Cain Velasquez wants his belt back.
The former UFC heavyweight champion took a big step toward making that desire a reality Saturday night, when he dispatched a mammoth opponent at UFC 146. Velasquez pounded out former Strikeforce talent Antonio Silva in the evening’s co-main event at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
While Velasquez says he is pleased to earn a win over the world-ranked “Pezao,” he will not be satisfied until he once again owns the UFC heavyweight title.
“The only reason I got into this sport was to be the champ,” Velasquez said Saturday at the UFC 146 post-fight press conference. “I just don’t feel right without having [the title].”
Velasquez wasted no time in taking it to his larger opponent on Saturday night, catching a leg kick from “Bigfoot” and dumping him to the mat. Though Silva attempted to recover guard, the American Kickboxing Academy standout had none of it, blasting the massive Brazilian with punches and elbow from half-guard.
The former champion lacerated Silva quickly with one of those elbows, causing Pezao to gush blood from his forehead. After referee Josh Rosenthal called for the cageside physician to check the gash on Silva’s face, Velasquez picked up where he left off, pounding away at the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt until Rosenthal mercifully halted the bout.
Velasquez entered the bout with a bit of insider information, as two of his teammates at AKA had already faced Bigfoot. Strikeforce light heavyweight Mike Kyle stepped in on short notice in December 2010 to face Silva, stunning him early with an overhand right before eventually succumbing to ground-and-pound in round two. Daniel Cormier had more success, using his superior hand speed to knock out the Brazilian this past September in the Strikeforce grand prix semifinals.
According to Velasquez, he was looking for Silva’s leg kick before the Team Nogueira representative even threw one.
“With [Silva] fighting Daniel and Mike Kyle, [they said] he kicked early a couple of times,” said Velasquez. “We just said, ‘If he does kick right away, I’ll catch it and take him down.’”
That is exactly what transpired, and the results were spectacular for Velasquez, one of the sport’s most devastating practitioners of ground-and-pound. His victory now likely catapults him back into the No. 1 contender’s spot he occupied before wresting the title from Brock Lesnar in October 2010. If granted the next title shot, Velasquez will rematch the only man to ever beat him, Junior dos Santos.
Dos Santos also emerged victorious on Saturday night, knocking out Frank Mir to retain his belt in the UFC 146 main event. While Velasquez says that dos Santos looked sharp in the first defense of his title, he expects their rematch to transpire differently than the first fight, which ended in just 64 seconds courtesy of a dos Santos overhand right.
“Dos Santos looked good. His hands, his movement, and his takedown defense all looked good. This is how he always looks,” said Velasquez. “I definitely see [a rematch] going much better on my part. I would need to bring the fight more to him than I did [in the first bout]. I stayed too long on the outside, where he is dangerous. He has those fast, heavy hands and that good footwork. I would have to take the fight to him.”