Fedor Emelianenko, Antonio Silva, Alistair Overeem, Daniel Cormeir, Fabricio Werdum, Andrei Arlovski, Sergei Kharitonov, Josh Barnett, Brett Rogers.
Above are all the top heavyweight products that fought to win this tournament crown but after a long road with various twists, turns and roadblocks we finally get to the finals with former UFC heavyweight champ Josh Barnett and two-time Olympian Daniel Cormier.
Barnett submitted knockout-artist’s Brett Rogers and Sergei Kharitonov on his road to the finals, the 37 bout veteran has not tasted defeat since he lost a decision to Pride and UFC heavyweight kingpin Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in 2006.
Cormier parlayed his world-class wrestling career that earned him two trips to the Olympic games in 2004 and 2008, narrowly avoiding a medal into a great MMA career winning nine-straight, most recently dominating Antonio “Big Foot” Silva to earn his place in the finals.
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Barnett moves forward early throwing a kick before slipping to the mat. The ex-pro wrestler looks for the takedown on the Olympian early and Cormier lands with some real combinations and connects with a good knee to the face. Cormier presses him against the cage landing with a body-shot as Cormier continues to negate the reach advantage of the former UFC champ before we clinch up with a minute on the clock with both men exchanging knees, the round closes with Barnett looking to trip Cormier but DC is able to recover and presses Barnett against the cage.
Cormier continues to tee off with his power-punches but Barnett is landing too but the smaller, faster adversary is beating him to the punch. Barnett pushes forward looking to work against the fence but Cormier negates it and lands with a solid body-shot before taking down the catch-wrestler. Barnett is active from his back with elbows but Cormier does well to find openings for punches and elbows while maintaining control.
Cormier avoids the submission game of Cormier avoiding an armbar and leg-lock attempt before returning to the guard of Barnett as he lands his shots on the bloodied veteran.
Round three opens with Barnett looking to get this fight to the floor pressing him against the cage to no success, the “Warmaster” throws a great push-kick before Cormier hoisted him in the air and dumped him on his back forcing a 180-degree spin but unable to do damage to Barnett before we return to our feet.
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Cormier continues to be effective in the striking department leveling him with a high-kick before landing knees and uppercuts on Barnett who fights back, with 40 seconds on the clock Cormier takes his back as he stands against the cage to close out the stanza.
As we enter the championship rounds Barnett is the aggressor looking to push him against the cage and use his knees but isn’t having a lot of success, Cormier tees off with a series of high head kicks before Barnett lands a knee against the fence before we hit the mat and Barnett looks for a heel-hook but Cormier quickly slipped out and landed in the guard of Barnett who has an active guard throwing elbows but is being pitter-pattered with body-shots before we reset on the feet to close us out in the remaining seconds.
The final stanza opens with Barnett moving forward with kicks to establish his distance before moving in close but the action is stalled as Josh Rosenthal cleans up a water spill. We resume as Barnett presses him against the cage using his knees again before finishing with a knee to the face and a right hand. The San Jose crowd chants in support of “DC” who is fading but Barnett continues to stalk with no sense of desperation with minutes left in their bout before Cormier gets the takedown after Barnett attempts a spinning back fist.
The former King of Pancrase wall-walks back to his feet and avoids a takedown but is being pressed against the cage taking a series of knees to the leg but is unable to get his freedom to make something happen before Cormier breaks with seconds left as Barnett chases but he gets away quickly to win the biggest fight of his career.
An emotional Daniel Cormier dedicates his win to his family and everyone who’s stuck by him in the past through thick and thin before Barnett confirms that he broke his hand in the opening frame.