Sunday, October 24, 2010
UFC 121: Blah, Blah...Blam!
I wish I could sit here and tell you I was perfect at predicting fights, because if I were, I'd be a millionaire. Truth is, I only went 3-2 on my picks for the main card of UFC 121. However, one of those three, was a prediction I made publicly in this column, which was that Cain Velasquez would defeat the self-proclaimed "baddest S.O.B. on the planet" Brock Lesnar. In my fantasy fight league I also called it by first round KO.
In a night filled with decision after decision after decision, Velasquez (9-0, 8 KO's) did what I thought he could do and that was to negate Lesnar's superiority in size and strength using his speed and skill. Outside of that, he had, in my opinion, every advantage over Lesnar. I hate to say I told you so, but... oh well.
With the Southern California heavily partisan Mexican crowd behind him, Velasquez was clearly the crowd favorite and he did not disappoint. However, in the first minute, it looked as though it may be a long night for Cain as Brock bum rushed him from the sound of the bell. Lesnar (5-2, 2 KO's 2 subs) inevitably was able to take Velasquez down, but unlike his previous opponents, he was unable to keep him there. Velasquez used a combination of his jiu-jitsu and his wrestling to get up from under Lesnar's grasp and create a stalemate against the cage.
The difference here was that Velasquez would not just lay against the cage with Lesnar pressing up against him. He remained active, punching and wrestling, eventually connecting and taking him down alike. It was evident from the way Lesnar started the fight, this was a situation he was hoping to avoid as could be noted in his last fight against Shane Carwin, he doesn't like to be hit; not that anybody does mind you. However, with Lesnar I feel it is different.
I've always sensed that he has a bully mentality in that he could overwhelm his opponents, but if he got punched in the face, he would fold up and crumble under the pressure. It began to happen in the Carwin fight and it definitely happened here. Velasquez opened up on Lesnar once he had him down, unleashing a precision laden, but punishing, attack versus an all out one. He would open a nasty gash under Lesnar's left eye and eventually force the referee to step in and stop the fight in just over four minutes of the first round.
This makes Velasquez the first ever Mexican heavyweight champion in combat sports and he is quite proud of it as he acknowledged his Latin fans in Spanish during his post-fight interview. This bodes extremely well for the UFC who now have both a Hispanic and well-spoken young fighter as their heavyweight champion. As for Lesnar, he was humble and respectful in defeat as he congratulated Cain publicly and said, "He's a great fighter. What can I say? He was better than me tonight."
As for the rest of the fight card, not much to discuss, decision was the theme of the night. Although one fight, the welterweight (170 lbs.) tilt between Diego 'Nightmare' Sanchez (22-4, 6 KO's 9 subs) and Brazilian Paulo Thiago (13-3, 2 KO's, 8 subs) was an exciting back and forth affair for three rounds that saw Sanchez winning unanimously after clearly losing the first round. That fight garnered the 'fight of the night' bonus, which equates to an additional $70,000 for each fighter.
Disappointment of the night clearly had to come from former Strikeforce middleweight (185 lbs.) champion Jake Shields (26-4-1, 3 KO's 10 subs) who was making his debut in the UFC amidst much fanfare. Problem was, he was doing it at welterweight and although he won a lackluster split decision over Martin Kampmann (17-4, 7 KO's 6 subs), the weight cut clearly affected him as he had to literally hang on to win.
Surprisingly, even after that performance, UFC President Dana White says that Shields is now in line to fight the winner of the Josh Koscheck-George St. Pierre fight in December for the welterweight championship. White may want to reevaluate that again after a good night's sleep.
Finally, we very well may have seen the end of an era as former UFC light-heavyweight (205 lbs.) champion Tito 'The Huntington Beach Bad Boy' Ortiz (15-8-1, 8 KO's 2 subs) lost a unanimous decision to former student and protege Matt' The Hammer' Hamill (10-2, 6 KO's). That's Ortiz's third loss in a row and fourth in his last five fights with the only other decision being a draw.
Group Ortiz's downward slide, with Chuck Liddell's, five losses in his last six fights, along with Randy Couture's possible decision to continue acting instead of fighting and we're talking about the three fighters who not only dominated the division, but the sport for the better part of the decade. This is quite obviously an era gone by and thus, a new era begins with new heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez. Thankfully because of Cain, UFC 121 went from just being blah, blah to blam!
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