Cain Velasquez is the Future UFC Heavyweight Champion

The amount of hype bestowed upon Cain Velasquez is simply mind-numbing. He’s been called “the greatest mixed martial artist to ever step into American Kickboxing Academy”, among other things. Dave Meltzer, one of the most respected journalists in the entire industry and the guy who has been covering it longer than anyone else, calls him “the future” of a division that is getting better by the day. We hear stories all the time about guys refusing to fight Velasquez, stories about people who don’t want to train with Velasquez because of the beatings they take. Mirko Cro Cop was originally called to replace Heath Herring against Velasquez, and he turned the fight down.

He’s the mixed martial arts version of an urban legend.

He may have been an urban legend before UFC 99, but the beating he handed out to Cheick Kongo likely started the process of making him a household name among UFC fans. Cheick Kongo is no joke whatsoever. He was one of the top five heavyweights in the division, and Velasquez easily handled him for three full rounds.

Nobody should claim that Cain is perfect or even the best he possibly can be at this point; he was rocked standing and displayed poor head movement and a complete lack of finishing ability that will hamper him against men like Brock Lesnar or Shane Carwin. But there’s nobody in the division who can match his cardio or the furious pace he keeps. Near the end of his UFC 99 bout with Kongo, he was still going at the same speed he did in the first round while a completely exhausted Kongo simply tried to survive.

What’s next for Velasquez? Rumors are already circulating that he’ll be matched up against Shane Carwin in the fall, with the winner securing a title shot for some point in 2010. The smart money would be on Zuffa trying to protect both Carwin and Velasquez by giving them different opponents, but I’m not sure that can be done for much longer. Both guys are in the top six of the division, and the other four men around them are already booked for fights in the summer. There’s a logjam at the top of the division, and the only real way to unclog it would be in having Velasquez and Carwin face each other.

Velasquez will likely earn a title shot within the next twelve months. When he does, the champ better prepare for the fight of his life. If he doesn’t, you’ll almost certainly see Cain Velasquez getting the belt strapped around his waist by Dana White.

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