UFC 121 Results: Brock Lesnar Human, Cain Velasquez Not, and 21 Lessons Learned
Brock Lesnar might've had a defeat on his record before Cain Velasquez dropped him in the first round of their championship bout at UFC 121, but he'd never really been beaten.
Frank Mir walked away with a win when he caught the inexperienced behemoth with a knee bar, but Mir certainly took the rougher physical beating in the recently dethroned champ's Ultimate Fighting Championship debut. After that, the only individual to touch Brock up was Shane Carwin, but we all know how that ended—in a gurgle and tap by the Denver native.
Now, however, Lesnar has tasted a serious thrashing (and his own blood) at the hands of another physical specimen with much more polish on his mixed martial artistry.
Cain Velasquez didn't get lucky, he didn't capitalize on inexperience, and he didn't use some gimmickry to triumph.
The newly crowned heavyweight king flat-out destroyed Brock Lesnar—no two ways about it. He met the charging bull head on, held his ground, defended well, and imposed his will once his other-worldly endurance opened up a sizable advantage after only three minutes.
But the 265-pounders weren't the only ones who answered questions and asked others on the evening. Here are 21 lessons learned in the wake of another satisfying card:
No. 21—The Ultimate Fighter Had a Good Night Despite Being on Wednesday
The big boy in the picture is Jon Madsen, who kicked UFC 121 off with a first-round knockout of Gilbert Yvel. Madsen is an alumnus of TUF Season 10 and his victory set a trend for the evening.
Chris Camozzi, an alumnus of TUF Season 11, won his bout with Dong Yi Yang.
Tom Lawlor, an alumnus of TUF Season 8, took out Patrick Cote, himself an alumnus of TUF Season 4, by unanimous decision.
Court McGee, the winner of the TUF Season 11 that featured Camozzi, continued his winning ways against Ryan Jensen.
Brendan Schaub, the runner-up during TUF Season 10, dominated Gabriel Gonzaga en route to a unanimous decision.
Matt Hamill, an alumnus of TUF Season 3, and Diego Sanchez, the winner of the original TUF, both took their scraps by unanimous decision as well.
In fact, the only TUF alumnus to lose to a non-TUF product was Martin Kampmann, who dropped a UD to Jake Shields.
All in all, not too shabby for the reality show.
No. 20—Josh Koscheck's Turn on The Ultimate Fighter Isn't Going Well
Until Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez entered the arena, the loudest response from the Anaheim crowd was reserved for Josh Koscheck.
And they weren't cheering.
One of the current coaches on Season 12 of The Ultimate Fighter, Kos has spent his camera time thus far working himself deeper into the bowels of American loathing.
Just how far showed on Saturday night when the Southern Californian crowd—always known for its passion and malice—booed Blondie lustily and temporarily fired up a "GSP" chant.
You know you're acting like a serious d-bag when you get a SoCal crowed whipped into a Canadian-backing frenzy.
No. 19—Something's Still Not Right with Patrick Cote
The Predator looked like a pussycat on Saturday night against Tom Lawlor.
Even giving Filthy his fair share of credit, the drastic change in Cote can't be completely explained simply by looking at his opponent. This is a guy who looked extremely dangerous as he dominated Kendall Grove, Drew McFedries, and then outlasted Ricardo Almeida via split decision.
He was even off to a stunningly positive start against UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva before the knee injury derailed his streak.
In his two bouts since returning, he's been submitted by Alan Belcher—not exactly a renowned grappler—and outpointed by Lawlor.
Needless to say, he hasn't looked like the same athlete in those two losses. Maybe it's a psychological hurdle he needs to clear or maybe it's still a physical snag, but Cote needs to figure it out and quickly.
No. 18—We Need More Information Regarding Matt Hamill
Don't get me wrong—the Hammer put on an impressive display and never really gave Tito Ortiz much of a purchase for points or abuse.
