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A Look Back at “UFC 121: Lesnar vs. Velasquez”

The day after the defending World Series champion New York Yankees were knocked out of the MLB playoffs by a more well-rounded team and just hours after #1 Oklahoma was knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten by the home team, the top heavyweight in the UFC was knocked off his throne by the more well-rounded fighter with a home cage advantage. It was an exciting conclusion to an up and down night of fights that saw poor gameplans, poor conditioning, and poor outcomes for fighters that are often compared to apes.

Cain Velasquez defeated Brock Lesnar by TKO (Strikes) at 4:12 in Round One to win the UFC Heavyweight Title

It was the biggest heavyweight fight in UFC history: Undefeated top contender Cain Velasquez against heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar. No matter what anyone says, no one was sold 100% on who was winning this fight. Fans, media, and fighters were all split. Even if they thought Cain would win, they knew Brock had a great chance and vice versa. And if they didn’t have this kind of thinking and truly thought one fighter would steamroll the other, their opinion probably doesn’t hold much weight.

The heat in this fight was incredible. No one was sitting or silent during the introductions. When Herb Dean told the fighters, “Lets fight” they came out guns a blazing. Lesnar went for a takedown that was stuffed, they traded punches in the clinch, Lesnar got a takedown, Velasquez got back up, and that’s when it seemed like Lesnar was out of options. He tried to strike with Velasquez but the power and speed was too much for him to overcome. Velasquez managed to get a takedown of his own and even though he got up, Lesnar took a beating on the bottom. After ungracefully tumbling across the octagon, Lesnar never recovered. Velasquez turned in on with a flurry of strikes that eventually dropped the champion and on the ground he controlled Lesnar, stayed on top, and picked his shots. Whether you believe that Lesnar verbally submitted the Herb stopped him from continuing to take a beating, the end result remains the same. Mr. Velasquez: Still undefeated, still Mexican (did you know that he’s Mexican?), now champion.

Lesnar stayed classy in defeat. Did anyone expect anything less after the fight? For the first time in his MMA career, he truly got whooped. No lucky submission, no comeback, just a straight up butt kicking. For all the talk of Lesnar’s cardio, he sure didn’t have it in the fight. After his initial flurry, he was completely gassed out. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best idea for him to come charging out of the gates like he was a bull and Cain was the matador. Doesn’t he know that the matador always wins? Lesnar had his chance in this fight. He had Cain down and he couldn’t do anything with him. He was using his jab well, he landed a couple of good right hands, but he’s just so uncomfortable on his feet and he couldn’t deal with the movement and angles of Velasquez. He’ll be back though and we’ll see how he reacts to truly taking a beating. I expect that he’ll be back stronger and that he’ll work harder. Luckily for him, it’s very likely that he’ll another chance to further scramble the eggs of Frank Mir. If Lesnar only loves three things in life then it’s hunting, scrambled eggs, hunting Mir to turn him into scrambled eggs.

Velasquez did exactly what he needed to do. He weathered an early storm and changed the forecast much quicker than most expected. He proved that all the size in the world doesn’t always help against superior speed and technique. I’d say he fought a perfect fight but knowing how Cain thinks, he’s probably disappointed that he got taken down, got hit, and didn’t connect with every strike. This man is a machine whose biggest threat to the title is himself. As long as he stays humble and keeps working hard, he’s going to have a long run at the top. Junior dos Santos provides a threat, especially on the feet, but Velasquez just seems to be on another level.

Predicted Next Fights: Velasquez vs. dos Santos – Lesnar vs. Mir 3

Jake Shields defeated Martin Kampmann by Split Decision (29-28, 27-30, 28-29)

There was a lot of pressure on Jake Shields in his UFC debut. A win would earn him a welterweight title shot against Georges St. Pierre and a loss would have Dana White wondering why the hell he tried so hard to sign this guy. Martin Kampmann on the other hand had no pressure. There was nothing on the line for himself except his record and a chance to spoil Shields’ debut. In the end, Jon Fitch may have been the biggest winner.

