Cain Velasquez: Dave Mandel | Sherdog.com
The Last Word on the Past Seven Days in Mixed Martial Arts
The Weekly Wrap walks readers through the last seven days in MMA, recapping and putting into context the week's top story, important news and notable quotes.
In the definition of a star-making performance, Cain Velasquez put down the UFC's top draw on Oct. 23 to become the organization's heavyweight champion on one of the biggest pay-per-views in company history. The undefeated Velasquez stepped out of the cage and into the media spotlight, capitalizing on a marketing plan built around his heritage and bolstered by the unprecedented media coverage of his fight against Brock Lesnar in Anaheim, Calif.
With the performance, the 28-year-old Velasquez proved the considerable hype around him was well-founded. Trumpeted from day one by American Kickboxing Academy guru Dave Camarillo as the best fighter to ever come through the storied camp, Velasquez went from unknown just two years ago to sparking what many said was the loudest crowd explosion in UFC history as he polished off a bloody Lesnar with punches 4:12 into the fight. Velasquez showed elation but kept his cool. Camarillo, Velasquez’s trainer, was brought to tears in the post-fight celebration.
Lesnar came out wild, throwing a flying knee at the opening bell and pressing the action. In a replay of a scene from his fight against Shane Carwin in July, the Minnesotan tripped and stumbled after he was caught with stinging punches. Velasquez did not relent, tagging Lesnar with a knee and straight punches until the referee intervened. Despite having lesser collegiate wrestling credentials and a 30-pound weight disadvantage, Velasquez rebuffed Lesnar’s takedowns.
While its top draw may have lost in emphatic fashion, the UFC, perhaps anticipating the possibility of a Velasquez win, launched a marketing campaign based on Velasquez’s Mexican heritage. The company has long sought to capitalize on Spanish-speaking fight fans that today make up boxing’s foundation. Framed as the first Mexican heavyweight champion in combat sports history, Velasquez suddenly had a money-making identity despite lacking Lesnar’s over-the-top charisma.
The fight was said to garner more interest among Mexican-Americans than any MMA fight to date. Velasquez, who grew up seven miles from the Mexican border and visited the country routinely as a boy, was greeted all over California by Mexican flag-waving fans. He hit the talk show circuit after the win, appearing on the George Lopez show to a great reception. Host and fighter shared a celebratory peanut butter and jelly sandwich to counteract Lesnar’s promise to eat a burrito after he won. Velasquez was also featured on TMZ and on the Los Angeles morning radio show of Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo, the highest-rated Spanish DJ in the United States.
UFC 121, which also aired in movie theaters nationwide, looks to have topped one million buys on pay-per-view, though it’s not clear if it edges UFC 116 as the second most-bought show in UFC history, The Wrestling Observer reported. The “Primetime” series building the fight on Spike TV drew the highest average rating of the four fights to receive such build, and search terms related to the event dominated Google and Twitter trending topics on fight night. Search activity lingered all the way into Sunday afternoon, an unprecedented interest level.
Velasquez’s drawing ability will be put to the test immediately, as his first defense against Junior dos Santos, likely in the spring, pits him against a winning and powerful heavyweight with little box office appeal. Lesnar’s turnaround time is unclear, though it was widely reported the UFC wants to match him with Frank Mir next. Though a post-fight, cageside face-off with former pro wrestling nemesis Mark “The Undertaker” Callaway sparked buzz, White said Lesnar could not do pro wrestling while under UFC contract. The Wrestling Observer reported that World Wrestling Entertainment, Lesnar’s former employer, offered him a match against Undertaker at the Wrestlemania pay-per-view in the spring.
• Jake Shields cooled expectations in his UFC debut, slightly edging Martin Kampmann for a split decision win. Shields, who cut 20 pounds for the fight (his first in two years at 170 pounds), did not threaten a game Kampmann on the floor. Dana White did not go back on a pledge to grant Shields a title shot if he won, but Shields voiced uncertainty in an interview with the Sherdog Radio Network.
• Diego Sanchez looked healthier at welterweight, taking rounds two and three from Paulo Thiago in a “Fight of the Night” performance. After talk that he would cut back down to 155 after the fight, it appeared Sanchez would continue at welterweight.
• Dana White was non-committal on the Octagon future of Tito Ortiz after his unanimous decision loss to Matt Hamill. Ortiz has lost four straight and hasn’t won a fight in four years. A movie on Hamill’s life is set to premiere Nov. 7.
• Promotion mainstays Patrick Cote and Gabriel Gonzaga were cut from the UFC after their respective decision losses to Tom Lawlor and Brendan Schaub.