It appears Olympic wrestler and burgeoning MMA star Daniel Cormier did in fact break his hand punching Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in his giant Eastern Island statue head. Supposedly, the break will require six to eight weeks of healing time, and Cormier says he’s still in the tournament. But if he’s not… to quote the venerable Dr. Egon Spengler, “I think that would be extraordinarily bad.”
The grand prix was an awesome concept: a field of eight of the best non-UFC heavyweights, assembled in what was, at the time, the biggest non-Zuffa organization out there. There was Fedor Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem, fanfare, wild speculation and even wilder assumption. And like in any true MMA tournament, what we have in the finals is not even remotely close to what we thought we were going to have. However, what do have are two people who have rightly earned their berths – Josh Barnett for easily dispatching Brett Rogers and Sergei Kharitonov, and Cormier for replacing Overeem and taking out the dangerous “Fedor killer” Bigfoot. If Cormier is replaced because of his injured hand, though, all sense of order, destiny and competitive trappings go out the window, and all the excitement we felt when Strikeforce announced the endeavor will have been for naught.
Let us harken back to the early days of the sport for a moment. UFC 3 was an eight-man tournament that was promoted heavily for the for-sure clash between Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock in the finals. But along the way Gracie got clobbered by Kimo, Shamrock broke his hand and bowed out, and an alternate named Steve Jennum stepped in at the last possible moment and won. It was the worst possible scenario, for not only was the lofty ambitions of the event not met (they were practically dumped into a steel garbage can and lit aflame), but the inherent flaws of the tournament concept were exposed for all to see. Put together eight dudes and make them fight and things might not turn out the way you think. To add injury to insult, no one ever believed Jennum was truly an elite “ultimate fighter” following his win. After all, he was a Johnny Come Lately who only had to defeat an under-skilled Harold Howard to earn his “tournament winner” status. UFC 3 was a disaster, and the taste of that disaster still lingers in the mouths of observers of the sport to this day.
To replace Cormier in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix finals would court that same disaster. Sure, there are some tough guys out there, and no doubt Scott Coker (or whoever is called the matchmaking shots now – Sean Shelby? Joe Silva?) is considering options like big puncher Chad Griggs or someone comparable. But… no. Just no. The finals must wait for Cormier and his hand to heal. If not, and Barnett defeats (or, Heaven forbid, loses to) an alternate, then even his role in the tournament in rendered worthless.
The Strikeforce heavyweight tournament is supposedly culminating in early 2012, and the simple math of it is that if Cormier’s hand requires two months for mending, that should leave a couple months for him to prepare for what would be the toughest fight of his short career. There have been a lot of hand injuries in MMA, though, so we know that two months of healing doesn’t mean the hand won’t be re-broken in training – accidentally punching an elbow or a skull can fracture an already delicate paw. If that happens, or if Cormier simply needs more time, give it to him. Strikeforce’s Heavyweight Grand Prix finals needs him.