Former U.S. Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier faces Jeff Monson at Strikeforce: Overeem vs Werdum this weekend. It's a main card fight on Showtime, a first for Cormier who has headlined Strikeforce Challenger cards and been on the undercard of major events but never on the big show.
SBNation's Luke Thomas spoke with Cormier in advance of the bout:
Luke Thomas: Let's talk about your fight now this weekend with Jeff Monson. Fair to say that he's the toughest competitor so far in your mixed martial arts career?
Daniel Cormier: Hands down. Hands down best guy I've ever fought. No disrespect to the other guys but they'd probably agree. Devin Cole fought him too a while back and lost so it's a constant progression. I've went from a guy with no wins and no losses in my first fight and then the next guy had five and the next guy had six, you know? It's been a constant progression for me and my career and right now I think I'm at the point where I can start testing myself against some of the people that have been in the game a long time and have had success and have fought at the highest levels of the sport. Because how am I supposed to get there? For anybody to ever advance in the sport, you've gotta beat some body. You can't continue to just fly under the radar. It's my opportunity to step up and show what I'm made of.
Luke Thomas: I want to talk about his submission game. You're one of the best if not the best wrestlers in MMA and for heavyweights it's obviously a completely different game but he is, for heavyweights, one of the best submission grapplers. Multiple titles in Abu Dhabi dating all the way back to I think '99. To what extent does that influence your decision to go to the ground? I know you're confident at all points of the game and I know that's a cliche question but I guess when elite Freestyle Wrestling meets elite Submission Wrestling, how does Freestyle Wrestling win the day?
Daniel Cormier: I'm very aware of his half guard position, whether he's on his back or pulls guard or when he shoots and then pulls half-guard. It's one of his strongest positions and you have to be totally aware and I am. I am aware that he is unbelievable in that area but with that being said, I cannot admit that or sit here and say I'm not going to wrestle him because that would be unfair to myself and the skills that I have. I'm a wrestler so I have to be willing to go to the ground with Jeff and hope that the training I've done in the gym and my partners and everything else has sufficiently prepared me for all the challenges that he's going to present. It's going to be extremely tough but we are confident in what I've done in the gym. Nobody in the gym is Jeff Monson and nobody can grapple like Jeff Monson but I've gotta believe that what I've got so far coupled with the skills I have naturally and that I've gained in wrestling, should be enough to allow me to grapple with him through everything else.
Cormier will have his work cut out for him against Monson. He was originally slated to face undefeated prospect Shane del Rosario before a car wreck forced del Rosario off the card.
If Cormier can get past Monson he'll be in an excellent position to face some of the other alternates from the Strikeforce Grand Prix.