Daniel Cormier. Some said he entered the sport too late, others felt he was undersized, and a select few thought he would bore us to death by grinding out any and all opponents he faced. I said he was going to become one of the elite heavyweight talents in the next three years. Yeah, I'm tooting my own horn, and if you had the same opinion -- last night was proof that the former Olympic freestyle wrestler is kind of a big deal.
Cormier demolished Brazilian goliath Antonio Silva inside the first round last night in the semifinals of the Strikeforce World Grand Prix. It was a performance that many fans didn't expect to see considering Cormier's extensive background in wrestling. It is, however, a testament to Cormier's focus on his striking game, something that his opponents likely feel they can exploit because he is, after all, a wrestler. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case in Cincinnati.
Silva slowly trudged around the cage, attempting to keep up with Cormier's speedier footwork and dynamic punching. Nearly every attack was met by a quick counter from Cormier, and Silva wasn't quick enough to answer back. When things got desperate for the giant, half-hearted attempts to bring the fight to the ground were easily shucked off by Cormier. Ninety seconds after the opening bell, it was evident that it was only a matter of time before Silva was face down on the floor.
A couple of minutes later, Cormier obliged, landing a beautiful hook-uppercut combination followed by hammerfists to finish Silva. Cormier had done what many people believed he couldn't. He had become relevant.
Cormier's rise to relevancy is a case we almost never hear about. He's an Olympic caliber wrestler who possesses the deep drive and determination to win. Most high-caliber wrestlers amass more wins than losses solely because of those traits. Cormier, on the other hand, has become a solid striker, utilizing his light feet and quick footwork to dominate his opposition. It works perfectly to Cormier's advantage. His opponents still need to train extensively to combat his wrestling abilities, but they must also worry about his power and speed in the stand-up department.
In roughly two years, Cormier has become a well-rounded fighter who has the skills to compete at the highest level in this sport. Shockingly, he hasn't defeated his competition by simply out wrestling everyone who stands in his path. No, he's learned how to strike brutally and quickly. Even guys who have fought in this sport for years and years haven't shown the type of diversity that Cormier put on display on Saturday night.
What's next for Cormier? Josh Barnett. Hopefully Cormier's hand injury isn't as serious as some are suggesting because I believe that Cormier can win the Strikeforce World Grand Prix. Barnett is the perfect match-up for him stylistically. He'll have a hard time bringing Cormier into his world on the ground, and Cormier is the quicker and more powerful striker on the feet. Cormier should bring the gold home to AKA, and with any luck -- the UFC will come calling by early next year. Keep an eye on Daniel Cormier, folks, he's here to stay.