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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
Cain Velasquez captured the UFC Heavyweight Championship on Saturday night at UFC 121 in Anaheim, Calif., winning his seventh straight fight in the Octagon to keep his undefeated record at 9-0. It was a dominating performance, as he bounced back up from an early takedown from Lesnar and then picked him apart on the feet.
After dropping Lesnar to the canvas with a hard knee and overhand right, Velasquez kept himself from making the same mistakes that Shane Carwin did at UFC 116. He picked his spots on the ground and blasted Lesnar continually, finally forcing referee Herb Dean to stop the fight with under a minute left in the round. He joined ESPN's MMA Live following the win to talk about the fight.
"We knew in the Shane Carwin fight he was uncomfortable in his stand up," Velasquez said. "But he has really strong wrestling and he's a strong guy, so our plan was to keep the distance, but also stay aggressive and if we got taken down to work back up.
"Just from watching the countdown show, I knew he was going to come out aggressive. I didn't know he was going to come out that aggressive, so it did surprise me a little bit, but it is what it is and I just tried to go back and win the fight from that."
Velasquez wasn't in any trouble in the fight, but said he didn't feel as relaxed as he should have been early on and he snap himself back into things mentally after Lesnar's initial rush.
"When he took me down and I got right back up I was telling myself to 'stay relaxed, stay relaxed, movement, movement and look for the shots,'" Velasquez said. "I think from the beginning I wasn't as relaxed as I should have been, but it's a learning experience.
"He did hit me with a good right hand, and that was another thing, I wasn't completely relaxed to where it was a perfect fight for me. That's one thing I'll look back and learn from and get better."
One of the more memorable moments of the fight came when Velasquez shrugged off a takedown from Lesnar, and the now former Champion stumbled and spun across the cage. But Velasquez didn't think Lesnar was in trouble at that point and didn't want to over-commit himself.
"I didn't think he was hurt, I think he was trying to catch his balance, so I wasn't going to go in super aggressive," the Champ said. "I tried to stay smart, just follow him and see where he ended up.
"He took me serious. I think I fought the best Brock out there, so I'm very happy."
Next up for him is a fight with Junior Dos Santos, who is coming into his first title shot with six straight wins in the UFC, just as Velasquez had done. For his part, Velasquez believes Dos Santos is the best heavyweight striker in the sport.
"Junior Dos Santos is next in line so I need to get ready for him," he said. "He's an amazing striker, I think he's the best in the heavyweight division right now as a striker."
Velasquez will enjoy the victory for now, but he understands that he's still got a tough road in front of him.
"It feels great [to be Champion]," he said. "But as I think about it now I have to keep getting better. Guys are going to come out, they're going to be tougher; the sport's evolving so quickly, I have to evolve with it or else I'm going to be left behind."
As for what he believes is next for Lesnar, Velasquez expects him to do just what he said he would after the fight, and that's get better and work his way back toward a rematch.
"He's going to go back and constantly get better," Velasquez said. "I think the next time I face him he will be a lot better, so all my fights now are going to be much tougher and I just need to be ready for that."
Penick's Analysis: Velasquez has shown himself capable of improving, there's no doubt about that. After being tagged with the nickname of "pillow fists" for seemingly taking longer than expected to finish some fighters, Velasquez has figured out how to use his power and make his shots count, and he's got first round finishes of Minotauro Nogueira and Lesnar to prove it. He's got a really stiff test against Junior Dos Santos next, and if he can pass that one the heavyweight division really opens up with some very interesting matchups. We'll see just how good Velasquez can be in the pantheons of heavyweight MMA, but he's the best in the world right now.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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