Sunday, February 25, 2007


By Loretta Hunt

In a career defining moment, two-time Greco-Roman Wrestling Olympian Dan Henderson became the first fighter in mixed martial arts history to earn two belts in two different weight divisions simultaneously, by knocking out Wanderlei Silva (31-7-1) two minutes and eight seconds into the third round of their five-round bid for the PRIDE Middleweight (Under 205 lbs) Championship.

The victory punctuated the Japanese-based promotion’s second visit to the U.S. and the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas with PRIDE 33’s “The Second Coming,” which drew 13,180 spectators who witnessed a fast-paced event chock full of knockouts, stoppages, and high emotions.

PRIDE Welterweight (Under 183 lbs) Champion Henderson – who has waged much of his career campaign bouncing between the two weight classes - broke his right hand in a first round that found him on his back early from a slip, then later trading clips with the aggressive Chute Boxe rep till the bell.

Henderson managed Silva to the mats in the second, forcing the Brazilian to fight from his back – a position the feared competitor famous for his standing knees and stomps hadn’t experienced much in competition his five-and-a-half years defending his title.

With Silva bleeding from a cut over his right eye at the top of round three, Henderson pushed forward with a barrage of punches - including a spinning backfist no doubt acquired from his recent collaboration with striking coach Shawn Tompkins – which signaled the start of Silva’s demise.

A usually subdued Henderson was overcome with emotion, laying out on the canvas while he softly weeped.

“This was the biggest fight of my career,” Henderson proclaimed afterwards, citing an all-round commitment to his training and diet for his increased stamina. “I could have lost and it wouldn’t have been a big deal, but winning was everything. I got smart and listened to my body more.”

Henderson’s historical undertaking comes at a delicate time for what is still considered the world’s leading MMA promotion despite mounting issues. With the July loss of a lucrative contract with Fuji TV in its homeland, the company can no longer hide its deficit situation.

“Maybe,” PRIDE CEO Nobuyuki Sakakibara answered of rumors that the PRIDE organization could go up for sale. “Today[‘s] show is very good [though].”

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