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Daniel Cormier Makes UFC History
Cormier becomes first athlete to defend title in multiple divisions
This Saturday, Daniel Cormier, the 2 UFC light heavyweight and heavyweight champion made history by defeating Derrick Lewis in the second round with a rear naked choke. In doing so, he successfully defended his UFC Heavyweight Championship, which he won by knocking out Stipe Miocic in Las Vegas in July 2017. In doing so, Cormier became the first fighter to defend the UFC title in two different divisions.
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He had already previously defended his Light Heavyweight title (after winning the vacant title by submitting Anthony Johnson in May 23, 2015), by defeating Anthony Johnson (rematch), Alexander Gustafsson, and Volkan Oezdemir.
Facing Derrick Lewis on Saturday, Cormier was fighting against an opponent with devastating knock out power, having knocked out 18 of his previous opponents- including a stunning Performance of the Night KO of Alexander Volkov in the last few seconds of the third round in Oct. 2018, which set up his match up with Cormier.
Cormier employed a brilliant strategy of avoiding Lewis’ big shots, closing the distance and wrestling him to the ground, where he looked to pass the guard and ground and pound him. After utilizing this gameplan for two rounds, Cormier was able to lock on a rear naked choke in 2:14 of the second round after Lewis turned over in an attempt to avoid the ground and pound. This victory marked his 22nd win in his 24 fight career (where he has submitted 5 opponents, knocked out 10 of them, and won 7 decisions.)
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Background and Wrestling Career
Daniel Cormier was born on March 29, 1979 in Lafayette, Louisiana. Cormier began wrestling in his youth when his wrestling coach broke up a fight he was participating in and encouraged him to wrestle. By the time he graduated from Northside High in Lafeyette, LA, he was a three time state champion. His high school record was 101-9, with 89 victories coming by a fall. He was also voted the most outstanding wrestler in the state tournament twice. Also, while in high school, he won a bronze medal in the Greco-Roman wrestling World Championships in the cadet division (15 to 16 years old).
In addition to his wrestling accomplishments, Daniel was also an excellent football player – able to run a 40 yard dash in 4.5 seconds, and becoming an all state football player as a high school linebacker. He even received a scholarship to play football at LSU, which he declined in order to further pursue wrestling.
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After high school graduation, he attended Colby Community College- where he became a 2 time junior national champion in 1988 and 1999, with an overall record of 61-0, with 33 falls, Afterwards, he transferred to Division 1 wrestling powerhouse Oklahoma State University as a Junior, coached under the legendary world and Olympic champion John Smith. In his first year at OSU, he went 26-5, entering the NCAA championships as the #3 seed at 184 pounds. At this tournament, Cormier lost one match short of becoming an All-American (given to the top 8 finishers in each weight class). In his senior year, in 2001, he went 27-5, reaching the NCAA Championships finals, where he lost to Cael Sanderson, 8 to 4. His final record at OSU was 53-10, with 27 falls. Of his 10 losses, 6 were to Cael Sanderson- who became an all time great- winning the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, and coaching Penn State University to 7 NCAA Team Titles, and 20 individual NCAA Division 1 national titles.
After graduation, Cormier was the senior US national champion from 2003 to 2008, representing Team USA at the World Championships and the Olympics. At the 2004 Olympics, he competed at 96kg (211.6 lbs) and took 4th place after losing to Russian wrestling legend, Khadzhimurat Gatsalov, in the semifinals. Gatsalov would go on to win the gold medal, as well as winning 5 World Championships. (Interestingly enough, Gatsalov became Cormier’s training partner for his 2014 fight with Jon Jones in UFC 182).
Cormier was also a member and team captain of the 2008 Olympic wrestling team. Unfortunately, he was unable to compete due to kidney failure caused by excessive weight cutting. During non Olympic years, he also reached the top 5 at the World Championships in 2003 and 2007- winning the bronze medal in 2007. He also won gold medal at the 2005 Golden Grand Prix Ivan Yarygin, one of the most prestigious and difficult wrestling tournaments in the world.
In 2004, he was also crowned the champion of the 184 pound weight class, in the Real Pro Wrestling league- a now defunct organization that lasted one season- which attempted to create a professional wrestling league for amateur wrestlers.
Start of his MMA Career
After the 2008 Olympics, Cormier began to train at American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in San Jose, California, as he decided to pursue a career in mixed martial arts. At AKA, he was regular training partners with notable fighters such as Cain Velasquez (former UFC heavyweight champion), Jon Fitch, and Josh Koscheck. Within 4 short years, he had fought and won in various organizations, becoming the heavyweight champion in Xtreme MMA, King of the Cage, and Strikeforce. Cormier made his UFC promotional debut against Frank Mir on April 20, 2013, at UFC on Fox 7, where he won the fight via unanimous decision.
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