Commentary

Velasquez will learn from his mistakes

Originally Published: November 12, 2011
By Brett Okamoto | ESPN.com

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Junior dos Santos, the new heavyweight champion of the UFC, was, as usual, all smiles during Saturday's postfight news conference.

At one point, UFC president Dana White revealed that an estimated 60 million Brazilians watched their countryman take the title with a first-round knockout of Cain Velasquez.

Dos Santos, in the sort of child-like demeanor he's become known for, gasped a stunned, "Wow," before adding, "I'm famous."

His reaction was a humorous one. Dos Santos laughed. White laughed. Everyone did.

Everyone except Velasquez. The former heavyweight champion was a gracious loser, despite suffering a highlight-reel, 64-second knockout loss on the biggest stage the UFC and mixed martial arts have ever seen.

He applauded politely when the UFC belt was wrapped around dos Santos' waist, and he attended the news conference to talk about the experience. But as the rest of the media room chuckled at dos Santos, Velasquez sat with his eyes straight forward, expressionless.

[+] EnlargeJunior dos Santos
Ed Mulholland for ESPN.comBad call: Striking with Junior dos Santos cost Cain Velasquez, bottom, dearly.

"He's not angry, but he knows he didn't follow the game plan," said Javier Mendez, Velasquez's striking coach. "We, as coaches and friends, took it worse than he did. It's unbelievable how mentally sharp and professional he is.

"I guarantee you, this kid is a fighter. He'll come back."

Before the definitive ending of Saturday's fight, many speculated it would be merely the first chapter in a long story involving Dos Santos and Velasquez.

They are both young -- Dos Santos, 27; Velasquez, 29 -- and clearly talented. Despite the statement from White that "the heavyweight division looks better than ever," it certainly looked coming into this weekend that these two stood above the rest.

Despite what happened Saturday, that belief may still hold true.

Dos Santos (14-1) is in position to hold on to the belt for the foreseeable future. Following this performance, he is the undisputed best heavyweight in the world and he's faced all types of challengers.

Velasquez (9-1) will, as Mendez said, be back. The taste of this loss in Anaheim, where he receives massive support, won't fade quickly. The belief that he lost because he wavered from the game plan, and not because he was the inferior fighter, won't fade.

"I didn't pressure enough. The game plan was to pressure," Velasquez said. "I waited far back for too long. I was playing dos Santos' game. It was my fault."

As memorable and impressive as this night was for dos Santos, it was interesting to watch Velasquez just as closely.

The clips of this first UFC fight on network television seem destined to wind up in a future promotional video. Slow-motion frames of a disappointed Velasquez slowly looking at his feet, fading to a shot of the new, improved former champion.

Many believed before this weekend this was the first chapter of dos Santos-Velasquez. There are those who still do.

"He's still, in my opinion, going to be the greatest," Mendez said. "He's had one hiccup now. Look at all the greats -- Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre -- they've all lost.

"Even Junior has his one loss. And, someday, he'll have another one."

Brett Okamoto covers MMA for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at bokamotoESPN.

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