All the talking is done, both men made weight and now all that's left is for Brock Lesnar to try and defend his UFC heavyweight title against number one contender Cain Velasquez.
I was admittedly not a Lesnar fan when he came into the UFC and was the most pumped up I’ve ever been watching Frank Mir submit him in their first match. Over the next couple Brock Lesnar fights, I noticed a few things. The man is like a sponge, he learns at a pace that most men don’t, and you could see it clear as day if you watch his fights closely. He proved to me that he’s not just some big wrestler when he submitted Shane Carwin with an arm triangle. Yes, Carwin was spent, but using a submission like that was not something that I expected out of him. Furthermore, the heart and determination that he showed in that fight was second to none. Did he “cower and fall to his back” as Phil Baroni said? Yes, but he gathered his wits, rode out the round and showed that he has a heart as big as his body. I have to admit, I’m slowly becoming a fan.
As an old school guy, I’m really into sportsmanship and respect, Cain Velasquez is my type of fighter, soft spoken, hard working and all about taking care of business. I’ve been hearing for a long time that Velasquez is a stud. Not only did you see it in the cage, any time you would speak to or see an interview with fighters, Cain was always brought up when guys were asked who was a hard worker or deserved extra attention. You always hear about the guys that are the first in the gym and the last to leave, and it’s not a coincidence that those are the guys that are usually fighting for the title. I think tomorrow night, we have two men that are not only talented, but that are hard working guys who strive to be the best at what they do.
Without further delay here are my predictions for the main fights at UFC 121.
Brock Lesnar vs Cain Velasquez
As this fight grows nearer, I gotta say, these odds that are coming out are astonishing. I know Cain is very well rounded, and had endless cardio, but having Lesnar as freakishly large, and agile, and driven as he is, at only a -130ish favorite is a blessing in my eyes. And most people that know me, know I’m not the BIGGEST Lesnar fan… Any Lesnar fan out there should be putting their money where their undoubtedly, and mostly deserved loud mouth is.
Cain Velasquez is however in a great spot. As many people that there seemingly is expecting him to win, it’s really just the “hardcores” and Mexico, because any half witted fan is going to take Lesnar. They know him. They know he’s big. They know he’s fast. And they know he wins. Perhaps we should take their advice on this one. Now, don’t take me as counting Cain out, because his lateral movement and ability to recover from the big shot, a la Chieck Kongo, shows that he is able to survive.
For me it’s playing out one of two ways, and I’m sure most would agree. Allow me:
The fight starts with Lesnar as about an 80% favorite in my eyes, with Cain at about 20%. Brock has his best chance to win this fight if it’s inside the opening frame or two. So, come round 3, if (that’s IF) Cain is still coherent, it should be at a slight advantage headed to the back half of this fight. I’d have it 55% Cain to 45% Brock for advantage wise at the start of the 3rd. It only tails off in Cain’s advantage as the fight wears on. If it does reach a decision, I can see this one being decided by the 3rd round. And the fight ending with the reverse seeing Cain as an 80% dominator the last half of the fight, with Brock looking to hold Cain down to ride out a smart win.
I know Brock’s gas tank isn’t bad, I’m not naïve. But Cain’s has become legendary with everyone who has been around the guy. It’s not a secret that he isn’t going to be seen huffing, and puffing, like Shane was. I just feel if Cain’s able to side to side a few takedowns, the blood will pump, and Lesnar’s shot will slow slightly in the latter rounds. But nonetheless, Cain’s gotta play it absolutely flawlessly to make that possible.
Brock Lesnar wins via (T)KO due to ground and pound/ref stoppage in the 2nd round
Martin Kampmann (17-3) vs Jake Shields (25-4-1)
Here’s a fight that is extremely anticipated amongst most for the simple reason of ‘Is Shields destined to face Georges St. Pierre’? Well, come Saturday evening we’ll be that much closer to knowing our answer. After Henderson left the UFC due to money debates with Dana White, he fell victim to Shields in his debut, as he seemed to gas after landing some huge shots in the 1st round. Its was ALL Jake from there on in. Jake has been on an incredible war path the last few years, and now faces Kampmann in his UFC debut. However, Kampmann can be argued as a man who’s growing quite fine himself. In fact his cardio will certainly be better than Dan’s was. And no one would compare him to that of Robbie Lawler, or Paul Daley. So, Jason Miller is the only one of recent memory I consider a great win. But he didn’t win that fight without being in some tight spots himself.
