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Ex-Oklahoma State teammates Cormier, Pendleton to wrestle at UFC 175 Fan Expo

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Get ready for some Independence Day weekend fireworks as former Oklahoma State wrestling teammates Daniel Cormier and Chris Pendleton will face each other in an amateur wrestling match at the UFC Fan Expo at UFC 175 in Las Vegas next month.

To be clear, this Cowboy vs. Cowboy bout is not a MMA fight, but a “wrestling exhibition match,” to quote mixed martial arts website MMAmania.com. It will take place the morning before that night’s Ultimate Fighting Championships’ UFC 175 event on Saturday, July 5.

It may also be the last time that wrestling and MMA fans will get to see Cormier in action in a while, as he is expected to have knee surgery in July to repair a training injury suffered in May. The former Oklahoma State All-American injured his right knee about ten days before choking out Dan Henderson at UFC 173 on May 24.

Prior to the injury, it was anticipated that Cormier, the No. 2 light-heavyweight in UFC, with a perfect 15-0 overall record, would face UFC champ Jon Jones in the Octagon after dispatching Henderson. Cormier originally thought he might be able to avoid surgery and rely solely on physical therapy to rehabilitate his injured knee. However that all changed upon receiving MRI results that showed he had torn his lateral collateral ligament (LCL) and had only 50 percent of his anterior cruciate ligament (ALC) remaining in his right knee.

Jones went ahead and scheduled a match with Alexander Gustafsson, tentatively scheduled for September 27 at UFC 178 in Toronto.

As Ariel Helwani reported on "UFC Tonight", "Daniel Cormier will have surgery in early July. On morning of UFC 175, he'll be competing in a final amateur wrestling match at the UFC Fan Expo. After that match, he'll go under the knife and will be ready for the winner of Jones vs. Gustafsson."

MMAmania.com writes, “Cormier expects to be ready to challenge the winner in early 2015.”

“That timeline would suggest that Cormier does not require a full reconstruction vis-a-vis a quick healer like Georges St. Pierre, who returned from full-blown anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery in about one year.”

In the meantime, it’ll be a return to wrestling for Cormier as he goes up against Pendleton at UFC 174 Fan Fest.

The two former Cowboys were teammates under legendary head coach John Smith for just one season, 2000-01, as Cormier was a senior that year, and Pendleton was in his first year at Oklahoma State. The two most likely wrestled each other in the practice room, being at adjacent weights; Cormier was the Cowboys’ starter at 184 pounds, while Pendleton wrestled two weight classes down, at 165, while Cormier was on campus. (Pendleton later wrestled at 174 and 184.)

Cormier came to Oklahoma State as a junior, having wrestled his first two years out of high school at Colby Community College in Kansas, where he was a two-time NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) champ. After transferring to the Stillwater, Okla. school, Cormier compiled an overall record of 52-10 as a junior and senior. One of the wrestlers he defeated was future MMA star Mo Lawal, who then wrestled at University of Central Oklahoma.

Cormier was twice a runner-up at the Big 12 conference championships, and a two-time qualifier for the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships. The Louisiana native earned All-American honors by making it to the 184-pound finals of the 2001 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, where he lost to Iowa State's Cael Sanderson, now head coach at Penn State. In addition to his collegiate credentials, Cormier excelled in freestyle wrestling, earning a place on the U.S. men’s freestyle team for the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

In his four years at Oklahoma State, Pendleton put together a 118-12 record. He was a two-time Big 12 champ (2003, 2005) and two-time NCAA champ, winning back-to-back titles at 174 in 2004 and 2005. Incredibly, the wrestler he beat in both championship matches was none other than Ben Askren of the University of Missouri (who later went on to claim two NCAA titles of his own). In 2010, Pendleton became an assistant wrestling coach at the University of Wyoming after coaching one year at his college alma mater.

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