When Strikeforce first announced its ambitious Heavyweight Grand Prix Tournament, consistening of the finest 265-pound fighters not circling the board of ZUFFA's monopoly, there was really only one question mixed martial arts (MMA) fans were asking.
"How long before we get to see Fedor Emelianenko fight Alistair Overeem?"
"Demolition Man" was the division champion and like "The Last Emperor," cut his teeth under PRIDE Fighting Championship. These two heavyweight titans, however, had never crossed paths. Nor would they, as Overeem withdrew from the tournament after his slapfight against Fabricio Werdum.
His "official" reason was a stubbed toe (really).
Emelianenko was expected to steamroll his quarterfinal foe, former EliteXC heavyweight kingpin Antonio Silva, when they went head-to-head on the same New Jersey fight card that saw Sergei Kharitonov bury Andrei Arlovski next to Jimmy Hoffa's body in the end zone of Giants' stadium.
Too bad "Bigfoot" didn't stick to the script.
The hulking Brazilian battered Emelianenko across the better part of two rounds, forcing the attending physician to step in and call it a night. Ordinarily, Silva would have moved on to face Overeem in the semifinals, but "The Reem" had already jumped ship.
Good thing Daniel Cormier was patiently waiting in his reserve dinghy.
The undefeated wrestling phenom had secured his spot on the bench by turning away stubby submission specialist Jeff Monson. Not much was known about the former Olympian, but boasting a perfect professional record of 8-0, he was clearly the best man for the job.
And a +135 underdog by the time he stepped foot inside the Hexagon.
Silva would welcome the walk-on semifinalist in the co main event of Strikeforce: "Barnett vs. Kharitonov," which took place live on Showtime at the U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio on Sept. 10, 2011.
Here's what happened.
Touch of gloves gets the action started and Silva uncorks a kick to the body. Cormier circles right and fires back a kick of his own, but loses his balance. "Bigfoot" chases him backward into the fence with fists flying. "DC" turns into the wall and bounces his way to freedom.
They reset and meet in the center of the cage.
Silva lands a hard inside leg kick and Cormier backs him up with a combination, then -- despite an 11-inch reach disadvantage -- gallops in without pause and floors his opponent with a hard overhand right. Cageside play-by-play man Mauro Ranallo loses his marbles.
"OH! CORMIER JUST TAGGED SILVA WITH A RIGHT HAND!"
Cormier runs in for the finish but Silva has recovered, making his undersized attacker work inside a massive guard. "DC" wisely abandons his offense and kicks it into reverse, forcing referee Greg Franklin to order the grounded man to his feet.
Silva immediately presses the action, lumbering forward with busy hands, but Cormier stuns him with a jab, then a left hand. A right soon follows and the Brazilian is forced to shoot out of desperation. The American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) product laughs it off and watches his wounded prey tumble to his back.
Franklin intervenes and "Bigfoot" is once again back on his feet.
The halfway mark of round one flashes by and Silva lets a kick fly, but it's caught and he's dumped on his ass with a picture-perfect sweep. Cormier does an in-cage Electric Slide, pausing to pepper the legs with "busy kicks," as the boo birds sing in disapproval.
He takes a look at the clock and backs away.
Silva rises and Cormier earns praise from color commentator Pat Miletich for "working the clock." Just over a minute to go and "DC" gets on his bicycle to avoid a "Bigfoot" bumrush. He circles right and Silva closes the distance, just in time to eat an uppercut and collapse in a heap.
Two hammerfists follow and this one is curtains.
Ranallo follows up with "MAMA MIA!" and the camera pans to the "DC" posse, which has erupted in the stands in what has to be one of the greatest onsite post-fight reactions in Strikeforce history.
Cormier would go on to fulfill his destiny at the expense of Josh Barnett the following May, capturing the grand prix title, before disposing of Dion Staring and graduating to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). That's the good news. The bad news is, he must now face decorated grappler and former division titleholder Frank Mir in his debut.
It all goes down at UFC on FOX 7 this Saturday night (April 20, 2013) at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California.
How will the history books read when the lights go out in the "Shark Tank?"