He came in like a collegiate athlete, Cain Velasquez that is, against a mountain of corn-fed manhood – Brock Lesnar – and outboxed and out-wrestled the self-proclaimed “meanest son of a bitch” before the referee stopped the UFC 121 headliner towards the end of the first round. It was like an eerie repeat of UFC 116 with Cain playing the part of Carwin. What was definitively different was the outcome at 4.12″ of the first round. Cain did not gas. He was unrelenting in his pin-point pummeling and relentless take-downs of Lesnar in answer to Lesnar’s first couple of attempts. (Lesnar had charged Velasquez from the opening seconds and taken Cain down to no effect as Cain got up and turned the punching and takedown tables on Brock.) Before long, Lesnar was running around the octagon like a drunken sailor – the unmistakable effects of heavy hands whose impact had escaped the naked eyed. Cain smelt blood and piled on and felled Lesnar once again with a knee followed by a blow to the left temple reminiscent of Lesnar vs Couture.
Before long Lesnar was on the ground, helplessly trying to cover up. Herb Dean was hovering above the slaughter-house like God trying to prevent “the silence of the lambs.” About 48 seconds from the end of the round the referee stopped the action. He had seen enough – or had Lesnar cried “stop! stop!” as observers would later claim. There in living color before thousands, the monster of the octagon had been pulverized by a nervy slugger. And Cain the historical and statistical underdog had done it with nary a mark on his boyish face. There is a big story behind this impressive display gladiatorial prowess – this unvanquished athleticism. (See “WTF Happened Here” below.)
The Boxer and the Wrestler!
Cain did something that we haven’t seen in MMA in a long time: Bringing together boxing and wrestling and imposing athleticism that stunned the MMA world. He restored cachet to a martial art that was in serious danger of becoming of becoming a function of dumb mass. If you haven’t seen footage of this fight, do yourself a favor and Google UFC 121, Cain Velasquez vs Brock Lesnar video.
Words can never convey what happened here, namely Cain Velasquez generating Mount Rushmore pulverizing power from imperceptible angles was more awe-inspiring than David Copperfield disappearing a jet. Welcome to “atleta nuevo” – and one who represents not the present but the future of mixed martial arts.
So WTF Happened Here?: Cain believers do not need any explications as to what happened here because they can quote to you chapter and verse what enabled Cain to dismantle The Brock last night. But for some of us it is OK to concede their point while excavating the site of Cain’s victory for tangible evidence of the rout. And in order to do that one has to play the video five to ten times before getting a sense of what happened because a lot of it is like a David Copperfield optical illusion. (And perhaps in some ways it is, no disrespect for Cain here whom we love more than our checked luggage.)
There was nothing out of the ordinary – apart from Lesnar’s strategic mistake of rushing Cain with zero offensive plan at the beginning – until about 3 minutes into the round when Cain takes Lesnar down and mounds his back. From that position he starts peppering Lesnar with short side shots to the head for about 14 seconds. When Lesnar gets up, there is a little exchange between the two and Cain gets in an elusive combination of shots which, barring some other condition, might have hurt Lesnar by dint of cumulation. After that combination Lesnar starts flailing with his left hand as if to wave Cain away. There is a hint of desperation and or trouble – other factors notwithstanding. (Could Lesnar have gassed in an uncanny reversal or replay of his UFC 116 fight with Shane Carwin? Was he well enough for this fight? He never showed such poor physical form in his fight with Carwin.)
After that Lesnar charges Cain and misses him then totally loses his balance like an inebriated sailor. This was the real sign of a fighter in trouble. He absolutely had no feet at that time. His balance apparently gone, Lesnar stumbles and ends up against the octagon fence with Cain piling on. When he gets up, Cain smashes Brock with a right knee with about 2 minutes and 19 seconds left in the fight. Brock goes down in what was the definitive beginning of the end. After that Brock is basically incapable of defending himself and Cain grounds and pounds him to victory. Herb Dean stops the fight at 4:12 of that first round.
Cain was King, but some questions will linger as they should. We need Lesnar and or some other independent parties to come clean on this. Someone needs to confirm or deny whether Lesnar was well enough to fight this fight? (No excuses BTW – just hard, inescapable questions based on fighters’ exchanges which were studiedly unspectacular until the knee that brought Lesnar down. Before that it was the short punches to the head from Cain’s back mounting position. And even then it was inexplicable as to why Lesnar could not throw Cain off his back or quickly get up so early in the first round of the fight.
“The television show “Sports Science” tested Velasquez and found that he has the cardio of a marathoner. Plus, the force of his punch was greater than any boxer they ever tested.” (Kevin Iole, Yahoo Sports)
On the other side of the coin could it be possible that Cain Velasquez has hands heavier than Shane Carwin’s? Did his 50 shots to Lesnar’s 25 do so much damage …… damage that was hard to fathom until Lesnar started staggering like a drunken sailor? Hold those questions till someone comes clean, one way or the other.
Owning Up: We have to say it, in the interest of full disclosure: The only chance we had given Velasquez about an hour before the fight was “a puncher’s chance” against the man-beast. But the unflappable Matador was not deterred by naysayers like us. He took his chances and parlayed them into heavyweight gold! But what Cain Velasquez displayed tonight went way beyond chance. It will be analyzed and re-analyzed for a long time to come just to figure out how he pulled it off. Brock can bring size, freakish strength and speed to the octagon, but he will never be able to master the technical and mental prowess that Cain displayed on his way to the pinnacle of MMA pugilism. This is martial artistry in the revered tradition of the Randy Coutures and the Fedor Emelianenko’s of the world. And it is seasoned with a down-to-earth humility and consciousness of one’s roots that Brock Lesnar will probably never master in this lifetime.
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Cain Velasquez and postcards from UFC 110 (Cyberaxis)
ESPN Weigh-in review special (Bloody Elbow/ESPN)