It comes as no surprise that dethroned UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez was the victim of unrealistic expectations in the aftermath of his knockout loss to Junior dos Santos on Saturday night at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. After all, we've been spoiled by the impressive rise of the former champion, maintaining an unblemished record while destroying every opponent put in front of him. Surprisingly, Cheick Kongo was the only man to give Velasquez trouble on his climb to the summit, yet even in that fight, we could glean the thought that Velasquez has the mental fortitude to overcome anything.
In the lead-up to the fight, informed fans knew the dangers that awaited Velasquez inside the Octagon. Junior dos Santos was a devastating striker who was a far more technical boxer than Cheick Kongo. If Kongo could land combinations on Velasquez, what's to stop Dos Santos from finding a home for his powerful right hand?
During the post-fight coverage on Fox, however, UFC President Dana White's comments made it sound like this should have been an easy fight for Velasquez, suggesting that the former champion should have immediately worked for takedowns. Even UFC commentator Joe Rogan spoke of the questionable rational of Velasquez when he spoke with MMAFighting.com's Ariel Helwani after the fight. My question is when did it become so easy to just take fighters down?
Dana White wanted us to believe that it shouldn't take more than sixty-four seconds for a NCAA Division I wrestling champion who trains with world class wrestlers like Muhammed Lawal and Dan Cormier to take down the Brazilian striker. Forget about setting up the takedowns with strikes. Just come out and bullrush Dos Santos and take him down! Even the most credentialed wrestler can't do that when punches are involved.
Let's also not forget that Junior dos Santos has a history of being tough to take down. He hasn't been tested by a NCAA champion, but that's not what stands out in my opinion. Shane Carwin was supposed to challenge Dos Santos with his strength and better wrestling abilities, and like Velasquez -- Dos Santos used his footwork and movement to evade the pressure and batter his opponent from range. Furthermore, Dos Santos didn't pop off combinations that featured four or five punches. He limited his output in order to lessen Velasquez's window of opportunity.
It's unfair to criticize Velasquez after spending such a short time inside the Octagon. It isn't like Dos Santos was a layup win for Cain. He was the #1 contender for a reason, and he showed fans in his previous bouts that he has the crushing force in his punches to level anyone in a split second. How that got lost in the aftermath of this fight is beyond me. Instead of focusing on Dos Santos' triumph, we witnessed a rant about how Velasquez should have worked for the takedown immediately. Apparently more immediate than sixty-four seconds.
As fans, we tend to thrust unrealistic expectations onto many of the best fighters in the sport. I can handle the everyday arguments I have with casual fans. It's fun to argue with some level of ridiculousness from time to time. I can't, however, stand to watch gifted athletes like Cain Velasquez be thrown under the bus because expectations were high that he should take down a brilliant fighter like Junior dos Santos whenever he wants.
This isn't ten years ago when there were only a handful of fighters who possessed well-rounded skill-sets. This is the modern era, a time when nearly every fighter at the apex of a division has the skills to compete in any area of a fight. The new champion used his strengths to win, and Cain didn't have time to set up his takedowns and capitalize. It's as simple as that. Focus on the positives that Junior dos Santos displayed in victory, not the unrealistic expectations that Velasquez didn't meet.