Martin Kampmann however, DID get caught by Daley. This doesn’t weigh in to my opinion highly though, as Shields won’t be knocking out Kampmann. I am sorry to rain on the parade here, but with losses to only Daley, Marquardt, in the last 6 years, I think I’m taking yet another upset win here. I see Kampmann’s strikes, versatility, and cardio being enough to solve Jake Shields, and piss Dana White right off.
Martin Kampmann via (T)KO due to strikes in the 3rd round.
Tito Ortiz (15-7-1) vs Matt Hamill (10-2)
‘The Huntington Beach Bad Boy’ Tito Ortiz will step back in the cage looking to get back in the win column after a narrow split decision loss to Forrest (in which I saw as Tito’s win 100%) and another decision loss to Lyoto Machida. This time unanimous. People seem to be pointing to Tito’s list of wins in his last few years, saying his opponents that he got the better of weren’t very impressive people to get wins over. Well not to be a jerk, but Matt Hamill hasn’t exactly got a laundry list of bragging rights to his name in terms of quality wins. Although, he did beat Jon Jones….. In any event this is a much closer fight in my eyes than most are making it out to be, as I have seen recently that most seem to have Hamill as a shoe in. I see the striking advantage going the way of Matt Hamill who has 6 knockouts to his 10 win name. But Tito is a game fighter in all areas when he’s on, and I see him holding a distinct advantage should this one see the mat. I feel it will, and I feel that Tito will be able to take a couple of strolls down queer street via Hamill’s ‘Hammer’, but that he will recover each time, and slowly work himself in to top control until the 15 minutes winds down, and we hear some fun sh*t talking about Chuck or Dana, or both, instead of the losing excuses we’re somewhat getting used to.
Tito Ortiz via unanimous decision
Brandon Schaub (6-1) vs Gabriel Gonzaga (11-5)
This fight has almost a zero percent chance of being a slow fight that see’s the distance, and doesn’t deliver, so we can all breathe a sigh of relief that we shall see some heavy swinging, and perhaps even a submission after one unlucky combatant is hit too hard, and is left unable to recover in time to prevent a submission on the ground. The question remains, who will be the unlucky one? Well, this may come as a surprise to most, but I’m sticking with Gonzaga to take this. I really enjoy Schaub’s growth, and at 27 he has a better future if he sticks around, as Gabe’s just too streaky, and can’t kill the top competition. Lucky for him Schaub isn’t top competition, nor is he seasoned enough to get inside Gabe’s head. I don’t see either opponent looking to take this one down early on, and let’s face it, this fights ending early on, so there’s not much to debate. So who gets the better of the exchanges? Well Mr. Knockout of the year 07 does of course, as I expect a high kick to be partially blocked, with the force still rocking Schaub as he is pounced on by the drunken looking behemoth that is Gabe, who then pounds away until Brandon gives up his back allowing Gabe to sink in a rear naked choke.
Gabriel Gonzaga via submission in round 1
Diego Sanchez (21-4) vs Paulo Thiago (13-2)
Diego Sanchez is sticking to his guns, and that means he’s trying his hands at the 170lb division, despite 3 of his 4 losses coming from the Welterweight division. In his last 3 outings, Diego has lost to BJ Penn in an outstanding performance from Penn, and narrowly won a split to Clay Guida. He most recently was completely dominated by John Hathaway, whom by the way, was totally outclassed by Mike Pyle this past weekend. Am I to believe a new Diego will emerge to defeat Paulo Thiago? Well, it’s much harder for me to say then I had thought.
Paulo Thiago undoubtedly has a kick ass day job, and is very serious about his MMA career as well. But I still find it slightly hard to install full belief he will have an effortless time with Diego, and that Diego won’t be coming out to prove naysayer’s wrong from their doubts from the Hathaway experience. Paulo has only seen defeat from Martin Kampmann, and Jon Fitch, so those aren’t two losses to beat yourself up over. But Diego isn’t easy to put away. Only Penn has. Can Paulo? I’m sure he can, but if he isn’t able to, will he outpoint Diego much like Hathaway did? I don’t see the same Diego showing up as the last fight. Now without any more talk, I proudly (and narrowly) present the winner come Saturday night:
Paulo Thiago via Unanimous decision
Anything can happen in a MMA fight. Either man can land a punch that knocks the other out. But I don’t think that happens tomorrow night. What do you guys think?
Kevin Wright writes for Monday Morning Black Belt.
October 23, 2010