MANILA, Philippines — Brock Lesnar’s viking beard is out to go hunting, but Cain Velasquez isn’t going to just lie down and be his prey.
The former WWE superstar and now the current UFC heavyweight champion Lesnar is out to defend his title against an equally skillful and dangerous opponent in Velasquez in this Sunday’s UFC 121 main event at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
The 33-year-old Lesnar (5 wins, 1 loss in MMA; 4-1 in UFC) is a former NCAA Division 1 wrestler, just like the American Kickboxing Academy-trained Velasquez (8-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC), is expected to impose his 280-pound frame come fight night — the same strategy he used to erect a four-bout winning run with Shane Carwin being his last victim during last July’s UFC 116 presentation.
“In the UFC, everybody's tough,” said Lesnar in an interview with Mike Whitman of Sherdog.com. “You have to prepare well, and be prepared for anything. Every fight is a huge challenge. Cain is a challenge. There’s not one guy under contract in the UFC who isn't tough.”
“The good thing about my camp is that we try to bring guys in to make us better. I don't want a bunch of punching bags lying around on the floor,” Lesnar continues. “I want somebody who is going to put me out of my comfort zone and is going to make me better. I appreciate every one of those training partners. I think if you stay in stride and never trip or fall, you don’t improve.”
Obviously, Lesnar will be coming into the octagon armed with a huge advantage in terms of strength and heft, which was evident in his wins against UFC veterans Carwin and Randy Couture.
But counting out Velasquez would be the least one could do.
The 6-foot-2 Velasquez, a native of Salinas, California, boasts of an unblemished record with five victories coming as fast as a lightning bolt in the first round. He is expected to bank on his speed advantage, as well as his superior wrestling skills in what could be the toughest fight of his mixed martial arts career.
“I haven’t ever faced someone with the power, size and athletic ability of Brock Lesnar,” Velasquez revealed recently. “But the reason why you get into the sport is to fight for the title. All I can do is train hard and try to make the best of it.”
“Cain Velasquez is the most devastating, well-rounded, and dangerous contender in the heavyweight division,” says UFC commentator Joe Rogan. “He has the most incredible endurance in the division; he does not slow down, he comes at you the same way from the opening bell up to the final bell. That’s very rare for a heavyweight.”
Andrew Plante of ESPN Sports, meanwhile, predicts a shocker of a result in Sunday’s heavyweight showdown.
“Although heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar is the favorite in this title bout, Velasquez has the qualifications and the attributes to make this a very compelling and competitive fight.
“Some have argued that Velasquez is the perfect size to bring down the mammoth heavyweight. Not too big, not too small. He’s quick on his feet and well-rounded as a mixed martial artist. If Velasquez, who has college level wrestling experience, can keep the fight on the feet, he’ll have the advantage from a striking perspective.”
MMA experts, though, have doubted Velasquez’s capabilities to force a submission against his opponents, as he have been more inclined to fight on his toes and rely on his power — something which he’ll definitely find a hard time doing against Lesnar’s brute force.
But the challenger remains confident that he can prove everyone wrong and promises to outwit and outmuscle the much bigger champion come Sunday night.
“If I’m in a position to submit him, I’m going to do it,” said Velasquez. “All of my dreams since I started in this sport have been centered on fighting for the title. I want to be the best in the sport.”
Erickson Beco, Manila Bulletin