In Dave Meltzer’s latest column at Yahoo! Sports, he profiles up and coming heavyweight talent Cain Velasquez. Velasquez trains out of American Kickboxing Academy alongside talents such as Josh Koscheck, Mike Swick, and Jon Fitch. He was an All-American wrestler at Arizona State and is arguably the best heavyweight prospect in the UFC today (sorry, Shane Carwin). We all know how coaches talk their fighters up and how people from the same camp talk their teammates up, but coming from Javier Mendez, the head trainer at AKA, this is pretty high praise:
“Right now, he could walk in and be a good pro boxer,” said Mendez about someone who, aside from fooling around with gloves with some friends, had never even put on boxing gloves until August 2006. “He could not only be a good kickboxer, but he’s K-1 level (the Japanese group which is top organization for heavyweights in the world). He won a world championship in Jiu Jitsu (World No Gi world champion in the blue belt division in late 2007, 17 months after his first class). He’s the fastest learner I’ve ever had. And nobody trains harder. He trains harder than the lightweights.”
Mendez, who said Velasquez today could beat Randy Couture, said he saw something in him the first day he came through the door for a tryout.
Like I said, Mendez could be blowing smoke up our asses for all I know, but from listening to people talk about Velasquez as well as hearing some of the stories from his days at ASU and his relentless ability to train like an animal, it seems like the UFC has something special on its hands with him. I don’t particularly know if he could beat someone like Randy Couture right now, but I’m willing to bet that he’d give someone like Couture a run for his money.
His opponent on Saturday, Jake O’Brien, is no laughing matter and probably the biggest test that Velasquez will have faced in his young MMA career. However, I have no doubt that Velasquez will ace that test. The thing about O’Brien is that he’s got good hands and good wrestling, but he never shows his boxing. He’s always so gunshy that we never get to see his great skill with his hands. He almost always reverts back to his wrestling and that’s where I believe Velasquez will dominate the fight. His wrestling is better and he’s not afraid to let his fast, powerful hands fly as we saw in his fight against Brad Morris at UFC 83.
There are big things ahead for Velasquez in the heavyweight division in the UFC and I believe Jake O’Brien will be a perfect stepping stone for him come Saturday.