On December 29, Cain Velasquez looks to regain the UFC Heavyweight Title, when he takes on champion Junior dos Santos in the main event of UFC 155. The two last fought at the end of 2011, when dos Santos took the title from Velasquez with a knockout in approximately one minute. Not only did Cain lose the title, but insult was added to the injury, as he lost in such a quick fashion in the most-watched MMA fight in history. There is no doubt that the first fight was not one of Cain’s highlights in the octagon. However, in preparation for his chance at redemption, here is a look at the five moments that are Cain’s top UFC highlights:
5. Announcing Presence by Dominating Kongo: UFC 99 (June 13, 2009)
When Velasquez made his UFC debut in early 2008, there was no denying his status as a legitimate prospect. Not only did he have amateur wrestling credentials and train out of the vaunted American Kickboxing Academy, Cain had little trouble disposing of his first three opponents in the UFC. However, while Brad Morris, Jake O’Brien, and Denis Stojnic are three guys that would certainly destroy me in a fight, wins over them does not do much for someone wanting to be considered elite. As with any prospect, there came a point in time when Velasquez had to be thrown into deeper waters to test if he was ready for the next level.
That happened at UFC 99 when Velasquez was matched up against Cheick Kongo (who stepped in as a replacement for Heath Herring). Although he got rocked on his feet a couple of times, Cain did not disappoint, as he otherwise dominated Kongo for three rounds. Velasquez was able to take his opponent down at will and rough him up with his now-trademark relentlessness. At the end of the 15 minutes, Velasquez had secured a unanimous decision and announced his presence as a true contender in the heavyweight division.
4. Winning Over the Crowd in a Huge Way: UFC 104 (October 24, 2009)
The UFC has made no secret of Cain’s Mexican heritage in its promotion of many of his bouts. This has been done for good reason, considering that this pride encompasses who Cain is. Thus, when Velasquez was booked to take on UFC newcomer Ben Rothwell at UFC 104 in Los Angeles, this theme was front and center in the promotion of the card. Velasquez did not disappoint, and had the crowd in a frenzy as he entered the cage with a Mexican flag wrapped around his fist. That fist would then be used to pound Rothwell en route to a TKO finish.
3. Re-Asserting Himself as the Number-One Contender in Massacre of Bigfoot: UFC 146 (May 26, 2012)
There were a lot of questions about how Cain would react to his first defeat when he attempted to bounce back against Bigfoot Silva this past May. Looking back now, Bigfoot would probably have been much happier leaving those questions unanswered. For about three and a half minutes, Velasquez beat Silva down as if Cain was the terminator. It was so bad, so bad, yet so very good. Cain repeatedly took Silva down and pounded him into a bloody mess, to the point that Silva, Velasquez, and the cage were all covered with blood, and Silva was the only one who was cut. After arguably the bloodiest beat-down in UFC history, there was no doubt that the loss to dos Santos had no lingering effect, and that Cain was ready for the huge rematch.
2. Knocking out Minotauro Nogueira to Earn Title Shot: UFC 110 (February 21. 2010)
Notwithstanding the fact that he had finished six of his first seven opponents in his MMA career, there was a common knock on Cain from trolling fans that he had “pillow fists.” This was because he often had to rely on overwhelming opponents with a large volume of punches in order to get those finishes. As a result, many people thought Cain would struggle against Big Nog, thinking that Cain didn’t hit hard enough to earn a KO against his iron-chinned opponent, and would get submit if he had to rely on a smothering top game.
In about two minutes, all of that changed. Cain made clear when the fight began that he was comfortable turning the bout into a kickboxing affair, and 2:20 into the fight, floored Nog with a short right uppercut. From there, it was elementary, as Cain followed up with some of the most intense and violent ground and pound I had ever witnessed. Just like that, Cain was the number one contender to the UFC Heavyweight Title, and the “pillow fist” meme was destroyed forever.
1. Beating Brock Lesnar for the UFC Heavyweight Title: UFC 121 (October 23, 2010)
It’s hard to remember how big of a force Brock Lesnar was in the MMA world at the time he was the UFC Heavyweight Champion in 2010. Brock was one of the most talked-about fighters in UFC history, and was coming off a thrilling come from behind win against previous challenger Shane Carwin. That being said, most tuned-in MMA fans had to consider Velasquez the favorite in their title fight at UFC 121. With the crowd on his side in Anaheim, Cain did not disappoint. After scoring with some powerful strikes, Lesnar was sent flailing across the cage and onto the mat, allowing Cain to follow up with the finish and claim the UFC Heavyweight Title. In addition to having one of the most prestigious titles in all of combat sports, Cain became a household sports name by taking out the promotion’s undisputed top draw.