Shields started off strong in this fight. He got an early takedown and showed off the grappling skills that had led him to 14 straight victories prior to this bout. Kampmann managed to survive on the ground but the grappling disparity between the two fighters was clearly evident. After a rather dominant first round, Shields walked back to his corner and looked a bit tired. Then in the second round, Kampmann hit Shields with a big knee that rocked him. Instead of following up on the feet, Kampmann was content with playing the grappling game with the superior grappler. While he managed to stuff a few takedowns, he just wasn’t able to create any distance and really let his hands go. The third round was more of the same except Kampmann did a much better job on the ground for most of the round until going for a submission that ended up costing him the position and possibly the fight. I scored the fight for Shields and despite three different scores from the judges, none of them seemed wrong. This fight could have gone either way but in the eyes of the judges, Shields did just enough to win.

Simply put, Kampmann had a bad gameplan in this fight and he gave away the victory. He was afraid to let his hands go on the feet, even when it was clear that Shields was dead tired and he was content with trying to grapple with Shields, even when it was clear that he wasn’t going to submit him. Kampmann could have won this fight if he had just done a better job at creating distance. Instead he played right into the hands of Shields’ and it cost him dearly. Most fighters gain fans after losing a close decision that a lot of people thought they won. Kampmann won’t be one of those fighters. He needs to come back with a strong performance, remind fans that he can be exciting, and prove that the judges got it wrong.

Shields did everything we expected him to do in this fight. He threw almost nothing but kicks on the feet, he went for a lot of takedowns, he out-grappled Kampmann, and he did just enough to win the decision. It just wasn’t very pretty to watch. Reports heading into the fight was that he had a tough weight cut and it certainly showed. He usually has very good cardio but it just wasn’t there this past Saturday. Despite what Dana may have said before the fight, this was not a performance that made anyone believe that Shields has a chance against St. Pierre. If he’s going to get a title shot, Shields’ best hope is for Josh Koscheck to beat St. Pierre since Fitch and Koscheck won’t fight each other. Otherwise it may just depend on Dana’s mood and the flip of a coin as to who gets the next title shot.

Predicted Next Fights: Shields vs. Condit – Kampmann vs. Hardy

Diego Sanchez defeated Paulo Thiago by Unanimous Decision (30-26, 29-28, 29-28)

After an unsuccessful first fight back in the welterweight division, Diego Sanchez decided to give it another go against the always tough Paulo Thiago. Many questioned this decision and questioned it even more when Sanchez talked about moving back down to lightweight after this fight. We all learned that unless you’re a teacher, you probably shouldn’t ask so many questions.

Thiago tried to send Sanchez back down to lightweight right away as he controlled the first round with good counter striking, excellent takedown defense, and great grappling. In between rounds God decided that he got tired of watching one of his most loyal sons take a beating and brought “Nightmare” back to Sanchez. In the second and third rounds, Sanchez looked like the fighter we all grew to love during his early UFC run. He was pushing the pace and remembering what had always made him successful. He gassed out Thiago with his ability to scramble, control things on the ground, and relentless ground and pound. One questionable score aside, the judges all agreed that Sanchez won the bout and got back on track inside the octagon.

This was a heartbreaking loss for Thiago. He was catching Sanchez at the perfect time, he had something to prove coming off a loss, and he matched up relatively well with his opponent. I guess Brazilian special ops missions don’t last very long because Thiago just didn’t have the gas to hang with Sanchez. If he improves his cardio, he can still be a threat at 170 but until then, he’s just going to hang around the middle of the division. He’s had a tough road in the UFC and with two straight loses it could either get easier (a mid-level opponent) or harder (being cut).

If Sanchez’ goal was to prove that he belongs at welterweight, he achieved it. I still think he’s better off at lightweight because he’s still undersized at 170 and his cardio won’t be able to carry him against the top of the division. Now that he’s back with Greg Jackson though, I expect to see Sanchez continue to get back to his roots while also improving his all-around game.

Predicted Next Fights: Thiago vs. Daniel Roberts – Sanchez vs. Joe Lauzon or Takanori Gomi

Matt Hamill defeated Tito Ortiz by Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

Coming in with no wins in his last four fights, Tito Ortiz’ surgically repaired back was against the wall. He was given a chance to shine against his former student Matt Hamill and prove that he had one last run in his tank. He failed.

