Two heavyweights on completely opposite ends of the rankings will meet this Saturday night (Jan. 12, 2012) as Daniel Cormier takes on Dion Staring in the co-main event of Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Cormier has vaulted himself into top five status in the consensus heavyweight rankings after starting his career with 10 straight wins including victories over top 10 ranked Josh Barnett and Antonio Silva in his last two performances to win the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix. Now, he's looking to head into the Ultimate Fighting Championship with some momentum.
Dion Staring is a veteran fighter with considerable experience spanning over 10 years on the local European circuit. After moving from Golden Glory to Imperial Athletics in America, he accepted the opportunity to fight Cormier when no one else would and is hoping to shock the world on Saturday night.
Will Cormier roll as expected? Can Staring pull off the tremendous upset? How can each heavyweight pull off the victory?
Record: 10-0 overall, 7-0 in Strikeforce
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Daniel Cormier was an incredibly accomplished American wrestler. He was a high school All-American, a junior college national champion and after transferring to Oklahoma State, he was also a national runner-up.
Daniel took his wrestling to the international stage, competing on the United States' world team five separate times including twice in the Olympics. He just missed medaling at the 2004 Olympics and after becoming captain of the team in 2008, was forced out of the competition with kidney problems due to cutting weight.
To avoid any further issues with weight cutting, Cormier decided to transition to MMA as a heavyweight. He made his professional fighting debut less than two years ago in Strikeforce, smashing Gary Frazier via TKO. Cormier would fight a very hectic schedule, competing in multiple Strikeforce events and also mixing in fights with other promotions to stay busy.
Upon returning to Strikeforce, he would begin to utilize his striking, outlanding Devin Cole over the course of three rounds to take a decision. He would face his first test in former UFC title challenger Jeff Monson this past June and would pass with flying colors, defeating "The Snowman" primarily with his much-improved kickboxing attack.
Cormier earned an alternate position in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, stepping in for Alistair Overeem and he would take advantage of his opportunity, knocking Antonio Silva senseless in the first round, by far the most impressive performance of his young fighting career. Now he's got an opportunity vault himself to an even higher status against Barnett in the finals.
How he gets it done: Cormier wants to enter the UFC quickly and get a shot at Frank Mir as soon as Mir is healthy. That means he shouldn't screw around this fight. Look for him to close the distance quickly. If he can knock Staring out out on the feet, he can attempt it, but if he can't put him away on the feet, expect to see Cormier go to his bread and butter with his wrestling.
Don't be surprised if he shoots in, lifts Staring over his head and slams him to the canvas, working elbows and punches on the ground to either open up a cut or try to overwhelm Staring with ground and pound to get a finish. The less he has to punch, the better because he doesn't want to risk injuring either of his hands.
Record: 28-7 overall, 0-0 in Strikeforce
Key Wins: none
How he got here: Dion Staring began fighting in 1999 in Europe. The then-Golden Glory fighter competed all over the continent in his early career, defeating most of his opponents via strikes. As he gained experience, he began branching out, competing in Brazil, China and Russia.
While Staring has come up short every time he's faced UFC caliber competition, he's put up a fight in most cases, lasting until the third round against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and going to a decision against Denis Stojnic. After winning his last six fights including a first round TKO in his most recent performance, Staring moved to Imperial Athletics in Florida to train alongside the Blackzilians.
When an opportunity arose for him to take on Daniel Cormier at the final Strikeforce show, he jumped at it.
How he gets it done: Staring has a strong background in striking, especially considering his lengthy stay with Golden Glory. He'll have to try to do something that no one else has yet, which is keep the fight standing against Cormier and actually outstrike the American Kickboxing Academy product.
Look for Staring to try to keep his distance, work his reach popping his jab. If Cormier telegraphs a takedown attempt, he could perhaps time a knee, but he'll probably have to get lucky if he wants to actually win this fight.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight has to be whether or not Cormier is overlooking Staring. He's a 20-1 favorite and has mentioned already that it created extra pressure for him to perform. He's also openly talked about wanting to fight Frank Mir in the UFC but that won't happen if he can't defeat Staring. While Staring is likely severely overmatched, he's not a complete pushover so Cormier will definitely have to put some effort in if he wants to get a stoppage.
Also, Staring is a very undersized heavyweight (similar to Cormier). If he can't handle Cormier's physical strength, he's going to get overpowered very quickly.
Bottom Line: On paper, this fight is likely going to be extremely one-sided. Every time Staring has stepped up against legitimate competition in the heavyweight or light heavyweight division, he's lost. Cormier is a fighter who's coming off two straight wins over top 10 opponents and this fight has 20-1 odds in favor of "DC" for a reason. If he doesn't win, it will be a tremendous surprise. Look for a one-sided beatdown unless Staring comes out a man possessed or Cormier fights extremely flat.
Who will come out on top at Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!