Recapping the stories coming out of Cincinnati
JOSH BARNETT IS REALLY, REALLY TALENTED
Most everyone already knew this, but I feel like it can’t be said enough.
Whenever the topic of Barnett comes up, his tainted past always leads the way. While that is totally understandable, more attention needs to be paid to his exploits in the cage.
Barnett is unquestionably a top 10 heavyweight – maybe even top 5 – but his name rarely comes up when we’re talking about the best big men in the sport. Maybe that will change if he claims the Grand Prix title.
THE RAPID EVOLUTION OF DANIEL CORMIER
Daniel Cormier has come a long way in a very short period of time.
Just two years ago, the former Olympian made his MMA debut. Saturday night, he cold-cocked Antonio Silva, a legitimate top 10 heavyweight fresh off beating Fedor Emelianenko.
Long gone is the questionable conditioning and heavy reliance on wrestling. In their place are tremendous speed and footwork for a heavyweight and improving striking. When added to the world-class wrestling Cormier has always possessed, you have the makings of a very dangerous heavyweight fighter.
Every fight for Cormier from here on out will be a stiff test; facing Barnett in the finals will be the toughest fight of his career. If he keeps improving by leaps and bounds as he has to this point, he just might end up winning the whole thing.
ROCKHOLD PROVES HE BELONGS
Luke Rockhold told me when I spoke to him before this fight that he was going to “open some eyes” in his middleweight title fight with Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. Saturday night, the 26-year-old did just that, taking the gold from the champion with a unanimous decision victory.
Rockhold showed no real ill effects of his long layoff or previous injuries. He dictated the tempo and location of the fight for most of the 25 minutes, pressing Souza and remaining on his feet for the most part.
Rockhold’s superior striking was the difference. While Souza relied on single power shots throughout, Rockhold mixed things up, blending kicks with multiple punch combinations. In the end, it was enough to secure him the decision, and the middleweight title.
THE JUDGING DISCUSSION
The Rockhold-Souza fight was a back-and-forth contest that could have been scored 48-47 either way without many people offering a legitimate complaint. But where did that 50-45 come from?
The middle three rounds were close and the final one clearly belonged to Rockhold, but the first round?
I’m all for not being overly generous when it comes to takedowns that don’t really go anywhere, especially when used to try and steal the round. That said, the striking was relatively close – Rockhold had volume, Souza had impact — and the champ collected three takedowns.
Two of the three judges saw the round in favor of Souza, and rightfully so. What that first judge saw that tipped his scales in favor of Rockhold is beyond me, and until we get some transparency and consistency in judging, we’re going to keep having these head-scratching scores.
HOW GOOD COULD KING MO BECOME?
If you ask Daniel Cormier, he’ll give the vast majority of the credit for his success to the team at American Kickboxing Academy. Now that Mo Lawal has made AKA the home base for his overall training, how good could the former light heavyweight champion become?
Like Cormier, Lawal is a world-class wrestler with very good athleticism. The more he keeps working with the coaching staff and proven veterans at the San Jose gym, the more those secondary skills are going to come along.
He showed improved boxing technique Saturday night in his knockout win over Roger Gracie, being able to land the overhand right finisher because he was looking to the body with the left to start. As he continues to sharpen those tools, don’t be surprised if Lawal starts making the same developmental leaps his friend and teammate Cormier has shown in the last two years.