Strikeforce produced a number of elite mixed martial arts stars in its six-plus-year run that ended Saturday at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. Few of those talented fighters, though, have the potential to accomplish as much as heavyweight Daniel Cormier.
Cormier, who manhandled 20-1 underdog Dion Staring and stopped him at 4:09 of the second round, is one of the world's four best heavyweights. At worst, he trails only his buddy and training partner, UFC champion Cain Velasquez, as well as Alistair Overeem and Junior dos Santos.
But based upon how he looked against the vastly outclassed Staring, he might have gone a bit too far Saturday when he called out UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
The affable Cormier set his sights squarely on Jones, the most physically gifted man in the sport, immediately after dismantling Staring.
"I'm going to let Jon defend his belt on April 27 and I'm going to kick his ass in the fall," Cormier said in the cage not long after the fight ended.
As good as Cormier is, and he's plenty good, that's a major undertaking. Jones has rarely even been in trouble in his UFC career. He's also destroyed the elite light heavyweights in the world and, since becoming a title contender, hasn't allowed a 20-1 underdog to last nine minutes. He's one of the most brutal finishers in the history of the sport.
Cormier could – could – beat Jones, given his wrestling pedigree and his improving striking. But he'd also need to raise his game many notches from where it was Saturday, when it appeared he had a difficult time generating much intensity for a guy who was not much of a threat.
Love him or hate him, Jones never cruises through a bout the way Cormier seemed willing to do Saturday. He was never in danger, and he thoroughly dominated the bout, absorbing just one power shot from Staring. That, though, is what is expected of an elite fighter who's taking on a 20-1 underdog.
Cormier didn't fight with the kind of fire and passion that Jones always does, or that Velasquez showed for all 25 minutes in winning the heavyweight title from dos Santos last month in Las Vegas.
A motivated Cormier who fights with that Velasquez-type intensity has the ability to defeat Jones. Anything less, though, won't get it done.
Cormier, who signed his UFC contract last month, said he wants to fight ex-UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir on April 20 on Fox. A Mir fight would be a good match for him and a great way to introduce him to the company's fan base.
But if Cormier is going to get a title shot against Jones, he should prove he's able to make 205.
If the plan is for him to fight at light heavyweight, where he won't have to fight his friend Velasquez for the heavyweight crown, the UFC should put him in against an elite 205-pounder in April. If Glover Teixeira gets past Quinton "Rampage" Jackson later this month in Chicago, he'd be the perfect type of opponent to welcome Cormier to the UFC.
The UFC is going to get another star when it welcomes Cormier to its ranks. But now that he's hit the big-time, Cormier needs to always fight with that kind of intensity, or he won't be a star for long.
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