But that might be more of a statement about how far over the hill the Huntington Beach Bad Boy has already traveled. Ortiz is clearly not the ball of ferocious energy that once held sway over the light heavyweight division.
The only question is how faint the shadow of that warrior is.
So, outside of his win via disqualification over Jon Jones, it's tough to know what exactly the UFC has in its likable and inspirational poster boy.
The lovable deaf giant boasts wins over such immortals as Jesse Forbes, Seth Petruzelli, Rex Holman, Tim Boetsch, Reese Andy, Mark Munoz (a good one), Keith Jardine (another good one), and Ortiz.
That's a whole bunch of crickets chirping. I say it's time to throw Hamill into blue water and see if he can swim.
No. 17—When in Doubt, Kick, Kick, Kick
For a few moments in his clash with Brendan Schaub, Gabriel Gonzaga looked to be onto something as he chopped away at the Hybrid's lead leg. Soon, Schaub was favoring the leg noticeably, but not badly.
And then, Napao simply stopped attacking the leg.
Instead, he opted for more typical strikes to the head and body of his opponent. Of course, he promptly lost the fight.
Whether the outcome would've been different is beside the point—kicks of all types seem to be especially effective, yet they are underutilized by virtually every mixed martial artist plying the trade. Even worse, it's not unusual for a competitor to have success with them and then abandon the tactic for no reason.
B.J. Penn did it in his second bout with Frankie Edgar and you don't have to look too hard for other examples.
It makes no sense.
If I'm a coach and I'm not overly concerned with my guy (or gal) getting taken down, I'm emphasizing kicks.
No. 16—The UFC Heavyweight Division Is Getting Deeper
Brock Lesnar is no longer champion, which means he's now a contender.
And that adds yet another extraordinarily gifted challenger to the ranks of the UFC's heavyweight division. Granted, Brock merely assumes the rung vacated by Cain Velasquez, but those two beasts weren't the only relevant 265-pounders in the cage on Saturday.
Brendan Schaub announced his arrival on the contenders' ladder by dismantling Gabriel Gonzaga and Jon Madsen even made a little noise with his first-round stoppage of Gilbert Yvel.
Regardless of your opinion about those two lesser players in the heavyweight drama, the organization has a stable full of the biggest thoroughbreds raring to go—stallions like Lesnar, No. 1 contender Junior dos Santos, Shane Carwin, Roy Nelson, Matt Mitrione, Frank Mir, Stefan Struve, and others.
With more names on the horizon, things are about to get very interesting now that there's movement at the top.
No. 15—My Jinx Isn't as Strong as I Thought
Ordinarily, an endorsement from me is a death sentence.
During UFC 120, I picked Yoshihiro Akiyama, Dan Hardy, John Hathaway, and Cheick Kongo to win their respective bouts. Not a single one of the gladiators made me look smart—in fact, only Kongo managed to avoid losing.
This time around, I had a slightly better run at it.
I correctly picked Jake Shields and Matt Hamill to win, but missed badly with Paulo Thiago and Brock Lesnar. Oh well, when you have a track record like mine, you embrace 50 percent with both arms and you don't let go.
No. 14—Cain Velasquez Is the First Mexican Heavyweight Champion
In the run-up to the title bout, the UFC hype machine was constantly harping on the "first Mexican heavyweight champion" angle as if a heavyweight MMA champ would somehow serve as a sufficient analogy to a heavyweight boxing champion.
I don't see how the story is really tenable considering the animosity between the two fan bases and sports, in general. I don't see a lot of Mexican boxing aficionados taking jubilantly to the streets just because there's a Mexican atop the UFC heavyweight division, but maybe I'm wrong.
Regardless, Cain Velasquez did the trick. Now we'll see how big of a deal it sincerely is.
No. 13—Brock Lesnar Won't Be Enjoying Any Celebratory Beers or Burritos
During the hundreds of times I watched the pre-fight hype reels while waiting for the Pay-Per-View card to start, one line kept sticking in my craw—Brock Lesnar taunted Cain Velasquez with promises to enjoy a Corona and burrito in tribute to Velasquez' "Hispanic" heritage.