The fight was all on the feet early. Ortiz came out like he had something to prove and then reverted back to his basic boxing ways while Hamill did a nice job mixing things up. While they may have connected with the same number of strikes in the first round, Hamill’s power bested Ortiz and it showed on his opponents abnormally large head. The second round was more of the same except that Hamill was able to easily land a takedown, where he battered Ortiz with strikes and avoided any submission attempt. By the start of the third round, it looked like Hamill was toying with Ortiz on the feet. He was no longer keeping his hands high and in fact, he was “Diazing” with his hands. This would usually be cause for concern except that he was actually getting away with it. After getting bored with punching Ortiz in his big head, Hamill used the brain in his soft head to secure victory by easily gaining another takedown. Hamill ended the fight with a flurry of punches and elbows to show the entire world that the student had become the master.

I’m not sad to say that Ortiz is done, not only as a top competitor but also as a fighter. Maybe he won’t get released but this fight wasn’t close in my book. He got beat on the feet, his takedowns were easily stuffed, and he showed no resistance when Hamill shot in. If this was Ortiz at 100% health then he’s better off fighting injured because at least then he’d have an excuse. Not only does he not have the skills to compete anymore but he’s become almost irrelevant in the big picture. He was the second fight on the card, he hasn’t won since 2006, he’s no longer this big draw, and he’s really worn out his time with most fans thanks to his attitude. No one will pay to see him fight and even worse, no one will pay to see him get beat up. I hate when a main card fighter gets released but he’s making too much to be regulated to the prelims and I don’t know who they can pair him up with that would make fans actually care.

While Hamill may have modeled his game after Ortiz, he proved that he’s already much better. It was rather shocking to see how well he did in the striking department against someone with a lot more experience. Again, by the third round, he looked like he was toying with Ortiz on the feet. Not only did his striking look good but he easily out-wrestled Ortiz and knew exactly when to go for takedowns. I’m not sure if he can be a top light heavyweight but I do think he can hang with most of the fighters in the division and surprise a lot of people with his skills.

Predicted Next Fights: Hamill vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira – Ortiz vs. Unemployment

Brendan Schaub defeated Gabriel Gonzaga by Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

When Brendan Schaub and Gabriel Gonzaga were slated to hook up, few thought it would go to a decision. After all, neither man had ever been to a decision and most of the time their fights ended in the first round. As the old saying goes, there is a first time for everything.

The story of this fight was Schaub’s speed. He moved in and out well, showed good angle, and pressed the fight when he needed to. He ended up catching Gonzaga a couple of times in the first round and dropped him right at the bell. In the next two rounds it was more of the same. As usual with Gonzaga, whenever he was pressed, he wilted. Gonzaga had a tough time dealing with the speed of Schaub and he couldn’t land that one big power shot. Schaub slowed down as the fight went on but Gonzaga slowed down as well. Gonzaga had success with leg kicks but for some reason went away from them by the midway point in the second round. The end result was Schaub winning a comfortable decision.

With this loss, Gonzaga maintains his gatekeeper status. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it. He fought a losing fight against Schaub. He went away from his leg kicks even though they were clearly slowing down Schaub and he’s seemingly completely abandoned his jiu-jitsu game. He also continues to wilt when he’s pressed and until he learns how to move from side and side and not straight back, fighters are just going to attack him and test his chin. It’s a shame he’s a mental flake because the skills are there, the mindset isn’t.

This was a good win for Schaub but also a bit telling. Although he beat Gonzaga, he couldn’t finish him, which is a bit of a red flag. He fought a great fight and did what he needed to do but I’m still not buying into him like others might. He passed the gatekeeper test, which is a huge victory but he’s still got a ways to go before he’s considered a heavyweight threat. If UFC brings him along slowly he could develop into a top contender. He’s still relatively young, he trains with a good camp, and he’s an athletic heavyweight.

Predicted Next Fights: Schaub vs. McCorkle/Struve Winner – Gonzaga vs. Jon Madsen


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