At UFC 121, current heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar will face the undefeated contender Cain Velasquez in what will prove to be an interesting match-up. Interesting in the sense that, once again, Lesnar will be put against an undefeated striker, though contra Shane Carwin, Velasquez has proven stamina and wrestling capability.
There are many different angles to look at in trying to determine an accurate prediction, but other than the straight forward "striker versus wrestler" scenario that many are resorting to, I wanted to look at the nitty gritty and see what might actually make the biggest distinction between the two fighters.
After considering all the aspects of fight history, style, statistics and empirical data, I've decided that Lesnar will likely defeat Velasquez. Here's why:
We Know Lesnar Can Make a Comeback When Losing a Fight; Not So with Velasquez
Does Velasquez have a chin? Nobody knows. This isn't to say that he doesn't have one, just that it's untested.
The reason why Lesnar holds the advantage in this situation is one, his chin has been tested, two, it's rock solid, three, he withstood punches from the most powerful striker in the UFC only to bring the fight back to the feet, finish the round and win against an undefeated fighter from whom nobody before had even escaped the first round.
Lesnar has the heart and chin of nobody else to date who has faced Carwin. Velasquez has a lot to prove if he's to match Lesnar's stamina and ability to take punishment while making a comeback and winning.
Lesnar's Degree of Power, Speed and Stamina is Beyond Velasquez's
Velasquez has speed, sure. He even has powerful strikes, undoubtedly.
But is he naturally 265 lbs of pure muscle? No. Can he move on the ground at Lesnar's pace? Yes, but he lacks the same power and smothering frame that Lesnar owns.
And then there's cardio. Many people have claimed that Velasquez has the best cardio of anyone in the heavyweight division. Although he has not left reason for doubt by any means, the real question is how is his conditioning in comparison to Lesnar's?
Has Lesnar ever slowed the pace or become winded? No. Has anyone overpowered Lesnar on the ground? No. In fact, two years ago Lesnar went the same amount of distance against Heath Herring that Velasquez went against Cheick Kongo.
For so many people to make such a big claim about Velasquez's cardio, is a bit premature.
For one, Velasquez has only gone the distance in one of his fights, and most of his other fights have ended in round 1. That's only 37 percent of his fights. In comparison, Lesnar has gone past round 1 in 66 percent of his fights.
To the argument, "Lesnar hasn't had as many fights," the bottom line is this: Lesnar has fought in four fights that have gone past round 1. Velasquez? Only three fights.
That's not to say that Velasquez should have less credit as a fighter because his fights haven't gone past round 1; in fact, it's quite noteworthy. However, to make claims that his cardio is somehow the best in the heavyweight division is entirely premature and not based on empiricism as, for all we know, his cardio is at best as good as Lesnar's, and vice versa.
To summarize this section, there has been absolutely no reason to doubt Lesnar's cardiovascular conditioning, yet everybody assumes Velasquez's conditioning is superior to all others. Why?
Lesnar's Wrestling Ability Overshadows Velasquez's
Velasquez is a good wrestler, yes. Velasquez was an NCAA Division I heavyweight athlete, yes.
The difference between he and Lesnar? Lesnar is a NCAA Division I heavyweight champion.
Lesnar: Big Ten Conference Champion (and ranked #1 heavyweight), NCAA Division I champion and runner-up, North Dakota State University Bison tournament heavyweight champion, NJCAA champion and All-American.
Add this superior experience along with 40 lbs of muscle and a much larger frame, and Velasquez will have his hands full. Although in MMA this could lead to a difference of splitting hairs, it will likely be a bigger issue for Velasquez due to Lesnar's 40lbs advantage.
Velasquez has always used his wrestling to offset his opponents, but one can readily assume that he will not be able to do this with Lesnar, or at least certainly nowhere as easily as he ever has with any fighter before Lesnar.
All-in-all, the real weakness of Velasquez is having gone untested. Lesnar will undoubtedly test Velasquez's wrestling like no other in the Octagon, and that's something we haven't seen anybody do with Velasquez.
It's a similar scenario to Carwin, really. Prior to facing Lesnar, Carwin had showed only slight weakness, and that was against Gabriel Gonzaga. Carwin was rocked, but he came back to KO Gonzaga. Myself included, I thought Lesnar wouldn't be able to withstand Carwin's power.
I was wrong, and so were a lot of other people. What worked against Carwin was something nobody could have foreseen since he, like Velasquez, was undefeated before facing Lesnar.
Nobody questioned what would happen if Carwin was pushed past his one round record, what would happen if Lesnar took all the punishment Carwin could deliver, how Carwin would perform on the ground, et cetera.
What are the unknowns with Velasquez?
We don't know how solid his chin is. We don't know how well he can handle a bigger opponent with superior wrestling credentials. We don't know if he can make a comeback as he's never even lost a round in his whole career.
We don't know if Velasquez can maintain his energy level after being put in a compromising situation for at least an entire round, but we certainly know that Lesnar can.
Prediction: Lesnar by round 3 knockout.