The unofficial title of “Baddest Man on the Planet” is up for grabs when UFC Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar meets number one contender Cain Velasquez center Octagon at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. for UFC 121. Whether or not “Brocktober” will continue past Sat., Oct. 23 is decided live on pay-per-view after a generous adrenaline dose on Spike TV.
(Velasquez pounds Rothwell at UFC 104.)
A heavyweight title clash between champion Brock Lesnar and challenger Cain Velasquez may very well determine the future of the division.
Capturing the UFC heavyweight belt in only his fourth professional fight, Lesnar’s drama-infused defenses over Frank Mir and Shane Carwin have moved the former pro wrestling heavyweight champ to perhaps the most impressive 5-1 ledger ever accomplished. In Velasquez, he faces an undefeated challenger who has finished seven of eight opponents en route to a shot at the belt—most recently stopping former PRIDE Heavyweight Champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira with punches at 2:20 of round one at UFC 110’s headlining effort in Australia.
The essential question posed around the fight has been size versus speed: Which is more effective in MMA’s least weight restrictive division? Lesnar maxes the weight class at 265 menacing pounds, but brute strength is accompanied by an NCAA Division I wrestling title and scary explosiveness. Velasquez represents speed, bringing two-time All-American wrestling status from Arizona State University and a mean streak of his own in the cage.
Well-documented by UFC Primetime, the Spike TV hype series, both believe they can’t lose. One fighter has no choice. Velasquez’s stand-up combinations, comparable wrestling and scrambling ability should make the difference in a battle of wills that won’t see the judges.
FIGHT! Pick: Velasquez
Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Jake Shields vacated his belt to enter the UFC. Martin Kampmann plans to spoil his welcoming party. The Xtreme Couture product demonstrated incredible ring generalship in his unanimous decision over Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace Paulo Thiago in June, which is what Shields is known for. Shields expects to take out “Hitman” en route to a welterweight title shot, causing Kampmann to feel overlooked, making the Dutchman more dangerous.
The fight is decided by whoever does better off their back. Both force opposition into uncomfortable positions and can persevere out of them just the same. Damage will tilt the grappling match in someone’s favor. Sweeps and a stronger ability to hold position should do it for Shields in a hard-fought contest.
FIGHT! Pick: Shields
(Thiago celebrates his win over Swick at UFC 109.)
Diego Sanchez ended a year venture at lightweight to return to welterweight, only to drop a lopsided decision to John Hathaway. Realigned with Greg Jackson MMA, Sanchez aims to rebound against Paulo Thiago. The Brazilian’s power punching leaves him susceptible to depleting his gas tank too early; however, Sanchez hasn’t sharpened his striking or wrestling enough to edge the durable fighter out.
FIGHT! Pick: Thiago
Teacher battles student when Tito Ortiz stands across from The Ultimate Fighter three standout Matt Hamill. Hamill demonstrates progress in each of his outings, building on heavy punches and a power double leg, which Ortiz popularized years ago. With Ortiz fighting down the street from his hometown of Huntington Beach, he should be prepared to be the better wrestler and score the first takedown. Unfortunately for Ortiz, a predictable game has landed him an 0-3-1 record in the last four years. Unless he employs his jiu-jitsu, Ortiz will be out-gunned by a gritty combatant.
FIGHT! Pick: Hamill
A world above Brendan Schaub in the submission department, whether or not Gabriel Gonzaga can employ his kicks effectively standing to slow down an agile heavyweight with sturdy hands determines the fight. Sprawl and brawl is the right strategy for the Grudge product; however, Gonzaga’s stand-up ability and experience can keep him in the fight long enough before his chin fails him.
FIGHT! Pick: Gonzaga
FIGHT! Pick: Velasquez Resulting Outcome: CORRECT
Martin Kampmann vs. Jake Shields
FIGHT! Pick: Shields Resulting Outcome: CORRECT
Paulo Thiago vs. Diego Sanchez
FIGHT! Pick: Thiago Resulting Outcome: INCORRECT
Tito Ortiz vs. Matt Hamill
FIGHT! Pick: Hamill Resulting Outcome: CORRECT
Brendan Schaub vs. Gabriel Gonzaga
FIGHT! Pick: Gonzaga
Resulting Outcome: INCORRECT