It didn't stick because Mexico is not, strictly speaking, part of Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic)—I'm not entirely consumed by political correctness and such tripe.
It stuck because it seemed out of keeping with Lesnar's tamer and humbler new persona.
Well, in the wake of his defeat, it now protrudes for a different reason.
No. 12—Arianny Celeste Is on the Cover of the Upcoming Playboy
I won't insult your intelligence or mine by pretending anything I write here will even be noticed.
Just enjoy the visual for an appropriate amount of time and move on.
No. 11—Daniel Roberts Is Making Waves at Welterweight
Ninja Roberts wasted little time earning his fight bonus at UFC 121.
It took the scrappy 170-pounder all of 73 seconds to sink in the anaconda choke that ended Mike Guymon's time in the Octagon on Saturday. While the win in isolation shouldn't get many pulses racing, consider it's Roberts' second consecutive win after a split decision over Forrest Petz.
Before that, he got KO'd by John "Doomsday" Howard after dominating much of the early going.
Obviously, close doesn't count in MMA, but not all losses are created equally, either.
And that loss against a dangerous adversary combined with his recent successes make Ninja an interesting name to watch.
No. 10—Gilbert Yvel Is in Trouble
The Hurricane did take his bout with Jon Madsen on short notice, but you still have to wonder where the Dutch striker goes from here.
That makes three losses in a row to Junior dos Santos (no shame there), Ben Rothwell (hmm...), and Madsen (the worst of the trio, even on short rest). In fact, the one-time PRIDE force has yet to tally a win in the rugged UFC heavyweight division.
Although it's highly unlikely the organization would hand him his pink slip after saving their bacon, one more loss could spell the end for Yvel's stay in the highest echelons of MMA.
No. 9—Court McGee's Resilient Inside and Outside the Octagon
Fans of the UFC already knew Court McGee was a tough son of a gun—anyone who beats drug addiction and returns to make a living off his physical prowess fits that description to a tee.
However, that's potentially a different kind of toughness than is required to be a successful fighter, so the jury was still out as to whether it would translate. Consider the jury's mind made up after the Crusher peeled himself off the canvas early in his confrontation with Ryan Jensen.
Eventually, McGee was able to reassert himself and then leave his adversary sucking wind while trying to figure out how it all went south so quickly.
Court still has miles to go if he wants to be a force at middleweight, but you shouldn't doubt his fortitude to get the job done.
No. 8—Gabriel Gonzaga's Destruction of Cro Cop Was a Huge Step Backward
That might sound odd since the infamous head kick that felled Mirko Filipovic is widely considered to be Gonzaga's crowning achievement, but you heard Joe Rogan and Mike Goldberg discussing something that has a lot of merit.
Since that striking victory, Napao has seemed intent on replicating it despite his bona fides as a grappler. Considering the relative lack of commensurate talents in the discipline at 265 pounds, the Brazilian would probably be better served rolling than standing.
Yet he keeps trying to prove his mettle on the feet.
And he's now lost five of eight since the Cro Cop bomb, with the UD loss to Schaub the only one of the five defeats that wasn't a knockout stoppage.
No. 7—Diego Sanchez Wins, the Nightmare Is Back at 170 Pounds
Diego Sanchez has always been an intriguing fighter.
He emerged from the first season of The Ultimate Fighter as the middleweight victor, then immediately dropped down to welterweight where he experienced some success with wins over Nick Diaz, Karo Parisyan, and Joe Riggs (amongst others).
However, the Nightmare ran into problems against Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch, so he shaved another 15 pounds off his frame and moved down to lightweight. Soon enough, he was at the head of the class, but a massacre at the hands of then-champ B.J. Penn inspired the latest move back to 170 pounds.
