When Strikeforce’s Heavyweight Grand Prix began 16 months ago, Daniel Cormier was just a promising up and comer and not a member of the tournament’s field of eight. Saturday night at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Cormier became the Grand Prix champ after defeating Josh Barnett by way of a near-shutout five round unanimous decision that announced his arrival as one of mixed martial arts’ premier big men.
Scores were 50-45 twice and 49-46 for Cormier, a two-time US Olympic wrestler who replaced Alistair Overeem in the tourney and never looked back, scoring consecutive victories over Antonio Silva and Barnett to take the mixed martial arts world by storm.
“It means everything to beat somebody like Josh Barnett,” said Cormier. “I’ve lost a lot of people in my life, and this is for all of them. My daughter Kaedyn, my dad. This means the world to me.”
Barnett set a fast pace to begin the five rounder, and Cormier eagerly kept up, going on the offensive with hard punches to the head. Barnett looked to be a little flustered by Cormier’s attack, but by the midway point, the fight settled into a more manageable groove for him. Cormier continued to tag Barnett with a varied array of strikes, including punches to the head and body, knees, and push kicks. The former UFC champion finished strong though, opening a bruise under Cormier’s left eye just before the bell.
Cormier started the second round off strong, but this time Barnett was able to answer a lot better with his strikes. Two minutes in, Cormier drilled Barnett with two hard body shots and then took “The Warmaster” to the mat. There, Cormier mauled Barnett, bloodying his face with ground strikes. Barnett tried to work a submission from the bottom, but the Louisiana native wasn’t having it.
The pace dipped in the third, but Cormier still remained in the driver’s seat, slamming Barnett to the mat and later drilling and hurting him with a right head kick as he locked up another round.
Barnett, refusing to back down, landed with two hard knees to open round four, making it clear to Cormier that he was still in the fight. Barnett’s punches were apparently not hurting Cormier, yet they were scoring some much needed points. Cormier, potshotting whenever he saw the openings, even landed with two more head kicks before another getting takedown. Barnett almost locked up Cormier’s leg in the process, but “DC” was able to escape, with his fans breathing a sigh of relief. In the final minute, referee Josh Rosenthal restarted the action, with Barnett making a final charge until round’s end.
The two shook hands before the final round began, and with five minutes left in the fight, Cormier played it smart, but he didn’t stall, still picking off Barnett until getting a takedown with under two minutes left. Barnett didn’t stay on the mat long, but Cormier pinned him to the fence, not allowing the veteran to make a fight saving rally.
With the win, Cormier ups his record to 10-0; Barnett falls to 31-6.