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With Quick KO, 40-Year-Old Dan Henderson Proves He's Far From Done

Put away the rocking chair, Dan Henderson is not ready for the retirement home just yet. Writing Henderson off was the instinct of some fans and media after Henderson's last fight, saying he'd gotten old fast and that his days as an elite fighter were gone for good.

Even in this sport where we're usually forced to come to conclusions based on 15 minutes of observation -- and often less -- it was a severe overreaction.

As long as Henderson brings his thunderous right hand, his granite chin and wrestling pedigree, he'll have the opportunity to be in any fight. Just ask Renato "Babalu" Sobral, who tried and failed on a takedown try, and paid for it by eating a series of hellacious right hands that turned his lights out in less than two minutes in the main event of last night's Strikeforce show.

True, Henderson did not look himself when he fought Jake Shields back in March. But it's been practically forgotten that Henderson had a huge first round against Shields, a 10-8 frame in which Henderson nearly KO'd Shields on more than one occasion. It didn't happen, and Shields' tenacious style resulted in a wrestling-heavy series of rounds that culminated in a Shields' decision win.

Henderson is a man's man, and he made no excuses for the loss, but unbeknowst to most, he was suffering from a back injury that no doubt affected his performance and ability to stop the takedown.

That injury has had precious healing time in the eight months between fights, and the mobility that betrayed him against Shields seemed to return against Sobral.

If his back and overall health hold up, Henderson will continue to be a handful for anyone in Strikeforce, middleweight, light-heavyweight and beyond. Once primarily a wrestler, Henderson has evolved in a way similar to the style formerly emplyed by ex-UFC light-heavyweight champ Chuck Liddell, using his wrestling in reverse to stay upright, where he feels he can knock out anyone.

Liddell, who once upon a time had the ability to eat hard strikes with little sign of damage, was eventually done in by an inability to take punches, his career likely coming to a close after being knocked out in four of his last six fights (while the UFC Hall of Famer has yet to officially retire, UFC president Dana White says he'll never fight again).

Henderson has yet to show any signs of his previous career wars catching up to him in that way. He's thrown down with sluggers Wanderlei Silva (twice), Vitor Belfort, Rampage Jackson and Anderson Silva, and he's still never been knocked out in a career that has stretched past over a decade.

True, it's probably not the best way to extend a career, but at 40, Henderson's already beyond the age at which most fighters remain relevant at a top level.

Because of his style, along with the right hand that Strikeforce play-by-play man Mauro Ranallo christened "The H-Bomb" last night, Henderson will continue to have a place in the game. Likely next up is a Strikeforce light-heavyweight championship match against Rafael "Feijao" Cavalcante.

"I think that would be the natural fit for the next fight," Coker told MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani after Henderson's win.

Cavalcante and Henderson would very likely be a real crowd-pleaser, a couple of thumpers looking to take each other out. Prior to facing Sobral, Henderson told MMA Fighting that he hoped for a quick turnaround between fights, and would like to fight again in March. Henderson injured his hand during the knockout, but barring any serious diagnosis, he may get his chance to once again strap gold around his waist.

Even winners have skeptics, but finishers make believers, and last night, Henderson dropped an H-Bomb of reality on us: at 40, he's still a championship contender.