Cormier says Silva win is his biggest, but prepared for even bigger challenge in Barnett
Ladies and gentlemen: Daniel Cormier has arrived.
After a short two years in the sport of mixed martial arts, the former Olympian has moved out of the prospect category and into legitimacy. He accomplished this by not only defeating a top 10 ranked heavyweight in Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva, but by doing so in crushing fashion in Saturday’s Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix semi-finals.
Cormier spoke to HeavyMMA after the biggest win of his short career.
“We worked on everything for this fight. He took some big shots from Fedor and never went down, so I figured his chin was pretty solid. Honestly I was just throwing the right hand, and I didn’t throw it any harder than I normally do. He was just out there and got hit and then reacted the way he did. I knew it was going to work from there.
“He never really seemed to recover from that first shot. I hit him with a jab and it kind of stunned him, and then I hit him with a left hook that staggered him. I knew then that I had also found a home for the left hook, and I was glad, because I hurt my right hand on that punch that dropped him.”
After toppling Silva with a thunderous right hand early in the fight, Cormier followed the Brazillian to the canvas. Silva attempted to work from his back, but after being unable to land any significant blows from this position, Cormier backed off and allowed Silva to return to his feet. The pattern continued throughout the rest of the fight. Cormier, a world-class wrestler, explained his surprising strategy.
“He is so long and so big that it was going to be hard to get the big shots off on him from the guard. You don’t want to waste your energy landing these little peppering shots. I wanted to land something big on him so I could get the finish. I heard my coaches tell me to let him up and I always do what my coaches tell me.”
Midway through the round, Cormier caught a Silva kick and used a leg trip to put him back on the mat. After returning to his feet, Silva upped his intensity as he charged across the cage using punches to back Cormier into the fence. This ended up being the only offense Silva offered during the fight.
“He’s a fighter and he’s a great fighter so he’s not going to just lay down for you. So I figured when he came charging at me he was just doing what he does. Even if it’s on cruise control, he’s doing what he does and he’s looking to fight. I was able to kind of circle away and regain my composure. I didn’t want things too fast or too crazy, so once it settled back down I was able to hit him with another combination.
“I didn’t want to throw my right again until I could make it count, so when I threw the left hook and followed it with the right uppercut, it turned his head and he went down. It was crazy. But this time when he went down he didn’t fall directly onto his back so I was able to get off to the side and land a few big ole’ hammer fists.”
The upset victory over Silva is obviously the high point in Cormier’s young career in MMA. But rather than bask in the glory of the moment, he wanted to use the attention to demand the respect he feels he deserves.
“I think I made a big statement tonight. I’ve won every fight that I’ve had and I have four knockouts now. I’m showing that I’m improving and tonight I beat someone of substance in the rankings. One thing I’ve been hearing is that I haven’t beaten anyone who has any substance to them, and tonight I did that. I thought Jeff Monson had that too, because he’s been fighting for a long time, but no matter how you look at it, I have two quality wins under my belt now. I know guys who have made careers off of doing less than that, so it feels good.
“I did it standing up and didn’t even have to wrestle Silva. Maybe he was so focused on me taking him down that I was able to find so many openings in his stand up.”
With the victory, Cormier has now earned the opportunity to face former UFC champion Josh “The Warmaster” Barnett in the finals. Barnett, a savvy veteran, has made short work out of each of his opponents in the Grand Prix and Cormier sees this challenge as the next big step in his career.
“Barnett will move into the top 10 tonight and he’s a better fighter than anyone I’ve faced. What is important to me is that it’s progression. My career has been a constant progression and I keep striving for the opportunity to be in big fights. That’s all I want. I want to be in big fights and that is what I’ve earned the opportunity to do.”