Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Henderson secures second Pride title

LAS VEGAS - Victor Valley High School graduate Dan Henderson knocked out Wanderlei Silva in the third round of their Pride Fighting Championship match on Saturday to claim the 205-pound Middleweight title belt at the Thomas & Mack Center in front of a crowd of 13,180.

Henderson, 36, is also the title holder in the 185-pound welterweight division and thus became the first ever fighter to hold two mixed martial arts world titles simultaneously for any of the major fighting organizations.

The High Desert native won the welterweight Grand Prix Championship in December of 2005 after defeating top-ranked fighter Murilo Bustamante.

Saturday's event, which hosted nine fights on the card, was the second-ever Pride fight held in America. This form of mixed martial arts is mainly run in Japan. The first Pride fight in the U.S. was also held at the Thomas & Mack Center in October, when Henderson defeated Vitor Belfort.

"It's probably the best MMA show that's been put on in the U.S.," said Henderson's father, Bill, as he drove back from Las Vegas. "Pride is trying to gain popularity with an American audience. ... Over in Japan, he is a big celebrity."

Dan Henderson, a 3-to-1 underdog in the 205-pound bout because he moved up a weight class, battled Silva evenly for the first round, Bill Henderson said, before winning the second round and recording the knockout in the third. The fight was scheduled for five rounds.

The former Victor Valley High School wrestler won the title fight despite breaking his hand in the first round. Dan Henderson last fought Silva in 2000, when he lost by a decision. Silva had held the middleweight belt since 2001, only losing twice in tournaments.

"It's a pretty grueling sport," Bill Henderson said. "Silva always comes into the fights in shape. He's probably one of the toughest fighters to come out of Brazil."

Dan Henderson was an Olympic wrestler in '92 and in '96.


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