This Saturday night (June 18, 2011) on the Strikeforce: "Overeem vs. Werdum" main card, an intriguing heavyweight battle pits a seasoned veteran against one of the promotion's biggest up-and-comers as Jeff Monson takes on Daniel Cormier at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.
Cormier is one of Strikeforce's top rising stars. The esteemed wrestler made the transition to mixed martial arts and hasn't looked back, winning all of his seven career fights. After working his way up against mid to lower-level guys, he's ready to face his sternest test to date.
Monson has spent the last four years working to get another opportunity like this on the big stage after falling short in his lone UFC heavyweight title shot. He's the wrestling coach at American Top Team and has taken fights across the globe waiting for another moment like this. He'll definitely be looking to make a big impression in his reintroduction to hordes of new MMA fans.
Will Cormier continue his meteoric rise towards the top of Strikeforce's heavyweight division? Or will Monson use his tremendous experience and steal his thunder? Who will win in the battle of "old school" versus "new school?"
Let's find out:
Record: 7-0 overall, 4-0 in Strikeforce
Key Losses: None
How he got here: Daniel Cormier started out as a wrestler and not just any wrestler, but a world class wrestler. He was a national runner-up at Oklahoma State and was a member of the 2004 and 2008 US Olympic wrestling teams, even being named captain in 2008.
Daniel has absolutely dominated the MMA scene thus far in his young career. In seven professional fights, he's earned three knockouts, one submission and two submissions due to strikes. He's easily won all four of his Strikeforce fights and will be making his main card debut on a major event with the promotion this Saturday night.
How he gets it done: Daniel has put in a lot of work to become a more complete mixed martial artist. He dominated his opponents early in his career simply by using his wrestling but he's progressed to the point where, in his last fight, he was all over Devin Cole with his striking as well.
Cormier possesses some of the best wrestling of any heavyweight in MMA right now and he's done a great job of transitioning from amateur wrestling to MMA wrestling.
He will have a big speed advantage over Monson as well as a power advantage in his striking. Look for Cormier to pound "The Snowman" with punches and his recently debuted kicks. Not many men have put Monson on his back but Cormier is a guy that can definitely pull that off.
It would be unwise to even attempt a submission against the former Abu Dhabi Combat Club champion but if he can pin Monson down (which won't be easy), he could utilize his nasty ground and pound and find a finish there.
Record: 42-11 overall, 0-0 in Strikeforce
How he got here: Jeff Monson has been fighting for over 13 years now. Around 2003, something clicked with the amiable anarchist and he went on a huge 16 fight win streak which resulted in a title shot against then-UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia.
After falling short in his lone shot at UFC gold, Monson fought against Kazuyuki Fujita in the main event of the final Pride show ever, Pride 34.
Since defeating Fujita via submission at the final Pride show, Monson has literally traveled the globe to fight everywhere from Japan to Australia to Brazil to Ireland and even Isreal.
Monson has defied the odds and he's recently proven that perhaps, a fighter can get better with age. He's fought a ridiculous 23 times in the past four years and he turned 40 years old this past January. After going an impressive 8-0 in the last year, Monson was finally given an invite back to the big show against Daniel Cormier.
How he gets it done: Monson will have experience on his side, that's for sure. "The Snowman" has fought 46 more times than his upcoming opponent and he'll need to use every trick up his tattooed sleeves if he wants to pull out a win.
Jeff's expertise is wrestling but he likely won't have the advantage there. Where he could potentially be stronger than Cormier is in jiu-jitsu. The Snowman holds nearly four times as many career victories by submission as Daniel has total fights.
If he can find himself in his infamous North/South position, we may see his seventh career victory by way of North/South choke, something that has become Monson's trademark over the years.
Monson has never been known for his stand-up but he's competent if the fight goes there. He doesn't have much power but he's learned to get inside over the years and work up close because of his size and reach disadvantages he's had throughout his career.
Fight "X-Factor:" The "X-Factor" here is the age disparity, especially age in "fight years". Monson, at 40 years old, has been getting punched in the face for over 13 years while Cormier, 32, has only been fighting for less than two.
Monson's accumulated a lot of damage and old injuries in his 53 fight career and that certainly takes a toll on a fighter's recovery and ability to take a big punch. Cormier will definitely be the fresher fighter man in the cage and if both men land a big strike at the same time, it will likely not be Cormier who goes down.
Bottom line: This bout could be great or it could be a snoozefest. Cormier hasn't been in a boring fight in his career, having only ever had one fight go to decision but Monson may try to use that against him, slow down the pace and drag the fight into the later rounds where he could have the advantage. How exciting this match is will entirely depend on whether Monson comes out aggressively or not.
Who will come out on top at Strikeforce: "Overeem vs. Werdum"? Let us know in the comments section below!