UFC 110 in Australia will be remembered as a low-key event that nevertheless sent back huge postcards about Cain Velasquez and the future of the UFC heavyweight division. Set in the land down under, this is an even that could have as well been billed as “Return of the Vets: Old Guns versus Young ‘Uns.” Two of them (Wanderlei Silva and Mirko Cro Cop) won and the last two (Antonio Nogueira and Keith Jardine) lost for an even split with the young ‘uns.
People couldn’t help but cheer for Wanderlei Silva, the grand-daddy of old Pride championships who has given MMA his all, including his face and nose cartilage. His win over Michael Bisping was a like a shot in the arm for the MMA hard-core. You had to be heartless to not cheer for this take-no-prisoners warrior, especially against a colicky prick like Michael Bisping. Wanderlei’s almost knock-out flurry at the end of the last round was one of the high points of the night.
Postcard #1: But the most notable postcard was the emergence of Cain Velasquez as a certifiably serious challenger to the heavyweight throne of the UFC. The kid earned his stripes last night and we duly revise our assessment of him from not being ready for primetime to someone who has as a good chance as any, absent the buzz-saw named Brock Lesnar, of capturing the heavyweight title. What made us change our assessment, beyond the knockout of Antonio Nogueira at 2:20 of the first round, was his willingness to stand and trade serious punches. The stand-up game was impressive from the crisp accurate punches (accuracy percentage 64% – the second best in the UFC) to the crisp, agile kicks with explosive rotation. No, this was not a ground and pound scraper, but a fully-formed fighter materializing before our very eyes. Nuff respect. Nuff respect.
Does the UFC need a heavyweight champion like Cain Velasquez? As celebrated MILF and former vice-presidential candidate, Sarah Palin would say, “You betcha!” Reason? There is nothing negative about what this young man represents, from his overt ethnic pride, to his focus, work-ethic and low-key persona which comes across as humility. The demographic he stands to bring into UFC fandom, is one of the fastest if not the fastest-growing demographic in the United States. And the group has none of that highfalutin’ prejudice against the pugilistic of the arts. Are you reading this Mr. Dana White sir?
Cain’s win last night may have put him slightly ahead of Shane Carwin by virtue of its improved stand-up game backed by a proven ground-and-pound game. The only thing Cain has to fear is Shane’s power. Frank Mir has to pick a number behind Shane and Cain at this point. Beating Cheick Kongo means zip. Zero. Nada.
Drive and focus wise, Velasquez is on a par with Lesnar with a slight edge going to Velasquez because of Lesnar’s overweening confidence. Be that as it may, beating a healthy Lesnar – if at all, won’t be a walk in the park. The limiting factors for Velasquez would be size and strength. There is a very good reason Frank Mir has bulked up in preparation for a possible rematch with The Brock. Wiry grapplers just don’t cut it with Brock. He is just “too much man” for the average heavyweight stiff. Ask Randy Couture if ya doubt our contention. So coming in at a willowy 243lbs versus 265 plus pounds won’t be enough for Velasquez. Either he bulks up a la Frank Mir with corresponding strength gains or Lesnar comes down to Velasquez’s actual weight for a really fair match. But you know that won’t happen. Regulations don’t call for it; end of story.
Cyberaxis Prediction: So watch Cain Velasquez put on the pounds, slowly but surely. There are no two ways about this if he wants to be counted as a credible contender against Brock Lesnar. Remember you heard it here first.
Postcard #2: UFC has gone international with no sign of the interest or attendance numbers waning. Reports IFight365 from its website:
UFC President Dana White delivered the good news with the event drawing 17,831 people for a gate that is estimated at $2.5 million. That number moves the UFC 110 event ahead of the UFC 105 event held in Manchester, England last November that drew 16,693 fans. In addition to breaking the UFC’s record, White added that the event set an Acer Arena record for the highest-grossing sporting event in the arena’s history, as well as selling the most merchandise ever for any event, beating an Iron Maiden concert held at the venue. (IFight365 Website)
Rumblings of making MMA an Olympic are already being made even though Dana White is studiedly feigning disinterest or nonchalance.
Postcard #3: It is tough to watch the old-timers being methodically pulverized by the young ‘uns as they grab for that last bit of glory or security – financial or otherwise. At the young age of 33 – young by any other standard that is – Wanderlei is already a grand-daddy of the sport. Now think of retiring at 33 and do the math. That is a good 40 years that one has to figure out how what to do with one’s time, assuming that one doesn’t have anything to worry about money. The message (among other things)? Fighters and the UFC have to figure out how secure prime fighters’ futures one way or the other. MMA fighting, like football and other sports, offers a woefully short career. An emerging body like UFC has to figure out how to do things right by its fighters. The help that Brock Lesnar needed during his traumatic illness, is just the tip of the iceberg.
Poscard #4: When you hold other things constant, youth is an ascendant aspect in this sport. Nothing new here. The dominating performances by Cain Velasquez vs Antonio Nogueira and Ryan Bader vs Keith Jardine said it all. Watch for the changing of the guard at your nearest UFC event. The corn-fed young ‘uns are coming up bigger, stronger and physically more precocious than preceding generation; as if you didn’t already know that. If not, visit your local gym.
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