Jake Shields, right, won a unanimous decision over Dan Henderson...

Jake Shields, right, won a unanimous decision over Dan Henderson to retain his middleweight title at Strikeforce Nashville. (April 17, 2010) Credit: Strikeforce / Esther Lin

Dan Henderson's first punch inside a Strikeforce cage, a thunderous overhand right, knocked Jake Shields to the ground. Henderson followed that up with another knockdown a moment or later.

After that, the Dan Henderson-in-Strikeforce experiment fell completely flat. Shields dominated Henderson on the ground for the final four rounds and successfully defended his Strikeforce middleweight title, winning a unanimous decision Saturday night in Nashville. The three judges scored it 49-46, 49-45, 48-45.

"Henderson is a true legend, and I'm glad to have beaten him,"  Shields said.

Somewhere, UFC president Dana White is laughing. Elsewhere, Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker has to be shaking his head and wondering what happened to his prized signing from last year.

A quick look at the stats:

- Shields landed 232 of 380 total strikes (61 percent), compared to Henderson's 64 of 32 (48 percent).

- Shields held 11 dominant positions to Henderson's 0.

Below is the round-by-round reactionary analysis as it happened:

First round

Henderson's first punch in Strikeforce, an overhand right, dropped Shields. Shields recovered and attempted a leglock. He held it for a moment, but Henderson never went to the ground and eventually broke free. Henderson landed more punches, and began unloading with right hands. Shields has no defense for Hendo's big right hand.

Shields looks scared with two minutes left, afraid to keep the fight standing but trying to show the heart of a champion. May not be the best decision. Shields shot in with a minute left and nearly had the single-leg takedown, but Hendo, the two-time Olympic wrestler, sprawled and escaped his grasp. Henderson won this round easily.

Second round

Shields shot in twice, the latter of which almost turned into a rear naked choke attempt by Henderson. Shields got a full mount at 3:40 and immediately absorbed repeated elbows to the thigh by Henderson. Shields maintained his mount and landed a series of head shots. Henderson tried to roll out of it, but Shields held his position and landed more face shots. Henderson scored a few face shots from his back with two minutes left, but Shields is unloading with a flurry. With a minute left, Shields had Hendo pinned near the cage and teed off. He wrapped up the round with a few hammer fists. Score this round for Shields.

Third round

In the opening minute, Shields shot in but Henderson stuffed it and got back to his feet. Henderson seems to be crouching low and just waiting to throw his right hand. Shields got the single-leg takedown and worked out of Henderson's guard to side control with 2:40 left. Henderson looks gassed at 1:30 as he tries to work out of side control and search for an advantageous position.

With under a minute left, Shields got a full mount on Hendo, but couldn't land enough big shots to end it. Shields ended the round with an armbar submission attempt. That's two rounds to one for Shields.

Fourth round

Shields opened with a single-leg takedown, but Henderson reversed out of it. Henderson needs to get this fight to the feet and land some strikes if he wants to win this thing.

Oh, lookee here, Shields gets a full mount again, and is looking to work for an armbar. Henderson can't do anything off his back, thanks to the strong ground game exhibited by Shields.

With under a minute left, Shields has Hendo pinned up against the cage and is raining down head strikes. Shields wrapped up the final seconds with a mount and flurry of face shots. Hendo needs a knockout in the fifth round to win this bout.

Fifth round

Shields with a takedown. What a shocker. It's too easy for him. What happened to Hendo since UFC 100 last July? This round is looking very much like the last three rounds. Shields got a full mount and landed a flurry of face shots. Hendo has nothing left.

PHOTOSStrikeforce Nashville

More MMA

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months