The once hotly anticipated Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix came to a close last night (Sat., May 19, 2012) at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., as Daniel Cormier claimed his crown (or belt, as it were) with a five-round unanimous decision victory over veteran grappler Josh Barnett.
Despite his lack of experience in professional mixed martial arts (MMA), at least in comparison to his opponent, Cormier was able to overcome "The Warmaster" after 25 minutes inside the cage with the vested veteran. Really, he did exactly what he said he would.
The same can't be said for Barnett, who promised death, destruction, and the derailment of the heavyweight division's biggest hype train. It didn't happen. And that's because he was outgunned, outclassed and overmatched.
Period. No two ways about it.
So how did "DC" pull off such an impressive victory over such a game opponent? Follow me after the jump for a complete fight review and some additional analysis on "Cormier vs. Barnett."
The bout had a lot less hype than it should have, especially considering the stakes. But amongst fight fans who knew the background, this was an even match-up on paper with the x-factor seemingly being the youth vs. experience play.
There may be plenty of times when it's prudent to take the latter but this isn't one of them.
That's because Cormier showcased his growing set of skills that got him to the big show in the first place. It was impressive when he was throwing around guys like Devin Cole but for him to pick a 250-pound Barnett up over his head and flip him on his back mid-fight was truly a sight to behold.
The standing exchanges favored Cormier all throughout the proceedings. Surprisingly enough, though, he wasn't just throwing a big overhand right like a wrestler who found a nifty new tool he wanted to use. No, he was launching head kicks that were connecting with the smooth precision of a seasoned pro.
It turns out, the reason he was doing so was because he re-injured the hand he broke that put this bout on hold for so many months early in the fight. It's amazing, really, that his need for improvisation resulted in the discovery of a new facet of his ever-improving game.
Add another to the arsenal.
Let's not act as though Barnett just laid down to die. He, too, suffered what he believed to be a broken hand. This apparently occurred early enough in the fight that it changed the complexion of the remainder of the contest.
After all, there's only so much a man can do when his hand is throbbing out of his glove.
"The WarMaster" was game, firing off submission attempts when the opportunities presented themselves and utilizing his knees like missiles inside the clinch. He was effective at points but he couldn't manhandle Cormier in the same manner he did Brett Rogers and Sergei Kharitonov, the two men he defeated to get to the tournament finals.
The result was a battered and bruised face, a busted limb, and an uncertain future.
Really, though, this may have been a blessing in disguise, at least for Barnett. Because he broke his hand, if that turn out to be the case, he can lobby for a rematch before Cormier skips off to the Octagon to swim with the sharks in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
Remember, the grand prix winner is contracted to fight one more time under the Strikeforce banner, even if the promotion no longer houses a heavyweight division. Why not a rematch once Barnett and Cormier both heal their hands?
That's an angle Barnett can attack, if it's something he desires. Surely, his competitive drive will lead him to such a conclusion, no? Unless, of course, he's got a UFC contract awaiting him. But what does that leave for Cormier?
There are few options for Strikeforce, especially considering where Cormier now is in his career progression. Is there a heavyweight better than Barnett who is a free agent that can be brought in for a one-and-done scenario?
So unless UFC President Dana White decides he wants to watch his new heavyweight star beat up on someone like Tim Sylvia, there really isn't a fight that makes sense. And let's not even get into any talk of Fedor Emelianenko. It's not worth the headache.
What do you think, Maniacs? Were you as impressed with Cormier as I was? And who should he fight next before heading off to the UFC?