The Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix FINALLY concluded tonight (Sat., May 19, 2012) at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California, as Josh Barnett met Daniel Cormier in the finals to determine who went home with the tournament belt.
Barnett got here by submitting both Brett Rogers and Sergei Kharitonov via arm triangle while Cormier entered as an alternate in place of Alistair Overeem and knocked out Antonio Silva in the first round. And more than one year after it started, a winner was crowned.
Congratulations, Daniel Cormier, the honor is yours.
It's fitting, really, that an alternate was the man to ultimately win the fractured tournament. In reality, he deserves the victory, though, as he absolutely outclassed Barnett throughout five rounds of action. He was better in the standing exchanges, a better striker, was better wrestling and even showed solid submission defense.
Take a bow, "DC," this one's all yours.
Cormier showed his highly improved striking game early, landing both kicks and punches that appeared to make Barnett extremely uncomfortable. He also looked faster and more powerful than his opponent.
They worked some in the clinch with Barnett landing some solid knees but Cormier looked very comfortable in there with the vested veteran. In fact, he was in control until the final 20 seconds when Barnett landed a knee and a big follow up punch that had Cormier aggressively trying to clinch to avoid further damage.
Barnett was more aggressive to open the second round while Cormier stayed patient and picked his spots. Both men found success at various points, with Barnett's weapon of choice, a knee, doing solid damage when he employed it.
The clinch game was mostly a wash, though Cormier was scoring with punches on the way out.
The first takedown of the fight came with 2:30 remaining in the second, as Cormier tripped Barnett and ended up in his full guard. Barnett started throwing submission attempts, working for an arm and a leg but he was taking damage while doing so.
In fact, his face was a crimson mask as the round came to a close.
Round three came and Barnett pushed forward as the aggressor early. He worked for a takedown from a single to a double but Cormier's overhooks stifled that attempt. As pointed out by the commentators earlier in the evening, Cormier has never been taken down under the Strikeforce banner.
Barnett didn't become the first to do so here.
They went back to exchanging and Cormier continued showing off his new-found skill. Suddenly, Cormier used a single leg high crotch to send Barnett flying through the air with a big slam takedown right into side control.
Barnett managed to get back to his feet without much issue but it made for a dramatic visual and showed more of Cormier's skill set.
He teased another slam but instead landed a big head kick later that stunned Barnett. "The Warmaster" covered up against the fence but was subjected to big shots against the cage. He recovered enough to answer with a big uppercut that halted the onslaught but Cormier remained aggressive by taking his back standing up.
The round came to a close with both men simply recovering in the clinch.
Round four opened and Barnett had a sense of urgency that wasn't evident previously. He pushed forward and started working those big knees again but Cormier was able to keep a good distance and maintain the range he wanted the fight at.
This led to more head kicks that were landing enough to create the sickening slap sound but not enough to put Barnett on his butt. "The Warmaster's" only offense came by way of knees rushing in and even a spinning back fist in this round.
Cormier again worked a single leg takedown and got it but Barnett snatched a leg lock. The submission attempt failed and Cormier ended up back on top in full guard, once again in control of the contest.
The referee stood them back up where they closed the round clinched against the cage.
One more to go and Cormier was firmly in control.
Round five was academic. Barnett needed a finish but Cormier was far too game to let it happen. It's too bad there was so little buzz for this event because this was the star making turn for Cormier, who turned in an outstanding performance.
Just one more bout and he's UFC bound, folks. What do you think about that?
Remember, too, to check out MMAmania.com's complete coverage of the Strikeforce: "Barnett vs. Cormier" event by clicking here.