When the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix kicked off in 2011 there were eight names in the tournament, but Daniel Cormier wasn’t one of them.
Through a series of twists, turns, injuries and changes Cormier ended up not only entering the tournament, but on Saturday night he conquered it by winning the Grand Prix with a unanimous decision win over Josh Barnett.
A former Olympian, Cormier’s athletic prowess gave him a lot of natural gifts on day one in the sport of MMA, but just like his history in wrestling, nothing is guaranteed in fighting and you have to battle for every win.
Well he came to battle on Saturday as he took on a former UFC heavyweight champion, and what happened next was nothing short of spectacular.
From the opening bell, Cormier showed off his improved striking as he battered Barnett with powerful punches and fed him a steady diet of uppercuts as he let everyone know right away that he was in this to win it.
“I owe that to my teammates – Cain Velasquez, Luke Rockhold, Mike Kyle, those guys kick my ass everyday and that means I can go with anyone else in the world,” Cormier said about his striking game.
Not only did Cormier look great on the feet, but he was also able to showcase his wrestling background as the took Barnett down time and time again.
In the 2nd round, Cormier got Barnett to the mat and absolutely punished Barnett with short strikes as he opened up some cuts on the former UFC champion’s head, and caused him to wear a crimson mask for much of the rest of the fight.
It was much of the same for the rest of the fight as Cormier picked Barnett apart on the feet, while mixing in a few big takedowns as well including a big slam in the third round. It was a masterful performance from the former Oklahoma State wrestler who was just overwhelming in every fashion of the word as he beat Barnett in a shutout, except on one judge’s scorecard who gave a lone 5-minute round to the former UFC and Pride fighter.
Following the win, an emotional Daniel Cormier could barely hold back the tears as he paid tribute to all those he lost prior to Saturday’s fight, and how much it meant to be able to defeat Josh Barnett to win the Grand Prix title.
“It means everything for me to beat someone like Josh Barnett. I’ve lost a lot of people in my life, this is for all of them,” said Cormier.
Like the famous line in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, ‘The ones that love us, never really leave us’, Cormier had all the support he needed both in person and in spirit carrying him to the Strikeforce title.
Now a champion, Cormier has all the reason to celebrate and talk about what’s next for his career, but as respectful as he is smart, the former Olympian just wanted to focus on the task he just completed before contemplating the future just yet.
“That’s not my job. I’ll let that play out how it is,” said Cormier. “I just want to focus on the fact that I just beat Josh Barnett, and this is something a year ago I never thought I could do.”
As for Josh Barnett, the catch wrestler didn’t have his best night, but that was more due to the excellence of Daniel Cormier than anything he did wrong. Barnett did admit that he suffered a broken hand early in the fight, but again that came at the expense of Cormier’s hard head.
“I broke the ever loving crap out of my hand in the first round on Daniel’s head,” Barnett revealed.
Throughout the months leading up to their fight, Barnett and Cormier had done several press tours and events together, and couldn’t have been friendlier leading into their battle on Saturday night. It was with the same respect Barnett paid the man who just defeated him, giving him credit on a job well done.
“He’s a great athlete and I always knew he was going to be a hell of an opponent, and so if I get there and throw down and draw blood with anyone and call them my brother, I’m glad it’s Daniel,” Barnett stated.
Due to a prior agreement, Daniel Cormier will stay in Strikeforce for at least one more bout, most likely against a fighter that will transfer over from the ranks of the UFC.
As amazing as his night was, the real next test for Cormier should be a shot at the UFC heavyweight title, but alas he will toil away in Strikeforce for at least one more fight while his rightful place may very well be challenging the winner of UFC 146's main event between Junior Dos Santos and Frank Mir.
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