So it was another great night of fights as the UFC returned to Anaheim, California for UFC 121 and featured a few dynamic closely fought battles and the beginning of a new era in the heavyweight division. Here are some thoughts and musings on the matchups.
Brock Lesnar (Heavyweight Champion) versus Cain Velasquez:
-I had a small wager on this fight with a buddy of mine (I picked Brock) as I have just been so thoroughly impressed by his meteoric rise in the world of MMA and I figured his overall size, strength and athleticism would have played a bigger role in this fight. Not so much. Cain Velasquez was never going to lose this fight and if there is a style that can beat Brock Lesnar, Cain has it.
His wrestling ability allowed him to stuff takedowns and get back to his feet quickly when he did get taken down. On their feet Velasquez was clearly the superior striker. Lesnar came out with a flawed strategy to say the least as he essentially went for broke in the first minute of the fight with flying knees and wild right hands and was GASSED after a minute and a half.
Velasquez looked surprised by the onslaught but weathered the storm, got up after a nice Lesnar takedown (quickly) and imposed his will (and superior cardio) on Lesnar. Velasquez dropped Lesnar with a nice right hand and never looked back forcing referee Herb Dean to mercifully stop the fight and Cain Velasquez looked amazing winning the UFC heavyweight championship.
Brock Lesnar’s face was badly bruised, bloodied and cut but he was gracious during the post-fight interview, praising Velasquez’s skills and said he was the better man tonight.
So where does the heavyweight division go from here? I don’t see many holes in Velasquez’s game and he has gotten so much better after every fight he could go on a long title reign. Here are a few of the possible contenders and a quick break down of their chances.
Junior Dos Santos – A great puncher and all around fighter, this guy would give anyone trouble but does he have the wrestling and cardio to avoid takedowns that Velasquez would bring? This would be an interesting matchup but a tough matchup for Dos Santos with his lack of a wrestling pedigree.
Shane Carwin – I think this is the man who poses the biggest threat to Velasquez with his power right hand combined with just beast like strength. Carwin is a good enough wrestler to at the very least not get totally dominated on the ground and I think Cheik Congo showed that Velasquez has a ways to go in his overall stand up game. Carwin could catch him and the loss to Brock Lesnar hopefully showed him the holes in his game, specifically his cardio and conditioning as not every fighter (especially the top notch guys) will be dominated in two minutes.
Frank Mir – This is one guy I feel would have a very solid chance with his proven ground game if Velasquez decided to take the fight there. However I think Mir would get exposed standing as Velasquez’s boxing is far superior. Mir will have to get a couple big win’s under his belt, but he has a shot if can do so.
Roy Nelson – Big Country Roy Nelson is a guy few would give much of a chance to become a champion but you can’t deny he always has a chance with his underrated striking and impressive Jiu Jitsu and overall ground game. Not sure he will be given a chance in the next 12-18 months but a possibility if the top contenders are unimpressive or get injured.
Jake Shields versus Martin Kampmann:
-I thought this would be a very one sided fight but Shields was clearly affected by the drastic weight cut as he did not look overly energetic and allowed Kampmann a chance to win this fight. After the first round Shields commented in his corner, “The weight cut” referring to the fact he was gassed already. His corner dismissed it and instead tried to focus him on continuing to battle. Shields won a close decision but he won’t be beating a top level guy (let alone GSP) unless he can deal with the weight cut properly going forward.
Tito Ortiz versus Matt Hamill:
-Ortiz looked to be in great condition (finally) and his body looked great especially in the mid-section. The fight started with Ortiz getting the better of the stand up as he was clearly the better boxer and Hamill didn’t try for a takedown in the first round. I’d give Ortiz the first round, though it was fairly close.
The second round went about the same for the first half though Hamill slowly started to add some effective leg kicks and finally scored a nice takedown and clearly won the round. The third round started and Ortiz looked fatigued (again) and was completely dominated. Hamill scored a takedown and laid a Tito Ortiz ground and pound beat down on Ortiz for nearly the entire last half of the round.
Not sure where Tito Ortiz goes from here as he was completely ineffective for most of the fight and although it wasn’t a great matchup for him (Hamill couldn’t be taken down) it will be hard for Ortiz to get any big time fights going forward for the same reason Keith Jardine was released. There is no reason for a contender to risk losing to Ortiz while really gaining almost nothing.
Gabe Gonzaga versus Brendan Shaub:
-Pretty boring fight, Gonzaga was gun shy and Shaub dominated on the feet. I am not a huge believer in Shaub overall and his performance while strong was not that impressive given his competition (or lack thereof) on the night.
Paulo Thiago versus Diego Sanchez:
-This is the fight I was most looking forward to and I was worried they might not show it after I realized they were going to televise the Gonzaga/Shaub fight (for some reason) but they showed it prior to the Shields/Kampmann fight and it was easily the best fight of the night.
I favoured Thiago for his toughness, grit and overall skill level and he was easily winning the fight until about half way through the second round when while scrambling Sanchez ended up on top and from that point on he took the fight to Thiago. It was a closer fight than the judges scored it in my opinion and both guys fought tooth and nail under the final bell but Sanchez looked extra impressive tonight in the best performance of his UFC career.
BONUS Tom Lawlor versus Patrick Cote:
-I had to review the “Predator” Patrick Cote as he is Canadian and a guy most Canuck’s follow. However after seeing his physique I was not impressed, needless to say. He was carrying less muscle mass in his shoulders and more body fat in his midsection and he looked awful the entire fight. If I were Cote I’d be worried if Dana White might be cutting his contract.