UFC 121 Official Preview: Brock Lesnar, Jake Shields, Tito Ortiz and More
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Brock Lesnar will defend the Heavyweight title at UFC 121 against Cain Velasquez. You could have a bunch of indy guys fill the rest of the card and it would still sell based on the main event.
This is not the case here.
Many of the fights have name value or a history of bringing a crowd to its feet. Here is a run down of the main card.
Heavyweight: Brendan Schaub (6-1) vs. Gabriel Gonzaga (11-5)
Since losing to Roy Nelson during "The Ultimate Fighter" finale, Schaub has looked next to amazing. Two knockouts, both in the first round, with a combined time of under two minutes. Now is the time to prove he is ready to crack the top 10 as he faces a former No. 1 contender.
Gonzaga hasn't looked that good in recent times, going 3-4 since his now, infamous leg kick KO of Mirko Cro Cop, and also is coming off a first-round KO loss to Junior Dos Santos in March.
Gonzaga needs to get a win here or will be (in my opinion) known as the gate keeper to the division for the near future.
Style-wise, this fight may not reach the ground as both have been known for their knockout power and not so much for their ground game. Gonzaga may try to utilize it, but for the most part, this fight has the makings of a slug fest.
In a division that is overloaded with talent, the winner of this fight may not crack the top 10 unless the result is something spectacular, but expect the winner to fight a guy like Ben Rothwell, Mirko Cro Cop or even Mir or Nogueira if injuries come into play.
Light-heavyweight: Tito Ortiz (15-7-1) vs. Matt Hamill (9-2)
Let's rewind the clock here to 2006. Ortiz and Shamrock are at each others throats for the duration of season three of TUF and is one of the more hyped rivalries in MMA.
Hamill was touted as a one-dimensional fighter with one professional fight under his belt.
Ortiz was Hamill's coach for TUF and spent most of the season helping him become more than just a wrestler, literally taking him under his wing to give him a better shot at success down the road.
Since leaving the TUF house, Hamill has become a fixture in the MMA world and not just for the fact that he is legally deaf, but for his record and his heart inside the Octagon.
His only two losses in his MMA career were to Michael Bisping back at UFC 75 (a fight I, as well as many others think, Hamill won) and to Rich Franklin at UFC 88, which saw him wound the former 185-lb kingpin early, but for the most part, was dominated by great pacing and finished with a brutal kick to the body in the third round.
Hamill is now on a four fight win streak that has seen him take an illegal elbow from Jon Jones and a majority win over Keith Jardine (that loss resulted in the UFC release of "The Dean of Mean") and is now, in a lack of a better term, teacher vs. student match up.
Ortiz hasn't been so hot since TUF 3. After lighting up Ken Shamrock twice in a row, Ortiz has not won a fight, sporting three losses to former champions Chuck Liddell, Lyoto Machida and Forrest Griffin as well as a draw to another former champ in Rashad Evans.
Ortiz was supposed to fight Liddell for a third time after coaching TUF 11, however, Ortiz underwent neck fusion surgery and withdrew—something that was met on the show with great displeasure on the part of Liddell.
An early ground game is almost academic here with both fighters known for excellent ground-and-pound skill and great wrestling.
A win for Hamill could be a pre-cursor for a rematch with Rich Franklin or Rogerio Nogueira. Win or lose for Ortiz, expect to see him fight Chuck Liddell next.
Welterweight: Diego Sanchez (21-4) vs. Paulo Thiago (13-2)
Sanchez has always been an exciting fighter, stamina, conditioning and a big fight feel, his last two wins received "Fight of the Night" (the Clay Guida fight got named 2009 "Fight of the Year") accolades.
Since then, Sanchez made an unsuccessful return to the Welterweight division in May, losing a decision to John Hathaway and before that was his loss to BJ Penn.
Thiago is quite similar to Sanchez in the context of being an exciting fighter facing adversity.
Thiago lost his last fight to Martin Kampmann in June via decision (his other loss was to Jon Fitch at UFC 100 via decision).
In between those losses came two wins to a then-UFC rookie Jacob Volkmann at UFC 106 and a D'Arce choke out of Mike Swick (received "Submission of the Night") three months later at UFC 109.
Another ground-based match could be in store here, with Thiago's submission style of fighting, as well as Sanchez's return to Greg Jackson's camp.
A decisive win for either guy would be huge for their confidence.
Sanchez could land a top 10 spot and fight Martin Kampmann or Mike Swick while a win for Thiago could get him to face the loser of the other Welterweight fight on the main card.
Speaking of which...
Welterweight: Jake Shields (25-4-1) vs. Martin Kampmann (17-3)
Shields is a beast. He hasn't lost since 2004, sporting a 14-fight win streak (yes, that's longer than Anderson Silva's active streak of 13-straight) which includes the likes of Dan Henderson, Paul Daley, Mike Pyle and Yushin Okami, just to name a few. Shields will be making his UFC debut in this bout.
Kampmann has looked quite impressive as of late. He is on a two-fight win streak that includes dominating Paulo Thiago at UFC 115 and choking out Jacob Volkmann at UFC 108.
Look for Shields to try and control the pace early and score some take downs. We could see some submission attempts, but both are quite knowledgeable in the ground game and could see a grind out fight that could very well go into the judges hands.
Shields, with a win, is in line to face the winner of GSP/Koscheck, pending future developments involving the title match promise made to Jon Fitch back at UFC 117 following his win over Thiago Alves. You may even see a contenders bout involving Fitch and Shields.
A win for Kampmann, as listed above, could give him a rematch with Diego Sanchez or a fight with Jon Fitch.
Heavyweight Title: Brock Lesnar (5-1) vs. Cain Velasquez (8-0)
Here we are, the long-awaited fight between Lesnar and Velasquez. This is the classic striker vs. wrestler match that could be talked about for ages to come. Velasquez is already under the pressure to win, considering he is undefeated, but a title fight to boot, he has his work cut out for him.
Velasquez has been an excellent striker, knocking out all but Cheick Kongo in his MMA career.
Lesnar is no slouch in the striking department either. His improved boxing has been evident through the brief career. He knocked-out Randy Couture to capture the belt and the rematch with Frank Mir that left Mir with bruises and a puffy eye that left a lasting image in my mind to this day.
With both fighters on career-defining streaks, something has to give here.
Lesnar's wrestling will no doubt be a factor on whether or not he keeps his belt, though, don't count him out in a striker's battle with his oversized fists of fury.
A stacked card is quite evident here and with Court McGee's post TUF 11 victory fight and Patrick Cote being aired on Spike.
Get set for it, this Saturday, check your local bars and restaurants to see if UFC will be aired and if all else, just order it on PPV, this is an event that is worth the money.
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