Daniel Cormier may surprise Antonio Silva with his boxing and low kicks. | Photo: D. Mandel
Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Semifinals
Daniel Cormier (8-0, 5-0 SF) vs. Antonio Silva (16-2, 3-1 SF)
The Matchup: In his impressive upset of Fedor Emelianenko, Silva jump-started the grand prix with a career-defining performance. After a dominating second round in which he used crushing top pressure and strikes to wear down the legend, Silva’s stock took a considerable leap. Once seen as a huge, if somewhat plodding, heavyweight, he is now a plausible candidate to win the tournament outright. With a blend of unparalleled size, jiu-jitsu and improving standup, Silva is a definite handful.
Cormier fills in for Alistair Overeem, who withdrew from the tournament after his ho-hum decision win over Fabricio Werdum in June. The world-class wrestler showed improved hands in outpointing Jeff Monson on the undercard, as he kept his perfect record intact. Cormier is short for a heavyweight at 5-foot-11, but extensive training at the American Kickboxing Academy has evolved his game considerably. He showed comfort on the feet in banging around Monson with quick combinations. He is the superior wrestler but, by fight time, will be giving away 35-plus pounds to the enormous Silva, who enters the cage at around 280 pounds. It is a no-lose situation for Cormier, a much-watched prospect who gets a fantastic opportunity given Overeem’s withdrawal.
When Silva fights big, it means problems for opponents. It usually consists of his landing a shot or two standing -- with his ginormous hands, literally anything that connects is effective -- and then getting the fight to the ground. The pressure exerted by the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt is considerable, as he uses his weight and crushing girth to literally run people of out gas.
Cormier will be giving up considerable reach and range, and while he may have sharper hands, one thudding counter from Silva can bounce his opponent completely out of striking range. For Cormier to be effective, it is hard to envision him doing a toss-and-bounce strategy, where he piles up points on the feet, against the persistent Silva. Cormier may also expend a lot of energy in straight tie-ups and clinches with Silva, so it is critical that, if they do lock up, he cut the corner and work leg takedowns that allow him to use angles to take away Silva’s balance and get the fight to the mat. Working inside Silva’s guard is no picnic, either; Cormier will have to pick his spots intelligently to prevent from being swept.
This is an exceptionally difficult fight for Cormier. Silva has shown a strong chin and the ability to recover quickly -- like when Cormier’s teammate, Mike Kyle, nearly knocked him out -- and he took Emelianenko’s opening-round thunder well enough. Look for Silva to pressure and try to close the gap, disrupting Cormier’s standing rhythm with thudding counters. In tie-ups and clinches, Silva’s best move is to stuff takedowns, stall against the cage and then move for a takedown if he can deny Cormier one.
The Pick: At the end of the day, Silva is just too big and experienced for Cormier at this point in their respective careers. A back-and-forth battle for takedowns and top control will ensue, with Silva wearing down Cormier and scoring either a late submission or technical knockout in the third round.
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