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UFC 104:

Breaking down UFC 104: Cain Velasquez v. Ben Rothwell

Co-main event fight preview from Los Angeles

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Justin M. Bowen

Cain Velasquez (left) and Ben Rothwell face-off during the UFC 104 weigh-ins at the L.A. Live Event Deck Friday in Los Angeles.

Fireside Chat with Dana White: UFC 104

UFC President Dana White is known for sitting down with media members at every pre-fight press conference to answer any and all questions about his organization. In our second installment of Fireside Chat, White discusses everything from Dan Henderson's possible deal with Strikeforce to the lastest episode of the Ultimate Fighter to Chuck Liddell's appearance on Dancing with the Stars.

UFC 104 Weigh-Ins

UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida (left) and challenger Mauricio Rua face-off during the weigh-ins at the L.A. Live Event Deck Friday in Los Angeles.  The two will headline Saturdays fight at the Staples Center. Launch slideshow »

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LOS ANGELES — Sooner or later in a UFC fighter’s career, there comes a time when he must step for a fight he probably never wanted in the first place.

Although he’s done his best not to come out and say it, that’s probably the case this weekend with Cain Velasquez.

The undefeated 27-year-old received the opportunity of his career earlier this year when it was announced he would face Shane Carwin in a bout that would likely decide the next top heavyweight contender.

That opportunity vanished when the UFC granted Carwin an immediate title shot and instead matched up Velasquez with IFL star Ben Rothwell.

On top of that, UFC President Dana White has remained vague on whether or not Velasquez would be next in line, even if he does post a win over Rothwell.

“He’s in the mix, definitely,” White said. “The heavyweight division has never been more exciting. There are so many different guys. But the guy that wins this fight is in the mix.”

It’s yet to be seen how the soft-spoken Velasquez will step up to the challenge of dropping from a potential top contender to "in the mix."

But while his perfect record suggests he’s ready to be a champion, many fans found themselves second-guessing that contention after watching Velasquez struggle with Cheick Kongo in his last fight.

According to White, however, those criticisms have been completely unjust as he said it was simply the first time Velasquez had faced adversity.

“He faced a lot of criticisms over that fight which was absolutely ridiculous,” White said. “No fighter has been able to take him to deep water before. Kongo took him there and I thought he reacted perfectly.”

One fighter who believes in Velasquez is Carwin himself, who said Friday that the two will meet in a fight eventually.

“After I beat Brock Lesnar and he beats Ben Rothwell, we’ll see each other,” Carwin said. “I believe he deserves that.”

Quick hits:

The scouting report is pretty set on Velasquez.

He’s a notoriously good wrestler and has landed 67 percent of his takedown attempts.

While White is right in that Velasquez responded to the challenge Kongo faced him with, there’s no getting around the fact that questions regarding Velasquez’s standup and chin were raised after seeing him get clocked in that fight.

Rothwell prides himself on being a well-rounded fighter, although it didn’t start that way. Rothwell describes his first style of fighting as a ground-and-pounder, but that changed when he sought the instruction of kickboxing coach Duke Roufus in 2003. He's also got the takedown defense to thwart Velasquez, as he defends 85 percent of takedown attempts

If Velasquez has improved since his last fight and is able to mix in different offensive strategies, he remains the favorite to come out victorious Saturday night.

Last time out:

Velasquez: Unanimous decision win over Cheick Kongo at UFC 99.

Rothwell: First round win by submission over Chris Guillen at AMMA 2.

The lines:Velasquez: minus-300; Rothwell: plus-220

Final words:

Velasquez: On whether he felt he received criticism for his last performance: All I can do is look at film and get better. I don’t listen to what people say. I go get better. That fight gave me things to go back and work on.

Rothwell: With all my heart and soul, I know exactly what I’m supposed to do and it’s unfortunate for Cain because that’s who I’m going to do it to. I have respect for my opponents; it’s no hard feelings. But inside the Octagon, it’s business.

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].

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