Seven months ago Antonio Silva battered Fedor Emelianenko until the Russian's left eye was nearly swollen shut. Emelianenko had lost eight months prior, submitting to a triangle choke applied by Fabricio Werdum but it was the beating at the hands of "Bigfoot" that truly served to remove nearly all the mystique "The Last Emperor" amassed for himself in his decade-long career.
Silva's stock -- as well as his ranking in the heavyweight division -- skyrocketed. Along with becoming the fifth best heavyweight in the world, he also became a favorite to win the Strikeforce grand prix. His shellacking of Emelianenko had far reaching effects.
And that's exactly why Daniel Cormier absolutely clowning him last night at Strikeforce: "Barnett vs. Kharitonov" was such an impressive feat for the former Olympic wrestler.
Going into their bout, "Bigfoot" -- a former world champion across three promotions -- had nearly 20 fights to his name and only two blemishes on his record. Cormier, while undefeated, had only made his mixed martial arts (MMA) debut less than two years ago.
But "DC" made his more experienced opponent look like an amateur. He made the most out of his opportunity to replace Alistair Overeem in the heavyweight grand prix and now finds himself on the cusp of the finals, on a collision course with Josh Barnett.
Last night's performance from the wrestler raises the question: just how good is Daniel Cormier?
Much has been made of Cormier's wrestling credentials. The term "world-class" is thrown around pretty liberally in regards to fighters' skill sets but in "DC's" case, it accurately describes his wrestling chops.
He flourished during his tenure at Oklahoma State University's highly ranked wrestling program but national success wasn't enough. He was twice selected to represent his country in the Olympic games and placed fourth in 2004 but was unable to compete in 2008 due to injury.
He is an amazing wrestler, possibly the best wrestler to compete in MMA so far. But more than that, he's an incredible athlete. Hard work and determination obviously play a part but one doesn't reach the pinnacle of sport, the Olympics, without having an enormous amount of natural ability and raw talent.
And one certainly doesn't knock out Antonio Silva in less than four minutes without it either.
For all intents and purposes, it's safe to say that "DC" hasn't been training in stand-up for more than three or four years. Why would an Olympic wrestler need to know how to throw a hook? But inside the cage last night, he repeatedly beat Silva to the punch almost each and every time.
Crisp jabs softened "Bigfoot" throughout the fight and a perfectly placed uppercut crumpled him to the mat.
It wasn't Brock Lesnar-levels of strength that felled Silva either. While the former UFC heavyweight champion is a genetic anomaly, more beast than man, Cormier -- who is strong as an ox in his own right -- used technique over power to punctuate his striking.
It's amazing to think that the Cormier has become this good this quickly. His age -- 32-years -- is brought up constantly when fans and pundits lament his late entry into the sport. But when he is improving by leaps and bounds as he has been, it's almost as if he is making up for lost time. It should also be noted that "Bigfoot" is only six months younger than "DC."
Athletes like Cormier are special. They are the physical equivalent to someone who can immediately play the piano without a lick of formal training. They are wired differently and are gifted with the ability to pick up and hone a skill that would normally take years and year for someone else.
Men like Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva make what would seem nearly impossible look unimaginably easy. These are men that would succeed in any athletic venture they wanted; they are just that talented. Luckily for us, they've chosen MMA.
And as the sport continues to grow, the money will follow suit. Just five years ago, Jason Miller made only $2,000 in his UFC debut. When Donny Walker debuted in the Octagon at UFC 132 two months ago, he made $6,000. While there is obviously still room for improvement, a $4,000 increase in half a decade is a huge step in the right direction.
As the purses grow and grow, so too will interest from athletes of Cormier's caliber. Men and women who may have not necessarily trained for a life inside the Octagon but are so naturally talented that they improve exponentially with each bout will become more and more of a fixture in our sport.
When the former Olympian steps inside the cage, you are witnessing everything that our sport could be. It's an incredibly exciting thought.
Now -- barring a hand injury that would sideline him -- Cormier is set to take on Josh Barnett early next year in the finals of the grand prix. For Barnett, it's old hat; he's been here before. For "DC," it's new and uncharted territory.
Stylistically, it's an exciting match-up. "The Warmaster's" catch wrestling pitted against Cormier's brand of freestyle wrestling should make for one hell of a fight. Although if a non-fan were to see the two fighters side by side, they'd likely predict Barnett to win.
And why not? He would tower over "DC" and that square jaw is something out of a comic book. Cormier stands at less than six feet tall and weighs in at a pudgy 247-pounds. He isn't an intimidating sight.
But he might be the most dangerous heavyweight fighting today.