Winner is: Cain Velasquez
Cain Velasquez began 2010 as the highly-touted prospect out of the American Kickboxing Academy camp in San Jose with great wrestling and a rep for "pillow fists". Before the year began, Velasquez had impressive, but unremarkable wins over Chieck Kongo and Ben Rothwell, but none of those had propelled them him into superstardom. While many saw UFC gold in Cain's future, it was unknown how quickly it would come.
Cain's first matchup was against former PRIDE legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 110. Minotauro was coming off an impressive win over Randy Couture while Cain was coming off his stoppage of Ben Rothwell. Going into the match, most analysts believed Nogueira had the boxing skills to stand with Velasquez and the world-class BJJ to neutralize Cain's wrestling on the ground. What actually happened was Cain knocked out Nogueira 2 minutes into the first round. With this victory, Cain had earned a title shot against the UFC Heavyweight champion.
That title shot would come at UFC 121 in Anaheim, California against Brock Lesnar. Velasquez would have the homecourt advantage against the larger foe and would definitely use it. Many people had this fight as a pick 'em as Brock Lesnar was being looked at through a brand new lens after the beating Shane Carwin put on him for 3 minutes at UFC 116. Many felt that a seasoned striker like Cain would be able to hurt Brock on the feet and that his wrestling skills would be able to keep the fight standing. And they were correct. Lesnar came out a blaze of glory and Cain weathered the early storm. Lesnar soon lost steam and secured a takedown and Velasquez popped back up. Cain eventually stopped Brock Lesnar in the first round to win the UFC Heavyweight Championship.
The future for Velasquez is endless. He has a fight upcoming with Junior Dos Santos, as well as a potential rematch with Brock Lesnar or a showdown with Shane Carwin. His star is just beginning to grow and with the right marketing, he could become a superstar.
Photo via Esther Lin