October 23, 2010. UFC121 was the first PPV I watched at a movie theater. Accompanied by pretty much all of the Latin American population of Greater Atlanta Area, I sat and waited for the main event, in which Brock Lesnar would defend the heavyweight title for the 3rd time.
The contender was on an 8 fights win streak, against steadily better competition with 7 of the 8 ending via early stoppage. The general opinion around the water cooler (i.e. UFC forums) was that if Lesnar can take Cain down and hold him down, he will win. Otherwise, he is in big trouble.
I gave Brock a point for trying. But this is just one example of things that are easier said than done to Cain Velasquez. Cain thwarted the takedown attempt as if he wasn’t facing an incredibly strong and experienced wrestler, then went to work on rearranging the facial configuration of the champion en route to the heavyweight title.
Everyone then warned that Cain will get knocked out by the first challenger, Junior Dos Santos, and on the very first event on Fox he was. We can’t take this win away from Junior, but as it became plenty apparent, he enjoyed a very lucky punch to the right place at the right time.
After quickly dispatching of Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva by taking all of his frustration on the big guy, Cain met JDS again but this time, the fight was completely different. Cain dominated most of the fight and won what LOOKED like an easy decision.
Velasquez then defended once against Bigfoot with ease, before completing the trilogy with Dos Santos with a 5th round finish following another dominant fight.
The next fight took place about a year and half later, in the high altitudes of Mexico City and against the re-surging Fabricio Werdum. The challenger decided to have his camp in Mexico City, a move that evidently won him the fight. Cain arrived with very uncharacteristic poor conditioning, got tired very quickly and suffered his first submission loss.
Fast forward about 18 months and Cain returns to action in a fight against Travis Browne. Easy money. The next thing was obvious. A title shot against Stipe Miocic who dethroned Werdum. But then Cain had back surgery and we haven’t seen him inside the octagon since.
In the 5 years between 2012 and 2017, Cain fought a total of 5 times in the UFC. This is due to injuries that seem to have plagued the great one. There are reasons that seem apparent for these injuries. First and foremost, Cain’s fighting style is pressure based. Cain engages quickly and maintains the level of aggression he puts forth for as long as necessary to put his opponent away. When utilizing this tactic in the heavyweight division, muscles, bones and tendons alike are ground. Add to that, the training style which we know Cain employs at AKA. What commentators and training partners called “Sharpening iron with iron”, meaning that Cain trains at similar intensity as he fights, and does so with partners the like of Daniel Cormier and Luke Rockhold. We don’t know much beyond this, and perhaps there are additional reasons for this frustrating string of injuries. The only thing we – Cain’s fans – know is that we miss him.
We received an update from LHW Champion Daniel Cormier about his friend and training partner, and although we do not have a solid return date, It seems likely that Cain is planning to resume his fighting career as early as he can.
On the always popular debate of “who is the best heavyweight of all time?” I have no way of proving my claim that Cain is indeed the one. Unfortunately, the curse of injuries made it difficult for him to string more victories over the top-tier HW fighters, to establish this.
Since I can’t convince you that this goes beyond simple bias, I’ll just say this – Cain is the most interesting and complete heavyweight fighter I ever watched.
Yes, there are better specialists such as Werdum, Overeem and perhaps Stipe when it comes to boxing. I assume that although Cain packs a punch, some of the others hit stronger (N’gannou, to say the least). But Cain holds a deck of cards that totals to a fighter who can use his wrestling to dictate the turf, the striking and guts to push the action, and for the most part, the conditioning to do that for as long as he needs to.
This is the mark of Cain. Not a dull moment in his fights. This is a man who constantly looks to do damage, further the action and dominate.
I am a little torn though.
Because I love Cain so much, I selfishly want to watch him fight as many times as possible. Because I love him so much, I also want him to be healthy and not sacrifice the rest of his life for a few more fights.
I hope that his return involves some adjustments in the training regime. Such changes that can support durability and sustained action.
Who is your favorite heavyweight?
Who do you think is the best and why?
Let me know.