With his dominating victory over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira fresh in UFC fans' minds, Cain Velasquez has solidified his spot among the truly elite heavyweight title contenders in the world of MMA.
Cain stopped former heavyweight champ Nogueira at 2:20 of the first round in UFC 110 before 17,431 spectators at Acer Arena on Saturday (Sunday in Australia).
Velasquez landed a right hand, a left hand on top of the head, and followed it with a right hook on the chin that knocked Nogueiera onto his back. Velasquez immediately took charge and pounced upon him and finished him with five punches on the ground.
Referee Herb Dean had to stop it.
“I was totally blown away by him,” UFC President Dana White said of Velasquez after his domination of Nogueira.
Now, instead of questioning his striking or his submission defense, the big question of the day is just how high the ceiling is for the former two-time All-American wrestler at Arizona State University, Cain Velasquez: Who will he face next?
Frank Mir and Shane Carwin will meet for the interim heavyweight title at UFC 111 on March 21 in New Jersey. At the same time, Brock Lesnar puts on the finishing touches to his recovery from an intestinal infection that required surgery. Barring injury, UFC president Dana White said the victor of the Mir/Carwin bout will fight Lesnar in the summer.
If Lesnar has fully recovered by the summer, odds are that he will regain his title, and there have been murmurs among fans that Velasquez might be the only contender with the appropriate skill set to topple the heavier wrestler Lesnar.
Velasquez addressed that question on Sherdog.com, saying that he thought a potential fight with Lesnar would be a “war” and that he would have to be wary of Lesnar’s power.
"For me, I have to fight a smart fight and get with my coaches and figure out a good game plan," Velasquez continued. "Definitely, with those kind of guys—super big, strong—you've really got to worry about the power. I think this could be a war; you've really got to fight to the end. You've gotta really try to tire them out, but that's easier said than done, but that's how I see me going."
At 6’1", 242 pounds going into the Nogueira fight, Velasquez would be at a disadvantage of a 3-4 inches along with about 35-40 pounds going in to fight night with Lesnar should they meet down the line, but he would also most likely enjoy a slight edge in speed and athleticism versus the former NFL hopeful and WWE wrestling star Lesnar.
Lesnar usually has a speed advantage to go along with his size over other heavyweights, but many observers of Velasquez say he moves and throws quick strikes like a light heavyweight.
With a record of 8-0 for Velasquez compared with a 4-1 mark for Lesnar, both guys wouldn’t bring a ton of Octagon experience into the hypothetical fight for the belt.
But both of them have defeated guys with a huge edge in terms of experience, such as Nogueira and former IFL champ Ben Rothwell for Velasquez, and Randy Couture and Heath Herring for Lesnar.
Both guys have proven that a top-notch wrestling game, passable submission defense, and power shots in the striking game can be a surefire path to success in a division where power and speed seem to trump all on most nights.
The wrestling matchup would be interesting to watch as both guys have strong credentials, with Lesnar holding an edge from his days as a champion with the Minnesota Golden Gophers. But wrestling for MMA is a different animal than amateur wrestling in college, as Couture’s recent win over the more established Mark Coleman showed.
In the striking game, Velasquez probably has an advantage from a technical standpoint, but Lesnar might have a little more power, although that is debatable.
Other than that, it might come down to which guy has the better game plan going in should Velasquez-Lesnar ever happen.
But one thing’s for sure: Lesnar shouldn’t underestimate Velasquez’s speed, as it is the one trait that the world’s most established heavyweight MMA star, Fedor Emelianenko, has claimed is his best attribute for dealing with opponents who often outweigh him by a solid margin.
Whether or not Velasquez can follow that blueprint against Lesnar is anyone’s guess, but that’s what makes this potential matchup so exciting for UFC fans everywhere.