The odds were not in Daniel Cormier's favor.
Sure, he had been wrestling since high school but he had only made his professional mixed martial arts (MMA) debut less than two years prior to his Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix semifinal bout against Antonio Silva. This is the same Silva who was coming off an absolute trouncing over potential G.O.A.T. Fedor Emelianenko.
Cormier's toughest test up to this point was a fight against Jeff Monson, a veteran heavyweight whose best days are definitely behind him. The former OIympian dominated his opponent over the course of three rounds in an impressive but altogether uninspiring affair.
Silva, meanwhile, was undefeated since 2007 aside from a decision loss to Fabricio Wedrum. Wins over Andrei Arlovski and Mike Kyle punctuated a three fight win streak along side the aforementioned technical knockout (TKO) over "The Last Emperor."
Cormier wasn't given much of a chance.
Despite Barnett's experience, Cormier is seen by many as the favorite. Perhaps it's because of how well he performed against "Bigfoot."
Let's take a closer look at that bout.
The Brazilian takes the center of the cage to start off the bout while the American is forced to stay on the outside and work his way in. Silva connects with a leg kick and catches the one Cormier throws in response. "Bigfoot" rushes his unbalanced opponent but fails to land anything solid before smothering Cormier along the cage.
The Olympian immediately shoves his opponent off and makes his way back to the center of Strikeforce's hexagon. Seconds later, his right fist flies through the air as if it's done this a million times before, betraying Cormier's inexperience, and connects flush with Silva's chin.
The massive Brazilian crumbles to the mat as the Cincinnati, OH crowd roars in approval. Cormier follows him to the canvas, standing over his opponent to deliver devastating ground and pound. Although staggered, "Bigfoot" recovers quickly enough to avoid more damage and the two heavyweights fight to a standstill, forcing the referee to restart the action on the feet.
Silva begins throwing one-two combinations out but none connect. Meanwhile, a sneaky jab from Cormier finds its home right on the Brazilians' nose and he's momentarily -- but visibly -- rocked by the punch. Cormier dodges another punch from Silva and answers back with a fast three-punch combination, the last strike of which again staggers "Bigfoot."
Before our very eyes, a heavyweight star is being born.
The Brazilian eats a hook to the jaw and laughably attempts to take down the Olympic-level wrestler. Cormier easily stuffs the takedown and winds up on top of his opponent before allowing Silva back to his feet.
There, Silva lands a body kick on his smaller opponent, but his leg is caught by Cormier and "Bigfoot" is then tripped, ending up on the canvas for the third time in as many minutes. He spends some time chipping away at the Brazilians's thighs until the referee once again restarts the bout.
Once the two heavyweights get back to their feet, "Bigfoot" is much more aggressive than he's been so far in the bout. And it ends up costing him the fight.
He pressures Cormier along the cage, throwing punch after punch, none of which land. In fact, the wrestler smiles after the barrage, either out of disbelief none of the strikes landed or out of a bit of cockiness. Perhaps a bit of both.
Another body kick from Silva is caught and he throws a punch before spinning around to free his lower limb. When he is once again facing his opponent, however, Cormier is there to greet him with a combination of punches. They separate and the American lands a stiff jab and then a short hook before going inside with a vicious uppercut.
Silva's knees immediately buckle and falls to the mat for the fourth and final time. Two hammerfists across his jaw are the cherries on top. The wrestler had outstruck the heavy-handed Brazilian and secured a date in the grand prix finals.
Cormier surprised everyone -- except perhaps himself and his training partners -- that night.
If he beats Barnett tomorrow, will it be as shocking?