Velasquez gears up for dos Santos
The tattoo stamped across Cain Velasquez’s chest could give some who tune in to Saturday’s debut of UFC on FOX the wrong idea.
Granted, not far from where he trains in San Jose, Calif., there are some who wear phrases similar to Velasquez’s “Brown Pride” for varied reasons. Not many are likely as altruistic as the one behind Velasquez’s ink.
“I got it for everything my dad did,” said Velasquez, who received the tattoo while wrestling at Iowa Central Community College in 2002. “He crossed over in the U.S. so he could produce a better life than what he had in Mexico. I’m proud of that. I just want people to know that we work hard, we live life with a lot of heart and fight with a lot of heart.”
While that tattoo will stand out as UFC makes its network television debut, it’s the area around the “B” where most MMA observers will be watching as Velasquez attempts to defend his heavyweight title against Junior dos Santos at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. That letter is not far from where Velasquez tore his rotator cuff in a victory over Brock Lesnar in UFC 121 in October 2010.
In the weeks after the injury, Velasquez’s doctors had hoped he’d be able to recover without surgery. But when that approach didn’t take, he had the procedure last January.
“I’m 100 percent,” Velasquez told FOXSports.com. “The strength is back where it needs to be and so is the range of motion. I don’t even feel it. I’ve been doing the rehab and everything else. I’m really happy about it. This wasn’t my first injury. At least I was able to walk around. The knee surgery was more of a pain because of the little things, like wrapping it up when you had to take a shower. The lucky part was this was a lot easier.”
Velasquez, 29, admitted that it pained him to be away from the gym so much in the days after the surgery, although his friend and frequent training partner Kyle Kingsbury said that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
“He took everything slowly, so he didn’t have use of his shoulder when he came back to train,” said Kingsbury, who has a bout with Stephan Bonnar at UFC 139 on Nov. 19. “That meant focusing on grappling last so it wouldn’t put stress on his muscles. No question that improved (Velasquez’s legwork). We worked with a Muay Thai coach and that helped us both quite a bit. I see a very improved Cain.”
That ground game, something the shoulder injury prevented him from working much on for months, was already one of Velasquez’s strengths. He was an All-American wrestler at Arizona State, where he earned a bachelor of education degree. (He attended ASU at the same time as Kingsbury, who was a defensive lineman on the Sun Devils football team.) Velasquez (9-0-0) used a combo of the stand-up game and ground game to victories, like in his first-round TKO of Lesnar.
Velasquez’s versatility could be an asset against dos Santos (13-1-0). The Brazilian has won his fights mostly from his upright attacks.
“He’s a good boxer,” Velasquez said. “He’s quick, explosive and athletic. You combine all those things and it makes for a great fight.”
Dos Santos’ ground game, while untested, could be solid since he trains under Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master Antonio Rodrigo “Big Nog” Nogueira — a fighter Velasquez knocked out in the first round in UFC 110.
Whether the match is mostly upright or on the mat, Velasquez expects it to go all five rounds and, at the end, he thinks the judges will allow him to keep his title via a decision. Only one of Velasquez’s fights has gone the distance, a unanimous decision victory over Cheick Kongo in UFC 99; dos Santos has won his last two bouts by decisions over Shane Carwin (UFC 131) and Roy Nelson (UFC 117).
“I know I’ll be ready,” Velasquez said. “I’ve done the necessary things to know I have the advantage if the fight goes to the later rounds. I’m ready for everything.”
This will be Velasquez’s fourth MMA fight overall and third UFC bout in California, where he spent the first couple years of his life before moving with his family to Arizona. (He beat Ben Rothwell via a second-round TKO in UFC 104 at the Staples Center and defeated Lesnar at Honda Center.) While he said he’ll be ready for whatever style dos Santos employs, Velasquez said the scene — at least in the stands — will be predictable.
“We had some great support out last time and I expect that again,” Velasquez said of his support from the Mexican American community. “It’s definitely a big advantage. You feel like the whole arena is behind you. You feel like you’re fighting in front of your home crowd.”