by Ken Pishna – MMAWeekly.com
From day one, Dan Henderson was played the favorite coming into his challenge of Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields. From day one, Jake Shields took the approach of, fine, that’s how you want to play it? Let’s see what happens come fight night.
In the first round of their showdown in Nashville, Tenn., on Saturday night, it looked like all the Henderson favoritism might have been deserved. Henderson came out of the gate throwing his sledgehammer of a right hand, dropping Shields to the mat, but couldn’t finish him.
He repeated the feat several times in the opening round, but Shields persevered, fighting his way out of trouble each and every time.
Then, for the ensuing four rounds, it was a game of takedown, ground and pound, repeat, all courtesy of Shields.
Most pundits didn’t think Shields would be able to put Henderson on his back, at least not at the rate that he did on Saturday night.
It wasn’t pretty. He was met with boos on several occasions. But Shields had a solid game plan and implemented that game plan throughout. He took Henderson down nearly at will, not that he didn’t have to work for it. Once on the mat, Shields continuously was able to move to mount and pound away on Henderson’s face and body for the better part of the final four rounds.
He was unable to put the former two-division Pride champion away, but aside from the opening round, Shields put on one of the more dominant performances of his career.
“I really wanted to put him away, but was unable to. Henderson’s really tough,” Shields said after the fight.
The judges had no choice but to score it for the Strikeforce champion, who deservedly walked away with scores of 49-46, 49-45, and 48-45.
Even longtime detractor, and color commentator on Saturday night, Frank Shamrock gave Shields his due, “You have to give Jake Shields all the credit in the world. I am a Jake Shields fan and I’m saying it now.”
Unfortunately, as strong as Shields’ performance and those of his teammate, Gilbert Melendez, and new Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal were, they will likely be overshadowed by what ensued in the cage after Shields’ victory.
In the midst of his post-fight interview, Shields was interrupted by Jason “Mayhem” Miller, who came up short in a five-round decision loss to Shields last November.
Miller was angling for the next shot at Shields, asking with a smile, “What about my rematch buddy?”
And that’s when all hell broke loose.
No sooner did Miller have the words out of his mouth than Shields shoved him away, Miller tried to shove back, Melendez jumped in between the two, and then Shields’ camp closed ranks on Miller. An overhead view of the cage showed Shields’ teammate Nick Diaz punching Miller in the back, while his brother, Nate, was kicking Miller in the ribs.
Members of Henderson’s camp – with whom Miller used to train – stepped in alongside athletic commission officials to help break up the melee.
CBS broadcaster Gus Johnson, who was conducting the post fight interview, tried to help calm the situation, saying, “Gentlemen, we’re on national television gentlemen.”
Indeed, national television… what a wonderful display as the sport is slowly creeping out of the shadows and into the mainstream.
Before CBS cut from the program, they brought Shields back on for a few last words with Johnson.
“I really apologize for that, it’s really out of my character. Unfortunately I pushed him, overreacted.”