1998asicsdanhenderson01

New Strikeforce light-heavyweight champion Dan Henderson made his MMA debut in impressive fashion by winning three consecutive tournaments.

First, it was the Brazil Open in 1997, then he went through Carlos Newton and Allan Goes to win the UFC 17 tournament.  Traveling overseas, "Hendo" entered the stacked RINGS "King of Kings" tournament in 1999, and beat two opponents in the opening night (the second being future Pride competitor Hiromitsu Kanehara).

Here's where it gets good -- in the last segment of the tournament, Henderson won three matches to attain the tournament crown in 2000.  The names he tore through in the same night are still prominent today:  Gilbert Yvel, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and Renato "Babalu" Sobral.

Of course, Yvel was a feared kickboxer who went on to compete in Pride and the UFC, Big Nog was the longstanding Pride heavyweight champion and UFC interim heavyweight champ, and Babalu was a top contender in the UFC 205-pound class and at one time Strikeforce light-heavyweight champ.

For a man who can still squeeze into an 185-pound frame, the level of competition he toppled in this tournament foreshadowed what a legend Dan Henderson would become in MMA. Alistair Overeem, Valentijn Overeem, Jeremy Horn, Brad Kohler, Mikhail Illoukhine, and Justin McCully also participated in this legendary tournament, all of whom went on to compete in either the UFC or Pride FC.

From Dailymotion, check out the highlight video of Hendo winning the RINGS tournament.

 

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