At the UFC fan expo before UFC 175, UFC light heavyweight contender and two-time Olympian Daniel Cormier beat Chris Pendleton in a freestyle wrestling match, 12-5.
For those unfamiliar with Pendleton, he achieved NCAA Division I All-American status three times (third, first and first at nationals), winning two NCAA championships for Oklahoma State University at 174 pounds, and defeating Ben Askren in both of his NCAA finals appearances. In fact, Pendleton serves as the main argument Askren detractors use to downplay the Mizzou wrestler’s legacy in the history of NCAA wrestling. In the two years they competed against each other on the college level, Pendleton sported a 7-1 record against Askren.
Pendleton has experienced success on the Senior freestyle circuit since his college graduation. In 2012 he contended for an Olympic berth, and last year he finished second in the USA World Team Trials at 96 kg (211 pounds), the same weight which Cormier owned in domestic competition for half a decade.
The competitors are friends and former college teammates, and this may explain the bit of silliness that takes place near the end of the bout. In spite of this, both wrestlers put forth a genuine effort in what is an authentically contested match. Also, you might notice that Cormier appears significantly stouter than Pendleton, but I would place his weight advantage only at about 15 pounds, as Pendleton has a height advantage of a few inches.
In the video, pictured below, you may notice appearances from Johny Hendricks, Ben Askren and Tito Ortiz.
[Note: Wrestling fans will notice the incongruity of a freestyle wrestling match refereed by someone in an NCAA style referee’s uniform]
The scoring explained-
At 1:59 (video time) Pendleton scores a takedown with an inside trip. 2 points Pendleton.
At 2:46 Pendleton scores a push out. 1 point Pendleton.
At 3:11Cormier scores a takedown on a go behind. 2 points Cormier.
At 3:22 Cormier scores two turns with gut wrenches. 4 points Cormier.
End of first period (of two three minute periods)
At 6:04 Pendleton hits a low single which he converts into a takedown. 2 points Pendleton.
At 6:48 Cormier single leg results in a push out. 1 point Cormier
At 7:16 Cormier hits a nice step-around throw on Pendleton. Pendleton disagrees that the throw exposes his back (he’s probably mad that his initial trip didn’t get exposure). 3 points Cormier (this is an incorrect scoring, as per the new international freestyle wrestling rules promulgated by FILA, all feet to back throws are worth 4 points).
At 8:30 Cormier goes behind again for another takedown. 2 points Cormier.
Final score: 12-5 Cormier.
In the end, Cormier wins the match in vintage Cormier fashion, scoring on simple go behinds along with a powerful throw. I’m fairly surprised at how easily he turned Pendleton in that pair of first period gut-wrenches as Pendleton was competing at a high level recently, and Cormier probably has not practiced par-terre offense since 2008.
The true significance of this match, however, rests in how it represents the completion of Cormier’s wrestling redemption. Before wrestling Pendleton, Cormier’s last official wrestling result was at the Beijing Olympics where he finished tied for last place. All indications pointed to Cormier’s wrestling career ending in disgrace after he mismanaged his weight and had to forfeit his only Olympic match in 2008. This return match against Pendleton allowed Cormier to finally retire from the sport of wrestling on his own terms, with a victory over a world-class opponent.
After the match with Pendleton, Cormier, at long last, had the chance to leave his shoes in the middle of the mat, and the ability to punctuate the end of his distinguished run as a wrestler with a success, rather than a failure.
(Photo Credit: Esther Lin, MMA Fighting)
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