Photo by Esther Lin for FanHouse
I'm usually a bundle of nerves before a big fight. I get that feeling in my stomach normally reserved for that moment before you decide to make a move on your high school crush. I have a lot riding on the line: my money, my word, my ego. Just get the fight over so I know whether I'm right or wrong.
Yet, when Cain Velasquez and Brock Lesnar walked into the cage at UFC 121, I maintained a sense of inner peace. Maybe it was the sense that even though I picked the champion, I would be excited to witness the dawn of the Cain Velasquez era. Or maybe it was the five beers and the lack of caloric intake throughout the day.
Whatever the case, I'm satisfied with tonight's result even if my wallet's a little lighter. Let's hit the bullet points.
- Cain Velasquez fulfilled his destiny. I first heard about Velasquez on the Jordan Breen Show back in 2008 before his debut at UFC 83. Even then, with a 2-0 record compiled in the pre-Fedor Strikeforce and the post-Fedor Bodog Fight, Jordan hyped up Velasquez not just as a blue-chip heavyweight prospect, but as the modern-era version of Fedor Emelianenko. I bought into the hype from day one, and I regret falling in love with the size, strength, and athleticism of the South Dakota farmboy. Maybe "regret" is not the right word. And while I'm not unsure of Cain's ability to carry the UFC on his shoulders, I'm excited to witness his career bloom.
Where does Brock Lesnar go from here? Junior dos Santos is lined up for the next title shot. Shane Carwin is fighting Roy Nelson. Pitting Brock with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira might find Dana White and Joe Silva charged with manslaughter or worse. Brendan Schaub? Seems like a huge step up that he isn't ready for. Which leaves...the Frank Mir rubber match!
- This fight was huge. "Brock Lesnar" and "Velasquez" were trending on Twitter for hours leading up to the event. That, as far as I can recall, is a first for a UFC pay-per-view. An hour and a half after the end of the main event, the following phrases are trending on Twitter: Velasquez, Brock Lesnar, #ufc121, Lesner, Heavyweight, Brown Pride. On the same night as the deciding game of a major league championship series, six of the top ten trending topics on Twitter are MMA/UFC related.
- I scored the Shields/Kampmann fight 29-28 for Martin Kampmann. Again, by this part of the night I had consumed my fair share of adult beverages and was rooting heavily for the Dane. Round one goes to Shields for controlling the fight and outgrappling Kampmann. Round two goes to Kampmann, who rocked Shields twice with knees. Round three goes to Kampmann who won the fight standing while Shields did nothing with his top control on the floor. In any case, someone needs to bring me the head of the judge who scored that fight 30-27.
- Speaking of bad scores, who turned in the 30-26 Sanchez card? The first round of this fight looked like a continuation of Diego Sanchez's fight with John Hathaway. Sanchez fought with the inspiration of a conscientious objector. My notes following the round read as follows: "Thiago taking fight to Diego." Diego turned it on in round two, with the turning point being his banshee-screaming slam of Paulo Thiago in the middle of round two. Yet, the first round was all Brazilian, and one judge awarded it to Sanchez. How?
- The decline of Tito Ortiz continues. Ortiz again came out strong in a fight. He pushed forward, stayed active, and won round one on my card. He remained competitive in round two, but lost all hope in the third round. Matt Hamill plodded with his hands swaying at his hips, taunting Ortiz to land strikes to the head. Instead, Ortiz took slow power shot after slow power shot until succumbing to a takedown late in the fight. Ortiz is still durable enough to play the gatekeeper role at 205, but is that a role he's interested in fulfilling?
- Brendan Schaub, legitimate heavyweight prospect. Gabriel Gonzaga, confirmed heavyweight gatekeeper. Schaub could have done more to finish off Gonzaga, but I'm also impressed with his ability to control a fight against a legitimate heavyweight for fifteen minutes. Gonzaga is the bigger story here as I think he cemented his spot as the UFC's gatekeeper at 265. He looked slow and hesitant from the opening bell and lacked the urgency that's all-too-common with fighters down two rounds heading into the final minutes of a bout.
- Patrick Cote is who I thought he was. My reason for picking Tom Lawlor? (The dissenting opinion, might I add.) "Cote's lost to anybody with any sort of wrestling background."