17,431 strong packed into the Acer Area on Saturday (Sunday in Australia) to see a marvelous event. Cain Velasquez took the torch from the legendary Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira with a remarkable stoppage in the first round of the main event. With crisp, fluid combinations he was the better fighter for all 140 seconds of the affair.
The Iowa Central Community College and Arizona State University product has arrived.
While many will talk of what's in the cards for him and his new place in the food chain of the heavyweight rankings overall, there is a lesson that promotions need to learn from Cain's development as a fighter.
I've criticized Joe Silva's match-making in the past, but there's no question that he's handled this case exactly the way he should have, at every step of the way. He's helped guide a young prospect with little cage experience, coming off a two-year layoff from pup to MMA prosperity. And that's what a good match-maker is supposed to do—find talent and develop it with an eye to the future.
Organization's have looked to the present and the past far too often for instant name value, however these fighters rarely provide any semblance of consistent performance. Dead-end match-making has become an increasing fad among MMA promotions even among the UFC. Fighters like Kimbo Slice and Phil Baroni are perfect examples of fighters who have little ability to contend moving forward.
That's not to say they don't have their own uses as gatekeepers and journeymen; however, to have consistency you need a ladder—a slow incremental increase of opposition for new fighters in the sport to reach the upper-echelon.
Cain Velasquez, last night, was the payoff to all that hard work. By helping Javier Mendez and co. at American Kickboxing Academy develop a fighter with well-rounded skills and added him to a division in sore need of it. The UFC has gained a fighter who's 27-years-old presumably to compete for the next five to eight years at a top level.
He's been allowed to have four great training camps over a 13 month period, while rounding out his resume with three quality wins in that time period. It's how good match-making should be done. Well done Joe Silva, well done.
Rich Chou, I hope you were taking notes.