Daniel Cormier has established himself as one of the world’s premier heavyweights. | Mike Fridley/Sherdog.com
Daniel Cormier (10-0, 7-0 SF) vs. Dion Staring (28-7, 0-0 SF)
The Matchup: Following Cain Velasquez’s five-round dissection of Junior dos Santos at UFC 155, talk immediately turned to who would give the champion his most difficult test in 2013. Cormier, thanks to his relentless wrestling and solid punching power, was one of the names most frequently mentioned in that discussion. However, as one of the main staples of the vaunted American Kickboxing Academy gym, Cormier maintains a close relationship with Velasquez, and the two have vowed not to fight one another.
That creates an interesting scenario as the 33-year-old crosses over to the UFC. Cormier, as proven by his run through the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix, is more than worthy of immediate title consideration at heavyweight, but as long as his teammate has the belt, his path to the top is blocked. Another intriguing option has the 2008 United States Olympic wrestling team captain dropping to 205 pounds in hopes of an eventual title shot there. At any rate, Cormier figures to be a key person to watch this year, as his arrival in the UFC -- no matter the weight class he chooses -- could drastically affect that division’s landscape.
First, there is the formality of fulfilling his Strikeforce contract, which Cormier will do with a head-scratcher of a matchup against Combat Sports Academy Holland product Staring. There appears to be little to gain for Cormier here: a loss would be catastrophic, a decision win would raise eyebrows and a blowout victory would be perceived as business as usual. The latter remains the most desirable option, and Cormier should have plenty of motivation to compete after a nearly eight-month layoff.
The 34-year-old Staring has won nine of his last 10 bouts, though none of those victories are especially notable. “The Soldier” does have a few interesting fights on his resume, however, including a third-round submission loss to UFC light heavyweight Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in 2009, a stoppage win over UFC featherweight talent Akira Corassani in 2007 and a decision setback to two-time Octagon competitor Denis Stojnic in 2006. Additionally, Staring is 0-2 in a pair of meetings with former Bellator Fighting Championships heavyweight tournament semifinalist Damian Grabowski.
In order to bolster his training for his showdown with Cormier, Staring has set up camp with the Blackzilians team in Florida. A former soldier in the Dutch army, Staring could easily compete at 205 pounds, but he will not be facing a massive heavyweight in Cormier. What Cormier lacks in size, he makes up for in sheer skill. Against Barnett, the American Kickboxing Academy wrestling coach showed improved standup, punishing “The Warmaster” with hooks, uppercuts, kicks and knees.
Additionally, the former Oklahoma State University Cowboy has solid submission defense to go along with his sparkling grappling credentials. That leaves Staring with little room for error. An errant kick will find the Dutchman quickly planted on his back, where he is prone to surrendering position. If he chooses, Cormier could use his defensive wrestling to keep this one standing and test Staring’s chin.
The Pick: Cormier can either pound Staring into submission on the ground or knock him out standing. If it does not happen in the first round, look for Cormier to finish the job early in the second.
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