Cain Velasquez: Is the UFC Champion the Greatest Heavyweight Ever?

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Cain Velasquez: Is the UFC Champion the Greatest Heavyweight Ever?
Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Spor

Cain Velasquez performed perfectly at UFC 166 against Junior dos Santos. 

The champion out-struck, out-wrestled and out-willed his foe, notching an career-defining fifth-round stoppage. 

After this display of dominance, an important question looms: Is Cain Velasquez the greatest heavyweight ever? 

As the credits rolled after the night's main event, UFC commentators Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan played us off with some chit-chat, asserting that Velasquez is, in fact, the greatest heavyweight of all time. 

Both men wholeheartedly agreed with this statement as they gushed over the excellence they had witnessed from the heavyweight juggernaut just moments earlier. 

I could only shake my head in disappointment. 

How quickly we forget the legends of the past. 

What Velasquez did to dos Santos at UFC 166 is mind-blowing, and it will not soon be forgotten, but let us utilize some grounded perspective here. 

Impressive as it was, this is just one victory for the American Kickboxing Academy standout. It marks his second consecutive title defense and his fourth overall victory in championship fights. 

For comparison, let's look at Fedor Emelianenko, who won the Pride heavyweight title in March 2003. 

He did not lose for over seven years beyond that victory, a span which encompassed 19 fights against a roster of the most dangerous heavyweights of the day. 

If you want to extend this streak even further, you can go back to April 2001, when he began what would become a 28-fight undefeated streak with a win over Mihail Apostolov

Twenty-one of those victories came via knockout or submissionEmelianenko was not one to cruise. 

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Velasquez, on the other hand, has fought professionally 14 times total, and he lost one of those bouts. 

While Emelianenko's level of competition does not quite compare to Velasquez's, "The Last Emperor" was consistently facing the top fighters of his era, including legends of the sport like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, Mark Hunt and Mark Coleman. 

You cannot fault the man for competing in an era of mixed martial arts that was not as deep or as competitive as it is today. 

In relation to his peers, Emelianenko was more dominant for a longer period of time than Velasquez has been thus far during his UFC run. To compare the two is ludicrous and irresponsible. 

Velasquez cannot match Emelianenko's greatness—not yet, at least. 

Fedor's run, which lasted almost a full decade, was absolutely sensational. In all likelihood, it will not be matched in terms of sheer numbers and length at any point in MMA history. 

The quality of opposition does play into this argument, but it does not completely negate what Emelianenko did. Does Velasquez need to win 28 straight and rule his division for 10 years? 

Of course not. 

He does, however, need to accumulate more than two title defenses. He needs to be "the man" for more than one year. 

The manner in which Velasquez dismantled Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva and Junior dos Santos (twice) is amazing, but it's nothing Emelianenko has not already done many more times to many more people in many more ways. 

I want to pretend that Velasquez is the greatest heavyweight of all time, because I want to think that I am witnessing history in the making. 

But I'm not. 

That chapter was written years ago, and it was penned by a Russian who could not lose.  

 

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