At the end of Strikeforce's eight man heavyweight tournament a clear champion will emerge. And standing there, waiting for him on the wings, on the fringes of the most important North American MMA tournament in more than a decade may be a worthy challenger.
Tonight, Daniel Cormier showed the wrestling prowess and improved striking to be a serious contender down the road in the heavyweight (or if he chooses, light heavyweight division). Devin Cole is a tough journeyman fighter, himself a tough wrestler with power in his hands. Cormier tossed him like a rag doll and out struck him both in the clinch and from distance.
His wrestling domination wasn't really a shock. After all, Cormier is a two time Olympian and a Real Pro Wrestling champion. Where he really turned heads was in the standup game. The training at the American Kickboxing Academy is really starting to take root with Cormier. Working with top notch fighters like UFC champion Cain Velasquez has forced Cormier to improve. In with a machine like Velasquez, it is either sink or swim. Tonight Cormier looked like Michael Phelps.
He threw combinations fluently, including a variety of muay thai techniques, and bombed punches with purpose - but never recklessly. The only one not impressed with his performance was Cormier himself. It was the first time in seven pro bouts that the former Oklahoma State wrestler was forced to wait for the judges to announce a verdict.
"We don't expect a performance like that at AKA," Cormier said. "Neither do my coaches. But I appreciate the opportunity from Strikeforce and Devin for taking the fight."
- In other action, two of the world's top prospects at 170 pounds squared off, with Tyron Woodley winning a unanimous decision over a tough Tarec Saffiedine. It wasn't the most exciting bout for the fans in attendance, as Woodley maintained a clinch to stop Saffiedine's dangerous striking game. Meanwhile the Team Quest product was able to negate Woodley's dangerous wrestling. It went to the judge's cards with Woodley winning a unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28).
- The intense staredown between Amanda Nunes and Julia Budd at yesterday's weigh ins lasted significantly longer than their fight. Nunes came out swinging, dropping Budd with a straight left almost immediately and stopping her with hammerfists in just 14 seconds. A dearth of talent in the 145 pound division makes the young Brazilian an immediate factor in the division headlined by Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos.
Ovince St. Preux, fighting for the third time in less than two months, had a tough battle on his hands with Strikeforce veteran Abongo Humphrey. Humphrey, who fought much of his career in the heavyweight class, threatened throughout the fight with a variety of submissions. In the end St. Preux was just too good and too overwhelming. He fought hard for the entire 15 minutes in what was an entertaining scrap throughout. St. Preux has now won seven in a row. Humphrey has lost two of three since making his light heavyweight debut last March.
- Kimbo Slice's distant cousin Rhadi Ferguson failed to impress in his major promotion debut. Carrying a ton of muscle on his 5-8 frame, Ferguson was overwhelmed by last minute replacement John Richard. But Richard soon tired and Ferguson was able to latch on to a kneebar for the win.