He isn't your everyday world-class wrestler. And with a diverse striking repertoire flowing seamlessly from a compact, 5'10'' frame, Daniel Cormier served notice to the heavyweight division: it's only gonna get worse from here as the former Olympian improves and gains experience.
Cormier's masterpiece, a five-round domination of ever-tough veteran Josh Barnett last night (Sat., May 19, 2012) at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California, was a revelation on multiple levels. First, for a guy that only has ten fights, he is incredibly effective on the feet given his lack of a striking background. Second, for such a short heavyweight, he seems to make his height work for him, parlaying his quickness and adept head movement and speed to stand in the pocket and drill home shots, pouncing on openings with verve and accuracy.
The fact that he was drilling head kicks to the 6'3'' Barnett was also impressive. How many short heavyweights, outside of Pat Barry, can do that?
To top it all off, Cormier's wrestling is, indeed, "world-class," a phrase to often tossed out without qualification. In this, his compact frame will serve him well, as he's got an incredibly resilient fulcrum to deal with, assuming anyone in the near future can get close enough for a plausible takedown attempt. Cormier also showed excellent submission defense, escaping a late Barnett submission attempt as Josh rolled and transitioned, wrenching a leg in a chained series of setups, only to have Cormier wiggle free.
On top of it all, Cormier had never gone past three rounds, and went a hard five for the first time against one of the best heavyweights in the world.
With Strikeforce's uncertain future, it's obvious that Cormier will be a welcome addition to the UFC. It would also behoove the promotion to, perhaps, let Cormier develop a bit more, given the stacked heavyweight division he'd be thrown into. He's damned good right now. With a tad more seasoning and experience, he might be the best heavyweight in the world a year or two from now.
He'll possibly have to make some technical tweaks in his standup -- it's hard to imagine him dropping his hands and daring an Alistair Overeem, Shane Carwin or Junior dos Santos to unload at him while he slips and rips shots in return.
But with the insanely good wrestling he has, it's important to note that he basically was willing to stand and outpoint Barnett for most of the bout; given Barnett's top-notch submission skills, Cormier wisely avoided the ground until Josh was worn down and well behind on points. That wouldn't be nearly as much of a problem against most UFC heavies, who are dominated either by wrestling types that don't have Cormier's grappling chops, or oversized, quasi-athletic big guys that he could take down virtually at will, and soften up as he did the far more dangerous Barnett.
But after Saturday night, it's obvious that this is a rare blend of fighter and athlete, and with just ten matches, he's going to be an exceptionally difficult proposition as he keeps improving.