Savage ground-and-pound is Cain Velasquez’s bread and butter. | Photo: Sherdog.com
Cain Velasquez wants what belonged to him from Oct. 23, 2010 until Nov. 12, 2011: the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight crown.
Velasquez will confront the man who dethroned him a little more than a year ago when he locks horns with heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos in the UFC 155 “Dos Santos vs. Velasquez 2” main event on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Dos Santos needed all of 64 seconds to dispatch the American Kickboxing Academy ace at UFC on Fox 1 in what was Velasquez’s first appearance since major shoulder surgery.
Still, Velasquez does not use the layoff as a crutch, nor does he regret accepting the bout 10 months after going under the knife -- and with good reason. He recognizes the fact that dos Santos entered the match with an ailing knee.
“Junior was hurt, as well,” Velasquez said during a pre-fight media call for UFC 155. “Guys get injured before the fight, so it was just me being a fighter and not backing out. I did it, and it’s in the past.”
Their first encounter was so brief that onlookers barely had time to settle in. Dos Santos cracked Velasquez with a ringing right hand behind the air, and down he went. A few more ground strikes finished it, and a new champion was born.
“Junior’s quick, and he’s got power in his hands,” Velasquez said. “He timed it perfectly, and he came out on top. I know how he fights. He’s got good boxing. I’ve just got to fight my style of fight, which means a lot of pressure and a lot of offense. I just want to go out there and fight my fight. That’s it.”
Dos Santos has since successfully defended the title, bashing former champion Frank Mire en route to a second-round stoppage at UFC 146 in May. The 28-year-old now owns a perfect 9-0 mark in the UFC. Dos Santos does not foresee changing much in terms of his approach.
“My first game plan was to try to keep the fight standing against him,” he said. “I think Cain is going to come in hungrier for this fight, to try and work his game, to try and take me down and use his ground-and-pound, which he uses very well. I’m prepared for this fight and ready to win.
“Cain is an excellent wrestler, and he puts pressure on his opponents all the time,” dos Santos added. “That’s what he’s going to try to do to me. I have to be careful with that and use my takedown defense and my boxing skills. I’m very confident I’m going to when this. I think I’m going to knock him out again.”
Velasquez answered the doubt that comes along with an elite fighter’s first defeat in May, when he handed former EliteXC heavyweight champion Antonio Silva a savage beating at UFC 146. His trademark ground-and-pound was on full display, as he battered and bloodied the Brazilian behemoth until referee Josh Rosenthal had seen enough.
“It doesn’t affect me at all,” dos Santos said. “I know Cain’s game. I watched his fights a lot, and I’ve studied him. I know his strategy, and if he takes me down and really holds me down, I’m ready for my first submission in the UFC.
“I’m a very confident guy,” he added. “I think it’s part of my strength, and I will give my best to make my strategy [work] and to follow my strategy inside the Octagon. Every fight is different than other fights, so this fight will be different than the last.”
Velasquez has his eye on the prize, the belt that once occupied his waist.
“The only reason I got into this sport was to be a champion,” he said. “Now that I’m not champion, it’s the only thing that’s on my mind -- to go in there and win this fight. That’s all I’m thinking about.”
Repeat or Revenge
Alan Belcher has momentum on his side, perhaps enough to soon position himself for a crack at the UFC middleweight championship. First, he must deal with Yushin Okami.
The Japanese judoka spoiled Belcher’s promotional debut at UFC 62, defeating the Jonesboro, Ark., native by unanimous decision at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. In the six years since, Okami has established himself as a mainstay in the middleweight division. Belcher has had to overcome a series of obstacles, including a career-threatening eye injury, but always hoped their paths would cross again.
“Yushin is solid. He’s a pro, and he’s a vet,” Belcher said in his pre-fight interview with UFC.com. “I fought him before, and I know he’ll be tough. I lost last time, but I plan to take him out fast this time. He doesn’t want it as bad as I do.”
A protégé of former world kickboxing champion Duke Roufus and a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt under Helio Soneca, Belcher has finished his last four foes, three of them inside one round. His tear has Okami’s attention, along with the rest of the 185-pound weight class.
“Six years have passed since our first bout, so I expect I am going to face a totally different fighter,” Okami said. “Now, Belcher has built up his momentum, so it is going to be a good test for me to fight with the top guys.”
This & That
Joe Lauzon has been awarded 11 post-fight bonuses, tying him with middleweight champion Anderson Silva for most in UFC history ... Tim Boetsch was a four-time state wrestling champion in high school ... Despite his “One Punch” moniker, British bantamweight contender Brad Pickett will enter his pivotal showdown against Eddie Wineland with more career submissions (10) than knockouts (seven) ... Chris Leben’s bout with Derek Brunson will be his 20th inside the Octagon, moving him into a tie for seventh on the all-time list with Frank Mir, Rich Franklin and Chris Lytle ... Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts export Erik Perez made his professional MMA debut on May 3, 2008, at the age of 18 ... Melvin Guillard and former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Jamie Varner have 29 first-round finishes between them ... “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 15 alum Myles Jury has put away all 10 of his opponents, seven of them in less than 90 seconds ... Six of British heavyweight Philip De Fries’ nine career victories have come by rear-naked choke submission ... Chris Cariaso is 10-1 in fights that reach the judges, a split decision loss to Michael McDonald in May 2011 the lone blemish ... Max Holloway is the youngest fighter in the UFC roster. The Hawaiian does not turn 22 until April.