Saturday, September 3, 2011
Velasquez spent time on shelf wisely
By Franklin McNeil
If you thought this Cain Velasquez was frightening, wait until you see the new and improved version.
The first UFC bout on network television is expected to surpass the record 6.51 million viewers who watched Kimbo Slice defeat James Thompson on CBS in May 2008. But whether 10 or 10 million tune in Nov. 12 to see Cain Velasquez defend his UFC heavyweight title against Junior dos Santos on Fox, it will be business as usual for the champ.
“It [the audience] doesn’t change anything,” Velasquez told ESPN.com. “They’ve changed the fight to [November] 12 instead of the 19. I would have loved to have fought in San Jose, but this is a great opportunity.
“There is no pressure. It’s the same thing. I still have to go out there and fight and perform as always.”
Velasquez, who trains at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., plans to deliver a solid performance against dos Santos at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
When Velasquez returns to action for the first time since taking the title from Brock Lesnar in October 2010, he'll be in top physical condition. The right rotator cuff he injured during his fight with Lesnar is 100 percent.
Now Velasquez is eager to get back inside the cage and resume punishing anyone in front of him on fight night -- something fight fans have come to expect during a Velasquez fight. And he does it in exciting fashion.
Velasquez knows how to put on a show, and he promises to do so Nov. 12. Having dos Santos in the cage with him will make it easier to keep his word.
“Me and dos Santos, we don’t put on boring fights,” said Velasquez, who is 9-0. “We each have game plans and we go in there and try to execute. That’s how I think about it. I don’t think about just going in to win. No. I think about going out there and demolishing my opponent. That’s all I think about.
“This is going to be a great fight to watch. You are going to see two guys go at it. We’re two guys who are athletic, who have power and we’re both well-rounded.”
Velasquez respects dos Santos’ overall skill set, but he envisions having his hand raised when the fighting ends.
Training at a highly respected camp (AKA), possessing above-average fighting skills and being the owner of an unblemished professional record are just three reasons Velasquez is confident heading into this showdown with dos Santos (13-1). Then, there's also the timing factor, which couldn't be better for him.
He didn’t spend the past year focused solely on rehabbing his right shoulder; Velasquez also used the time to improve his overall skills. He feels he's spent his time wisely but taking every aspect of his game to a higher level.
Dos Santos will face a much more refined heavyweight champion on Nov. 12 than the one he saw wrest the title away from Lesnar. Two key areas that Velasquez felt needed improvement -- his footwork and head movement -- are now up to speed with his wrestling acumen. He's even added a few wrinkles to his ground game.
“I’ve gotten a lot better, just from the time off, from a technical standpoint,” Velasquez said. “I’m happy I used the time off wisely, and everything healed up.
“There aren’t a lot of guys who can say that with time off they’ve gotten better. But my technique and understanding of the entire MMA game has gotten better and I’m happy for that.”
The thought of standing across the cage from an improved Velasquez has to be a frightening thought for any opponent, even one as talented as dos Santos.