Strikeforce Fighter of the Night: Daniel Cormier, the New Cool Kid

September 12, 2011

Minus a busted right hand, it must feel pretty darn good to be Daniel Cormier. Two years ago, he was preparing for his first mixed martial arts fight and had little to no experience inside of a cage. Now the guy is the in final of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament after decimating Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in the quarterfinals.

Thanks to Alistair Overeem and his dealings with Zuffa LLC, the former Strikeforce heavyweight champ was pulled from the tournament after beating Fabricio Werdum. Insert Daniel Cormier and you have Silva getting knocked out cold by an unexpected contender.

“D.C.” is like that new kid in school that shows up and no one really what to expect from him. Then when he joins the football team and starts trucking guys as the school’s best linebacker, everybody is like, “whoa, okay, he’s cool.”

He’s the new popular guy that all the chicks like and is being invited to all the cool parties. He’s earned it, though.

As a two-time Olympian and American Kickboxing Academy bruiser, Cormier has seen and done a lot to get where he’s at. Being a training partner of UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez tends to help one prepare for dealing with tough fights, and although Cormier might not have the in-cage experience of other popular heavyweights, he’s sculpted (so to speak) for big fights and his potential to finish is sky-high.

“I was walking around at the post fight press conference excited just to be there,” Cormier told after the win. “I knew that when I (started), I was going to work hard and hopefully find some success.

“Obviously, I’ve found my fair share of success early. Hopefully I can sustain it.

“It’s not just about getting better; it’s about continuing to get better and winning, being the best.”

Looking forward, Cormier eyes an early 2012 tournament final match-up against former “Baby-Faced Assassin” now “War something or other” Josh Barnett for Strikeforce heavyweight bragging rights. Even before he fought Silva, “D.C.” knew that whoever made it to the final would fight Barnett. It’s like he’s psychic, or something… or maybe it’s the universal assumption that Sergei Kharitonov would be taken down early en route to a Barnett submission.

Either way, he was on point with his prediction.

“(I) had a good idea Josh was going to win that fight and be in the finals,” he said. “In reality, that’s the fight I’ve been training for since I learned that I was in the tournament.”

If there were a way to type out a golf clap in a column, it would be here. With a knockout by the new kid in class, Daniel Cormier is the Strikeforce Fighter of the Night.

Honorable mention: Josh Barnett lives up to expectation

After a quick Google search, I’ve discovered “War Master” is Josh Barnett’s new nickname. I heard it in passing during the weigh-in on Friday, but never really followed up on it until now.

In any case, Barnett held true to his newly acquired moniker and mastered his war with Sergei Kharitonov exactly how he planned in his Southern California Pentagon.

Kharitonov was a dark horse in the heavyweight tournament due to using his striking and find the holes and put heavyweights down. Knowing this, Barnett executed his game plan and brought the Russian to the mat with ease.

The catch wrestler did what he does best and ultimately mounted Kharitonov for the remainder of the fight en route to the locking on an arm triangle that finished the contest. Like I said, everybody in the MMA universe expected Kharitonov to have trouble preventing the fight from going to the mat, including Josh Barnett. And although he got “Kharitonocked” on the feet a few times, Barnett persevered and ultimately did what was expected of him.

Barnett fought the fight the way he wanted. Enough said.

Because the fight was traced out exactly as it was illustrated in his playbook, Josh Barnett earns the Strikeforce Fighter of the Night honorable mention.

Worth a mention: the curious case of the Strikeforce middleweight crown

Hey, Luke Rockhold, congratulations on winning the Strikeforce middleweight title! Now the question is what to do with you. Cue the crickets chirping, please.

While the long-term future of Strikeforce lingers in uncertainty, as does the immediate future of the promotion’s 185-pound belt, an immediate and marketable middleweight contender doesn’t come to mind. Rockhold has a piece of hardware that, while gold, doesn’t seem to hold a lot of value due to the small number of contenders vying for it, along with serious questions about Strikeforce’s future.

Rockhold, himself, had questions raised once he was put in place to fight for the title. No disrespect to the new champ, of course, because he worked hard and beat a game opponent, but there appears to be a lack of depth at middleweight and recycling the same contenders that have fought for the title in recent history doesn’t have the same bang for a 185-pound buck.

I wonder what Tim Kennedy is up to? If he’s not busy, let’s give him a call and see if he’ll give it a go before he’s off to the UFC because anything else just doesn’t make much sense.

Follow @Erik_Fontanez on Twitter or e-mail Erik Fontanez.
For more
UFC News and UFC Rumors, follow on Twitter and Facebook.