Cain Velasquez file photo: Sherdog.com
After Cain Velasquez defeated Brock Lesnar to capture the heavyweight championship at UFC 121 on Saturday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., talk turned to his first challenger, Junior dos Santos.
The 26-year-old dos Santos earned his shot at the title with a unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 winner Roy Nelson at UFC 117 in August. The Team Nogueira member has 11 finishes among his 12 professional wins and has reeled off seven straight victories.
“[Dos Santos] probably has the best stand-up in the heavyweight division,” said Velasquez. “Plus, he has good takedown defense. He’ll definitely be a tough challenge for me.”
As Velasquez entered his UFC heavyweight title fight against Lesnar, the mixed martial arts community pointed towards his superior conditioning as a potential difference between the two. However, Velasquez did not need the extra gas, as he knocked out Lesnar in the first round and became the first Mexican heavyweight champion in the promotion’s history.
“I was kind of surprised at how hard [Lesnar] was coming forward at the start of the fight,” said Velasquez, who now has six first-round knockouts among his eight stoppages. “I froze up a little bit, but once I got a takedown, I was OK. I feel like my hard work really paid off. I worked really hard in my camp on getting a single-leg [takedown] and did a lot of reps with it, and it worked to a T.”
Winning the title in front of a pro-Hispanic crowd like the one that greeted him at UFC 121 meant a great deal to Velasquez, who remains unbeaten in nine professional MMA fights.
“It feels great to be the first Mexican heavyweight champion of the UFC,” said Velasquez. “I want to dedicate this title to all of the Mexicans here in America, as well as Mexicans in Mexico. I think [Latinos] bring an aggressive fight style. We come forward and don’t stop, and people like that. [Anaheim] was one of the key spots where I’ve wanted to fight, along with Mexico. To win the title here means a lot to me.”
Lesnar came out with guns blazing, but Velasquez stayed calm, even after he was taken down twice in the first two minutes of the fight. Velasquez delivered a takedown of his own and got Lesnar’s back, using punches and hammerfists. Lesnar returned to his feet on two different occasions, but Velasquez -- a member of the American Kickboxing Academy -- dropped him with a two-punch combination and went in for the finish. Several punches later, referee Herb Dean stopped the fight 4:12 into the first round, and the UFC had a new heavyweight champion.
“I just had to pick my shots,” said Velasquez. “I knew the referee wasn’t going to step in and stop it too early, so I had to keep from going crazy with my punches. I took my time and picked my shots.”
Velasquez said he felt the momentum turn in his favor when he weathered Lesnar’s initial barrage and took down the champion.
“I really felt like the turning point of the fight was when I got his head going back and his legs were open,” said Velasquez. “When I took him down and he couldn’t get up, I could tell I was going to win.”
Velasquez now plans to take a little time to bask in the glory of being a champion.
“This wasn’t a hard camp, but it was a long camp,” said Velasquez. “I’m going to hang out with my family a little. They deserve it.”