Friday, April 19, 2013

Looking for a Fight: UFC on FOX: Henderson v. Melendez

What path will Daniel Cormier take? (facebook.com)

Hear that? That's the sound of another bad pun related to the Uriah Hall hype train. It was a week ago today many were wondering how Ultimate Fighter finalist would fair against Anderson Silva after he dispatched co-finalist Kevin Gastelum with some kind of highlight reel kick.

Well, that didn't happen.

Hall lost, and if he can't rebound from that, we can file him away with Todd Duffee, Brandon Schaub, Ryan Bader, Phillipe Nover, and Houston Alexander as failed next big things. Note that all but two of those fighters came from TUF. That UFC is pretty good at hyping their fighters.

The next, next big thing is chugging towards San Jose Saturday night as Daniel Cormier is set to make his UFC debut against former champ and tattoo makeover star Frank Mir.

Cormier is coming in with some different creds than his predecessors. Cormier is an Olympic wrestler, who since his jump to MMA hasn't tasted defeat. The 34 year-old is 11-0, and the winner of the inaugural Strikeforce Heavyweight Grad Prix where he defeated Antonio 'Bigfoot' Silva (who is fighting Cain Velasquez for the belt next month) and Josh Barnett who is one of the best heavyweights of the past decade.

The rise of Cormier in this sport has surprised even himself, but what truly separates Cormier from not only Hall, but a lot of fighters is his supreme confidence. All along the way Cormier has thoughtfully responded to questions like would he fight his American Kickboxing Academy teammate Velasquez for the title? (No, he wouldn't). Would he like to fight Jon Jones? (Yes, he would at heavyweight or at light heavyweight). The responses aren't one of arrogance, but of confidence.

Competing at the highest levels of athletics his entire life allows him to know within himself that he is ready and can succeed at anything MMA can throw at him. Thus far, he's proved himself right.

At 5'11, Cormier is a stocky heavyweight, heck, at that height he'd be a stocky welterweight. But his agility and endurance make him a handful to deal with. His build is not lean, but that of a brick shithouse. Bumping shoulders with him would probably be tantamount to brushing past the HP Pavilion itself.

His striking will never be able to match with the elite heavys or 205'ers, but once he is able to get a fighter to the ground, his strength and ability to keep you there is like struggling against quicksand ... you'll only get pulled down deeper.

Of course, there's always something intimidating about going against someone that has no fear. Cormier is certainly one of those guys. It is his confidence, though, that could get in his way.

The seemingly predetermined nature where Cormier will defeat Mir on Saturday sets him up for either a fight for the heavyweight belt, should Velasquez lose, or a drop down to 205 to fight Jones. Leaving the heavyweight division doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. Sure, he doesn't want to fight Velasquez, but in a weak division his star power could be a much needed addition for the UFC - especially since to get there, he would have to put Mir out to pasture as a legitimate contender.

A move to 205 is risky in that Cormier has had weight cutting issues in the past - one instance led to kidney failure and an inability to participate in his second Olympics - and on top of that, fighting Jones is no easy feat. On top of that, Jones' time at 205 appears to be coming to an end before his eventual move to heavyweight. You have to appreciate the doggedness that Cormier is showing, but he might be taking on more than he can - causing a lot more harm than good.

First thing is first though, and as Uriah Hall can let him know - you have to handle your business on fight night before you can take another step forward.

BREAKDOWN

It's certainly possible that Cormier's fight on Saturday won't be his toughest to date. Mir hasn't looked competitive since he broke Big Nog's arm, and since then, well it appears Big Nog shouldn't be fighting anymore. He got a gimme bout against Junior dos Santos and was comically knocked out, and the years are mounting on Mir.

He moved his camp away from Las Vegas to Greg Jackson's camp in Albuquerque, NM to gain better focus and train with some more elite fighters. Jackson has a way of making fighters better, but even his mantras and juju might not be enough for Mir against Cormier.

As noted before, Cormier is an extremely confident fighter. So I'd expect him to want to come out and throw some strikes with Mir. Test the waters and take some joy in his UFC debut. But when the time comes, I expect much of this fight to take place on the ground.

One of the more interesting style match ups I always like to watch is jiu-jitsu vs. wrestling. It's interesting because both styles are set on the ground, and there are some many intricacies to body control and manipulating the right move at the right moment in order to be successful.

Surprising to me is that most of the time, wrestling wins. That's what I expect out of this fight. If Mir can't hang with Cormier on the ground, then this is going to be a quick fight. Mir's opportunity is to capitalize on the ground or surprise Cormier with an overhand right. Which, for Mir, has become his only viable strike in his arsenal.

As I said, I don't view Cormier as arrogant, just confident. He is well prepared and ready to continue his evolution as a complete fighter and move onto his goal of being a UFC champion. While I probably give Mir a better shot than most, I still see Cormier as being too much for the former champ.

Cormier by 2nd Round TKO.

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