Strikeforce Middleweight title, Henderson pulled no punches. Being his debut match in Strikeforce against the Middleweight champion, he felt the need to deliver excitement for the fans. He said, "[I'm] very hungry to fight well. I really want to be impressive with the first fight in Strike Force."
After asking Henderson about his plans after the match with Shields, it became evident that he's not eager to come to a conclusion about a desired matchup or possibly moving up a weight class and fighting for the Light Heavyweight title. "I have no clue where I'll stand after the fight with Jake. I just want to take one fight at a time and see what happens from there."
Henderson was clear about giving Shields credit: "Jake is really dangerous in certain aspects of the game. I'm sure he plans on taking me down, but he's right—this fight will be everywhere."
Henderson followed that by saying that he is "expecting the fight to include all aspects of fighting" and that he is "ready for anything Shields throws at [him]."
Adding names like Dan Henderson to championship matches, Strikeforce will undoubtedly continue to adopt more UFC fans as viewers. Everyone knows that Hendo never goes down without a fight, so Shields will have his hands full in this title defense. That being the case, with both fighters willing to go from slinging punches to seeking out a ground-and-pound wrestling match, this fight has huge ratings written all over it.