After an uneven bout with John Hathaway at the new weight, Sanchez looked dynamite against Paulo Thiago.
Another couple performances like that and Sanchez will be a player again.
No. 6—Brendan Schaub Is on the Make
The Hybrid has flown a bit under the radar since Roy Nelson floored him during the finale of TUF Season 10.
Since that knockout loss, however, Schaub has rattled off three straight impressive performances, which includes his unanimous decision over Gabriel Gonzaga.
This latest notch on his belt is the most profound to date because Napao has stepped into the Octagon with some of the best heavyweights the UFC has to offer.
Brendan's probably not ready for those deepest of waters, but he's getting close. The former NFL player is clearly a tremendous athlete and—at 27 years old—he should be young enough to still be improving physically in addition to the boost in technique that comes with experience.
No. 5—Tito Ortiz Is an Effective Promotional Tool and Little Else Now
Give the Huntington Beach Bad Boy his just deserts—there was a time when Tito Ortiz was counted among the most fearsome light heavyweights on the planet.
But those days are LOOOONG gone.
His most recent loss—a no-doubter at the hands of Matt Hamill—might be the official death knell on the controversial fighter's storied career.
Sure, the UFC might keep him around as a ploy to help sell fights and there's always the unfinished business with Chuck Liddell remaining on the table, but that's about all the value still left in the Ortiz vault.
Sad but true.
No. 4—Jake Shields' Formula Works in the UFC, Too
After his festivities with Jake Shields, Martin Kampmann could be overheard regretting that the victor didn't hurt him at all. In fairness to the Hitman, he was right—he hardly looked like an individual who'd just lost a 15-minute fight.
In fairness to Shields, he wasn't exactly thrashed, himself (though he was dead tired).
That's really the point—the former Strikeforce middleweight champ built his current current streak of 15 straight wins on the back of just that modus operandi.
He stays suffocatingly close to his adversaries, keeps them off-balance enough with some half-hearted striking, and then imposes his will by dragging the action to the ground.
And it works.
In the UFC, just like it did in Strikeforce and before that.
No. 3—Endurance Might Be the Name of the Future Game
There was an obvious common theme running through the visuals from Saturday night—it was the image of a fighter sucking wind badly and in serious trouble.
It reared its head as Patrick Cote lost to Tom Lawlor, again as Court McGee pulled away from Ryan Jensen, again as Brendan Schaub walked through Gabriel Gonzaga, again as Diego Sanchez ground Paulo Thiago into dust, again as Jake Shields almost gave away his battle with Martin Kampmann, and again as Cain Velasquez ripped the heavyweight belt from Brock Lesnar's waist.
Inferior conditioning blatantly cost Thiago a bout he owned after the first round and ditto for Jensen. Lesnar wasn't quite winning his round before he appeared to gas, but the comparably empty gas tank sure didn't do him any favors.
As the differences in technique narrow at the elite level of MMA, expect conditioning to separate the men from the boys. If it doesn't already do so.
No. 2—Brock Lesnar Is Human
Yeah, yeah, this doesn't technically count since we already knew that every fighter is human, despite what appearances may imply.
But, admit it, there's a small part of you that thought this monstrosity might never lose another scrap for the foreseeable future.
He'd avenged his one prior defeat—which could reasonably be blamed on his rawness at the time—and took the best shot from one of the most devastating strikers in the UFC, but kept coming.
In the wake of all that and considering his physical tool box, I was beginning to believe in Lesnar's near-invincibility.
Once again, though, we learned that all the speed and strength in the world won't atone for inferior technique and conditioning.
No. 1—Cain Velasquez Is Your New UFC Heavyweight Champion
You can't really consider it a monumental upset because Brock Lesnar still only has seven professional MMA fights to his credit, but—considering the hype and attention generated by the former professional wrestler—it sure feels that way.
Regardless, Cain Velasquez is the undisputed UFC Heavyweight Champion.
And that's all that really matters.