Though Strikeforce standout Daniel Cormier will soon be Octagon-bound, he will not challenge for the UFC heavyweight title as long as the gold resides around the waist of American Kickboxing Academy teammate Cain Velasquez.
The heavyweights mutually dismissed the notion that they would square off following Velasquez’s title-winning performance at UFC 155 on Saturday night.
“I wouldn’t [fight Cormier]. This is my friend, my teammate and my coach,” Velasquez told Fox Sports while sitting next to his AKA stablemate during a post-fight interview. “If you want to see us fight, go to AKA three days a week.”
Velasquez was masterful in his performance at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, taking the fight to reigning champion Junior dos Santos from the opening bell.
“A lot of times before this fight, I was envisioning the way it would go, but to actually go out there and do it with all the pressures of finally being in there [felt great],” said Velasquez. “I wanted to come in lighter and faster. I knew he was really fast with his movement and everything else, and I wanted to be in good shape to be able to move at any angle and just be quick.”
Quick Velasquez was, as he punched his way into the clinch on numerous occasions and threatened with takedowns before flooring the retreating champion with a hard overhand right. Once in top position, Velasquez unloaded with some of his signature ground-and-pound, blasting the Brazilian with dozens of nasty shots. Though “Cigano” would survive the first-round onslaught, the former champion had set the tone for the remainder of their contest.
“A lot of the stuff in my head was just [me thinking], ‘Keep a strong pace. Pressure him up top and then look for stuff with the legs.’ It was always up and down, and I never really slowed down,” said Velasquez. “I just had it in my head that I needed to put a lot of pressure on him and do what I wanted to do. That high-paced wrestling style breaks a lot of people when they’re not used to it.”
Dos Santos gamely attempted to resist Velasquez’s offense for another 20 minutes, but the Californian would not be denied, as he continually outstruck the hard-hitting champion between his 11 successful takedowns. When the smoke had cleared, Velasquez was once again the UFC heavyweight champion, a result which he attributes to his diligent preparation with his AKA training partners.
“I think we really prepared well. Me and [Cormier] were constantly working and watching film,” said Velasquez. “The way that [Dos Santos] backs up, it didn’t seem like he throws a lot. He wants to back up and then re-engage when he’s comfortable, and we didn’t let him be comfortable.”
Velasquez’s victory serves as sweet retribution for the 30-year-old, who relinquished his title to dos Santos roughly 13 months ago in a 64-second knockout defeat at UFC on Fox 1. In that fight, Velasquez returned to the Octagon after a year-long layoff due to rotator cuff surgery. Additionally, both heavyweights entered the cage nursing significant knee injuries.
“Not being able to work stuff in the gym translates into the Octagon, and that got to my head a lot,” Velasquez said of his first meeting with dos Santos. “I really couldn’t do the stuff I want to in the gym, so how am I going to do it [in the fight]? Being 100 percent [this time], physically and mentally, it just helped so much.
“There was a lot of stuff that we saw that he did in the first fight, like at the weigh-in when he put his fist up to my face. I needed to show him that this is a fight, and I’m going to come at [him],” Velasquez continued. “It was the same thing with him walking to the center of the ring and saying, ‘I’m going to put you down’ [during the introductions]. Well, no you’re not. I’m going to take the center of the ring, and I’m going to show you. I knew that I was capable of something else, and I had to go out there and prove it. I know what I can do.”