The UFC 121 event is officially a wrap after an exciting night of action from the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
It was a fight card with a ton of hype coming in from the mainstream sports community, and it did not disappoint.
The following is an analytical breakdown of what unfolded in the main card bouts.
Check it out.
Brock Lesnar vs. Cain Velasquez
Prediction: Cain Velasquez via TKO
Result: Cain Velasquez def. Brock Lesnar TKO (punches), Round 1, 4:12
* It was a technical destruction by Velasquez, who was widely recognized as the superior technical fighter coming into the fight.
* The combination of power, speed and accuracy with his boxing, coupled with his effective defensive grappling, converged to earn Velasquez the heavyweight title belt as he remain undefeated.
* The wrestling department proved to be a stalemate, despite that fact that most people gave Lesnar the advantage coming in (I was not one of them). Lesnar did win an NCAA championship and Velasquez did not; however, the quality of competition Velasquez faced during his tenure was superior.
* Velasquez fought in an era of heavyweights that featured the likes of Cole Konrad, Steve Mocco, Greg Wagner, etc...Lesnar was able to take Velasquez down on more than one occasion, but Velasquez was able to use the butterfly guard and get back to his feet with relative ease. He even took Lesnar down briefly himself.
* Essentially the only advantage Lesnar had coming into this fight was his size.
* This bout should finally confirm that the ideal weight for a heavyweight is around 240 pounds. This is the perfect concoction of power and speed.
* There is no such thing as a 265-pound man with cardio in MMA. Too much body mass needs too much oxygen. Although the fight did not even last a round, Lesnar was already showing signs of fitness problems.
* I expect Velasquez to incorporate a more grappling-based game plan in his first title defense against No.1 contender Junior Dos Santos when they do battle in 2011. Dos Santos is a very competent offensive boxer with knockout power in both hands. A clear path to victory would be for Velasquez to use his striking to close distance and shoot for a single or double leg take-down.
* Holding Dos Santos down while trying to improve position and inflict damage will also be a challenge. It will be a stiff test for Velasquez, but one I fully expect him to pass.
* It is officially “Caintober.”
Jake Shields vs. Martin Kampmann
Prediction: Martin Kampmann via unanimous decision
Result: Jake Shields def. Martin Kampmann via split decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)
* It was good to see Shields in the UFC finally. He has been an elite welterweight for some time now, and it is where he belongs.
* It was a gritty, tough victory for Shields against one of the very best 170-pound fighters in the world who has a skill set that was viewed as a perfect counter to the American Jiu-Jitsu ace.
* I am anxious to see tape on this fight as it was extremely close and difficult to score. A decision either way was not going to be a "robbery."
* It was rumored that Shields had a dreadful weight cut to reach the 170-pound limit on Friday for the weigh-ins. This may have played a role in the second half of the fight when he was visibly exhausted.
* Shields keeps winning. It is never pretty, but he always finds a way to get the job done. He has now won 15 fights in a row over the likes of Yushin Okami, Carlos Condit, Paul Daley, Robbie Lawler, Dan Henderson and now Kampmann. His last loss was in December 2004. That is not a typo.
* Kampmann was constantly working to counter Shields’ take-down attempts, guard passes and submission attempts. His ground game is extremely underrated, even though he is always labeled as a “striker” or “kickboxer.” He found more success than most dream of against the world class technique and top game of Shields.
* When it was standing Kampmann was visibly hesitant and not willing to let his hands go where he had a significant advantage. He was clearly worried about overextending himself and getting taken down. When he knew he was likely down in the second half of the fight, he should have thrown a large dose of caution to the wind. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20.
* All indications point to Shields still receiving the title shot that was promised to him prior to tonight. He awaits the winner of the Georges St. Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck fight that will take place in December at UFC 124.
Diego Sanchez vs. Paulo Thiago
Prediction: Paulo Thiago via split decision
Result: Diego Sanchez def. Paulo Thiago via unanimous decision (30-26, 29-28, 29-28)
* Sanchez picked up a much needed victory in one of the best octagon performances we have ever seen from him. He looked like the old Diego.
* The relentless pressure and pace of Sanchez trumped the submission attempts and grazing power punches of Thiago.
* The tempo of Sanchez’s game plan wore down the Brazilian. He was noticeably winded in the second half of the fight, and it made it difficult for him to escape danger.
* Sanchez’s ground and pound was devastating and proved to be the proverbial icing on the cake in the third round.
Tito Ortiz vs. Matt Hamill
Prediction: Matt Hamill via unanimous decision
Result: Matt Hamill def. Tito Ortiz via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
* The “teacher vs. student” matchup was, well, about what we expected. It was a close affair, as the pair split the first two rounds on my scorecard, but Hamill was simply a slightly better version of Ortiz at this stage in his declining, but storied career.
* Early on it was Ortiz pushing the pace and staying aggressive. However, after the first round it was clear he was getting the worse of the exchanges, as he had a large mouse under his eye and was bleeding on the right side of his head.
* The fight really turned in the second round as Hamill recorded a big take-down about halfway through and landed some nice elbows from top position. From there, it was rinse and repeat until the final horn.
* I would not be surprised if we have seen the last of Tito Ortiz in the UFC and potentially MMA altogether. He still has not won a fight inside the octagon since October 2006.
* There is no doubt Tito Ortiz is one of the men responsible for where the UFC is as an organization today, but he is merely a shell of his former self. Both injuries and the evolution of MMA have caught up to him.
Brendan Schaub vs. Gabriel Gonzaga
Prediction: Brendan Schaub via TKO
Result: Brendan Schaub def. Gabriel Gonzaga via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
* Schaub won this fight with his effective speed and precision boxing, beating Gonzaga to the punch on almost every exchange.
* The jab and overhand right were Schaub’s predominant weapons of choice. He even dropped Gonzaga at the end of the first round with a looping right just before the bell sounded.
* Gonzaga’s inferior cardio, which lead to poor footwork and an inability to counter, all but ensured he would not be mounting anything resembling a comeback.
* Schaub did a nice job of pressing the action throughout the three stanzas without getting out of control and leaving a glaring opening for Gonzaga to capitalize on. He was comfortably in the driver’s seat for the duration. A finish would have been nice, but it probably was not worth the risk as the bout wore on.
* It was Groundhog Day with regards to Gonzaga’s recent upper tier matchups with Shane Carwin and Junior Dos Santos. He fell in love with his kickboxing and neglected his clear advantage on the ground after attempting and failing with just one take-down attempt in the fight.
* Gabriel Gonzaga and Cheick Kongo are officially the two “gatekeepers to the stars” in the heavyweight division.
Derek Bolender is a freelance MMA writer who has contributed to CBSSports.com, FIGHT! Magazine, and MMAmania.com (in addition to BleacherReport.com). Follow him on Twitter at @DerekBolender.
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