May 19, 2012; San Jose, CA, USA; Daniel Cormier celebrates with the championship belt after defeating Josh Barnett (not pictured) during the heavyweight tournament final bout of the Strikeforce World Grand Prix at HP Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
The Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix was created with the idea of crowning the sports 265-pound king. Instead, it created a veritable star.
The tournament had its ups and downs but really, it couldn't have gone any other way. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, but it seems Fedor Emelianenko was simply destined to lose three fights in a row after being so dominant throughout his legendary career. Alistair Overeem was always bound for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC); the manner in which he got there was just a bit odd.
But, again, it created an opening for an up-and-coming mixed marital arts (MMA) competitor who just needed the right stage and the right opponents to become a star.
Enter Daniel Cormier.
He had all the right credentials to be a first alternate. On top of being an Olympic level wrestler, he had worked his way up through the ranks of the Strikeforce heavyweight division, literally starting his career with the promotion, one of its few homegrown stars.
His knockout victory over Antonio Silva in the semifinals of the grand prix was unexpected but not altogether shocking. Sure, he wasn't exactly given much of a chance against the man who had just thoroughly dominated one of the best heavyweights to ever live, but there was always that nagging suspicion that the skill and rapid growth Cormier had shown throughout his career would continue even when the level of competition jumped.
Did it ever.
He destroyed "Bigfoot," hitting him so hard in his oversized skull that it both knocked the Brazilian out and shattered the bones in Cormier's hand. That's the only reason it took so long to set up the final match-up against Josh Barnett, a well-rounded veteran of the game who would surely drag "DC" into deep waters and show him what it's like swimming with the sharks at the top of the heavyweight division.
Instead, Cormier once again proved to be even better than advertised as he showed off all the skills that made him such a hot prospect to begin with. He even broke out a few new tricks, like a seriously powerful slam that sent Barnett flying through the air like a child instead of a 250-pound man. Or the slick submission defense he used to escape the clutches of a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with more taps on his record (17) than Cormier has total fights (10).
After five rounds and 25 minutes of battle against a man who goes by the moniker "The Warmaster," it was clear it's time to stop underestimating Daniel Cormier and start wondering just how far he can go in this sport. He just turned 33-years-old but the sky, as they say, is the limit.
One thing's for certain. Cormier became a star last night (Sat., May 19, 2012) at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California.
The Octagon awaits.