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UFC 121:

Velasquez goes from Hispanic hero to icon with first round TKO of Lesnar

Cain Velasquez chops down Brock Lesnar, becomes first Mexican heavyweight champ

Image

Jae C. Hong / AP

Cain Velasquez, top, punches Brock Lesnar during UFC 121 in Anaheim, Calif., on Saturday. Velasquez won by TKO in the first round.

UFC 121

Cain Velasquez, left, celebrates after he defeated Brock Lesnar in UFC 121 in Anaheim, Calif., on Saturday. Velasquez won by TKO in the first round. Launch slideshow »

ANAHEIM, Calif. — All the questions of how Brock Lesnar would last in the deep waters of the fourth or fifth round in a UFC heavyweight title fight will have to wait for another day to be answered.

Cain Velasquez trained for a 25-minute fight but only needed a little more than four to become the organization's newest champion, doing so via TKO on Saturday night in the UFC 121 main event at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.

Afterward, the oft-reserved Velasquez showed about as much emotion in front of the media as he had in the week leading up to the bout, but he offered insight into a duel that did not quite play out how he thought it would.

"It kind of surprised me how hard he did go forward in the beginning. I kind of froze a little bit," he said. "I wasn't as relaxed as I should have been, but I think after that takedown he got on me, that's when I started thinking, 'Relax, relax.'"

When the fight began, Lesnar (5-2 overall, 4-2 UFC) charged at Velasquez (9-0, 7-0) like an angered pit bull let off of a leash, throwing a series of shots to set the tempo.

The plan backfired, because when Velasquez got back to his feet and began aggressively swapping back, he caught Lesnar with several clean shots, including one that produced a big gash below the left eye.

The crowd of 14,856 had a large Hispanic influence and began to go nuts when Velasquez forced Lesnar to stumble backwards clear across the octagon and against the fence, only to slowly get to his feet again while visibly shocked.

After that, Lesnar was no longer a threat.

"I think the turning point was when his head started going back, his legs were open, and that's when I took that shot," Velasquez recalled. "He didn't get back up right away, so that's when I felt the turning point. I was able to get those punches off when I was behind him.

"I got in that brawl mode that I shouldn't have gotten into. That wasn't part of the game plan. It could have gone a lot better for me. If it had, it would have been almost a perfect fight. I fought his strength, fought his power."

Velasquez did not stop, either. Eventually on his back and taking rapid-fire fists to the face faster than he could defend them, Lesnar verbally submitted, and referee Herb Dean broke up the action with 48 seconds left in the opening frame.

At that point, the atmosphere inside of the Honda Center was almost impossible to put into words, as Velasquez stood in stoic fashion in the middle of the cage, hands raised high.

UFC President Dana White said it may have been the loudest he'd ever heard an arena in his time running the organization.

"It's right up there, if not the biggest," he said of the crowd reaction. "The place went crazy tonight. How many times do you see heavyweight fights like that?

"Brock Lesnar came out like a bull, hit him with big shots, pulled off a flying knee. I didn't think this fight was going five rounds, I'll tell you that, especially not at the pace that both of these guys can fight."

In his previous title defense at UFC 116, Lesnar withstood an early onslaught from Shane Carwin, waited for the challenger to get tired and finished the job in sneaky fashion. That was never an option against Velasquez.

Still the most physically imposing figure in the UFC, Lesnar's few weaknesses have now been magnified, and Saturday made it two consecutive outings in which Lesnar was significantly bloodied. He required a good amount of medical attention after the fight.

The most glaring question now involving the former WWE star is the consistency of his striking.

"He doesn't look like he's going to win boxing titles, but his stand-up is good when he's throwing punches and landing," White analyzed. "When he's getting hit is when his hands start to fall apart."

Lesnar did not attend the post-fight press conference. White said Lesnar did not want to take away from Velasquez's moment.

Whether there was more to that or not, the bigger question becomes: When will Lesnar be seen again?

Earlier in the week, he said his plan was to head off hunting in Canada on Sunday, regardless of the outcome. Lesnar, obviously, will still be a major pay-per-view draw for the UFC and won't go away as a factor in the title picture, but he may need to work back up somewhat of a ladder to get there.

White said he'd have to sit down in the next week to start figuring out when Lesnar fights again. A lot of it will likely be based on Lesnar's input, too, as to just how much time he wants off.

"I personally think that the competitive side of him is going to come out. Hunting might not be as much of a priority as it was going to be if he won the fight," White said. "That's what I think. We'll see what happens."

On the other side, don't expect to see Velasquez be the same in-your-face figure that Lesnar was as a champion, as his post-fight demeanor mirrored just how he's been all along during his quick ascent through the division.

He quietly talked about how he wants to celebrate with his family, move on and begin preparations for his own title defense. It has already been determined that that will be against Junior dos Santos (12-1, 6-0), who last fought at UFC 117, taking a unanimous decision victory over Roy Nelson.

"I have to be a much better fighter, keep evolving, bring something different to the sport," Velasquez said. "I think (Dos Santos) is the best stand-up fighter there is as far as heavyweights."

In the bigger picture, Velasquez could theoretically wear a heavier crown than Lesnar or any other previous UFC heavyweight champ.

The organization pulled out all of the stops in promoting the fight as the chance for there to be a Mexican heavyweight champ for the first time in any combat sport, in turn catapulting him into iconic stature among his people.

If Velasquez has it his way, he won't be the last.

"(I want) just more Latinos to come into this sport in general," Velasquez said. "I think we bring a fighting style that's always forward, and we don't stop. We have that blood in our hearts that won't stop. That's the kind of fights people want; that's the kind of fights we bring.

"This sport is getting so popular, you're going to see more of that."

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  1. habeeb - you have no clue do you?

  2. mike, he's Mexican-American. Father was an illegal immigrant who I believe was sent back to Mexico several times, but Cain was raised here.