Remember that epic battle back in July 2010, when Shane Carwin and Brock Lesnar locked horns to decide who the undisputed UFC Heavyweight Champion would be? As big as that fight was, we learned that Shane Carwin’s ability to last beyond the first round can stand for improvement. Fast forward to October 23rd, 2010! Why is that an important date, you ask. Lesnar steps back into the octagon to defend his title against a new number one contender that has been deemed to be a complete 180 degree turn from Carwin in the endurance department. His name, Cain Velasquez!
Meanwhile, the champion brings the best wrestling game to the octagon, along with his size, athleticism and underappreciated speed. At 265 pounds, he closes in quicker than his opponents expect with that rib-rattling bull rush of his.
One aspect about Velasquez’s repertoire that has been promoted a great deal has been his cardio and endurance. According to his training staff and many UFC analysts, his ability to endure the long haul is second to none. Is it really? The reason why I challenge that notion is in comparing their last six fights, Lesnar has proven to be the more long winded fighter. In the aforementioned number of fights, Velasquez has fought a total of 10 rounds, Lesnar 11. In those rounds, Velasquez has gone beyond the first round three times while Lesnar has gone into multiple rounds on four occasions. It’s even been said that Velasquez has a motor that just won’t quit. Looking back at his history of opponents, there are only two on his resume that are considered elite heavyweights, Cheick Kongo and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (also known as Big Nog, who is a legend in the sport). Lesnar, on the other hand, has three; Frank Mir (who he fought twice), Randy Couture (Hall of Famer) and Shane Carwin.
In no way am I looking to downplay Velasquez’s accomplishments because he is an accomplished fighter. I just think we as observers have to take in all dynamics of the fight game before anointing someone as the next big thing. Can Velasquez fulfill the task of becoming the first Mexican Heavyweight Champion of any combat sport? Of course he can! This is Mixed Martial Arts and anyone can win on any given night. What I’m saying is Brock Lesnar brings an approach that Velasquez has yet to encounter. Lesnar has a tough task of his own as he tries to subdue his quickest and most well-rounded opponent to date.
Although Lesnar proved he can take powerful punches, it would behoove him to avoid standing up and trading strikes with Velasquez. He must impose his will with his wrestling/takedowns, bull rushes and weigh down on Velasquez in order to bring the number one contender to a place of fatigue.
Anaheim, California’s Honda Center is in for an explosive main event, courtesy of UFC 121. If Lesnar overcomes this challenge, which is his greatest to date, I’m not sure if there’s anyone in the heavyweight division that can end his reign. Not to say it cannot happen, I’m just saying if anyone is equipped to do it, it is Velasquez.
By Antoine Hoffman