Dan Henderson knocksout Babalu Sobral in the First Round

Legendary MMA superstar [2]Dan Henderson, 41, proved he is back in a major way Saturday as he closed an outstanding night of exciting, non-stop action fights by demolishing former STRIKEFORCE World Champion Renato “Babalu” Sobral in 1:53 in the main event before a crowd of 7,146 at Scottrade Center.

“Hendo answered the questions about his age, about his desire,’’ said SHOWTIME analyst and MMA pioneer, Frank Shamrock, after the fight. “There was never a question about his power.”

Other results on the televised portion of STRIKEFORCE: Henderson vs. Babalu presented by Rockstar Energy Drink: World-ranked welterweight Paul “Semtex’’ Daley (26-9-2) of Nottingham, England, knocked out Scott “Hands Of Steel” Smith (18-8, 1 NC), of Elk Grove, Calif., with a ferocious counter left hook at 2:09 in the first; new-look [3]Robbie Lawler (18-6, 1 NC), of Granite City, Ill., returned to his old, “Ruthless” self with a devastating 50-second, first-round knockout over Matt “The Law” Lindland (22-8), of Oregon City, Ore., in a
middleweight match; Antonio “Big Foot’’ Silva (15-2), of Coconut Creek, Fla., by way of Brazil, rallied to register a second-round TKO (punches) over Mike “Mak’’ Kyle (18-8), of San Jose, Calif., in a heavyweight scrap and former University of Tennessee linebacker [4]Ovince St. Preux (9-4) of Knoxville, Tenn., won his sixth in a row and second in two weeks with a dominant three-round unanimous decision over Benji “Razor’’ Radach (19-6, 1 NC), of Laguna Beach, Calif., at light heavyweight (205 pounds).

“I’ve said it before but not often enough: we have some of the most devastating and talented fighters in the world on the STRIKEFORCE roster,’’ said STRIKEFORCE CEO Scott Coker after the final STRIKEFORCE fight card of the year. “And these guys — Hendo, Daley, Lawler — proved it tonight. These aren’t even the champs of their divisions in STRIKEFORCE and they put on some display tonight.

“This is a second chance for Daley. He’s shown remorse for his past action and he’s earned the right to keep fighting. As for [5]Mike Kyle: Watch out at 205 because he’s got devastating power.”

Henderson, making his first fight at 205 pounds in three years, moved a step closer to a title shot against STRIKEFORCE Light Heavyweight Champion Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante.

“Whoever STRIKEFORCE comes up with, I’ll fight,’’ said Henderson, who floored Babalu with two solid right hands and finished him with a series of shots. “But I prefer 205. I’m ready to fight at 185 but there are plenty of good fights for me at 205.

“My body felt better for this fight. I appreciate all the support from the fans in St. Louis.’’

This was the second victory over Babalu for Henderson, who won a decision in February 2000.

Daley-Smith turned out to be the slugfest most everybody expected, but Daley, making his STRIKEFORCE debut, landed the first telling shot and that was that. 

“I’m very happy with this fight and for the opportunity STRIKEFORCE is giving me,’’ said Daley, who delivered a perfectly-placed left look that sent Smith crashing head-first to the canvas.

By stopping Lindland with a picturesque, short right hook, Lawler put himself right back into the stacked STRIKEFORCE middleweight picture.

Unlike his last outing on June 16 when he may have played it a little too cautiously in a points’ loss to Babalu, Lawler was all business Saturday.

“For some reason I thought he’d try to stand with me,’’ said Lawler, who was sporting a beard and hair on his head for this one. “He probably shouldn’t have. I knew I was in good enough shape to fight my fight and not worry about  take downs. I’ll take a one-day break and talk to managers and then we’ll go from there.’’

When asked if he knew the fight was over before the referee stepped in, Lawler said, “I always know when the fight is over.’’ 

The Silva-Kyle fight looked like it might be over in the first round, a five-minute session dominated by Kyle, who dropped Silva with a booming right hand in the opening seconds and spent the remainder of the round in the top position pounding the Brazilian with both hands.

But Silva, who outweighed Kyle by 44 pounds, rebounded strongly to triumph for the eighth time in nine starts.

“He surprised me at the beginning,’’ Silva said. ‘But I never felt I was in danger of losing or that the referee would stop the fight.’’

Kyle, who took the fight on a week’s notice after Valentijn Overeem withdrew with an injury, came close to scoring a major upset.

“I thought they were going to stop the fight,’’ said Kyle, who entered the cage having gone 5-0 with one No Contest since losing to Fedor conquerer, Fabricio Wedum, on Aug. 15, 2009. “I was really excited but they didn’t and then I realized I broke my hand and I was out of the fight mentally’’

In the opening bout of the telecast, Saint Preux dominated what many felt would be his toughest fight, outpointing Radach by the one-sided scores of 30-27, 30-26 and 30-25.

It was the second consecutive points victory for the 6-foot-3, 27-year-old Saint Preux, who was coming off a unanimous over Antwain Britt during a SRIKEFORCE Challengers event on Nov. 19.

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