Two of the top-ranked heavyweights in the world will finally clash this Saturday night (April 20, 2013) as Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix winner Daniel Cormier takes on former UFC Heavyweight champion Frank Mir in the co-main event of UFC on Fox 7 in San Jose, California.
Cormier has quickly risen to the top of the heavyweight division ever since his incredible showing in Strikeforce. The former Olympic wrestler now holds an unbeaten (11-0) record and is looking to add a former UFC champion to his hit list.
Mir has some of the best jiu-jitsu in the heavyweight division, utilizing his advanced submission game to take out everyone from Cheick Kongo to Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. He's coming off a loss in his most recent quest to claim UFC gold again and he's hoping he can steal some of Cormier's momentum.
Record: 11-0 overall, 0-0 in the UFC
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.
He followed up by crushing Josh Barnett, dominating the top heavyweight over the course of five rounds to claim the Grand Prix title. In his last bout, he was fed Dion Staring and methodically worked the journeyman over to finish his Strikeforce career on a strong note. Now, he's looking to make a big impact in the UFC.
How he gets it done: It's no secret what works best against Frank Mir. Powerful strikers who can avoid submissions are the bane of his existence. What he'll need to do to find success is keep this fight standing and try to utilize his explosive attack on the feet, get inside and score with his powerful right hand.
While Cormier has some of the best wrestling credentials in the entire UFC, I'd be surprised if he shot in and took it to the ground simply because he'd be at risk of getting caught in something against the crafty grappler.
If and when he clips Mir, he needs to pour it on with strikes as the former champion wilts when hit with heavy shots and he can definitely score a finish if he unloads a flurry.
Record: 16-6 overall, 14-6 in the UFC
How he got here: Frank Mir was on a roll in his initial UFC run, culminating in a heavyweight title-winning performance against Tim Sylvia where he infamously broke "The Maine-iac's" arm with a first round armbar. Before he could defend his belt, Mir would get in a horrible motorcycle accident in which he broke his femur and tore multiple ligaments in his knee. He would be stripped of his title and returned to the Octagon more than 18 months later, a shell of his former self.
The brash fighter finally started to get back on track and scored one of the biggest wins of his career in Brock Lesnar's UFC debut, defeating the ex-WWE star via kneebar in the first round. The victory earned Mir an interim title shot against Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira where the ex-champ showcased his newfound boxing skills to knock "Big Nog" out for the first time in his career.
After some rough performances against both Lesnar and Carwin, Mir began showcasing his striking more in recent fights while looking for one more run at the title. He was dominant against Roy Nelson and after getting rocked in the rematch against Nogueira, he whipped out a beautiful Kimura and snapped the legend's arm, submitting Big Nog for the first time in his storied career.
When Overeem was removed from the main event, Mir campaigned for and gladly accepted an opportunity to challenge for the title, although he was met with Junior dos Santos' sturdy fists and was finished inside the first two rounds.
He was originally scheduled to fight Cormier at the Strikeforce event last November but an injury forced him out. Now the bout will go down this weekend finally.
How he gets it done: Mir cannot afford to stand in the pocket and trade strikes with Cormier, no matter how much his punching prowess has improved. If Mir stands and exchanges, he's going to get hit and he's going to likely crumple. It's not like Cormier has an extreme advantage there, but it's not worth the risk simply because Cormier likely has a better chin and he's much faster and agile.
What Mir needs to do on the feet is make it ugly, push Cormier into the fence, work his knees and elbows and maybe even some dirty boxing while taking away the Grand Prix winner's biggest weapons, his punches from mid-distance.
If he can put Cormier into the clinch, who knows, he might even be able to drag him to the ground, although that's probably stretching it. If he can somehow put Cormier on the ground, he can't afford to let that opportunity slip, aggressively diving for whatever submission presents itself.
Mir is an intelligent fighter, so he should know not to stand and trade against Cormier, but he's going to have to be really crafty if he wants to win this one.