UFC 121 Preview Part 5: Brock Lesnar vs. Cain Velasquez

You wouldn’t know it from their contrasting personalities but World Heavyweight Champion Brock Lesnar (5-1; 3KO, 1SUB) and challenger Cain Velasquez (8-0; 7KO) actually have plenty in common. Not only did both start training in mixed martial arts just a few months apart in 2006 but they both made their UFC debut in 2008 after struggling to find worthy opponents on smaller shows. And of course both competed at a high level in high school and college wrestling.

Contrary to popular belief Lesnar has significantly better wrestling credentials, with his two appearances in the NCAA finals being the icing on the cake of a 106-5 record that is clearly superior to Velasquez’s 86-17. This is especially true when you consider that whilst Velasquez won a NJCAA he never even made a NCAA final let alone win one. Arguably this superiority in wrestling is carried over to MMA as although Velasquez has a slight (6%) advantage in his takedown success percentage, Lesnar’s 67% success rate is incredible considering the level of competition he has faced.

Of course all fights begin on the feet, and in their last fights Velasquez and Lesnar had very different experiences. Whereas Shane Carwin came within seconds of a brutal TKO victory over a Lesnar that showed poor boxing defense, Velasquez destroyed Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in a pitch-perfect kickboxing display. These were no aberrations, with Velasquez being by far the more technically gifted striker with 53% of all his punches connecting whereas Lesnar’s figure is only 30%. Velasquez also outworks Lesnar standing, landing five times as many punches per fight as Lesnar.

This is one of the most finally balanced World Heavyweight Title fights for some years, with strong arguments being made for either guy being the likely winner. Read below for our staff’s picks:

Chris’s Pick: Brock Lesnar is such a hugely successful cash cow for the UFC that it’s all too easy to forget how inexperience he actually is. He merely had to compile a 1-1 record in the UFC (including the embarrassing tap out loss to Frank Mir) before being granted a title shot.

Compare that to poor Gray Maynard who had to work his way up to 8-0 (with 1 no contest) before getting a crack at the belt. Thank God for celebrity. And if Lesnar’s defeat of Shane Carwin taught us anything it is that if you go out there and hit Lesnar in the teeth hard enough in the opening frame you can finish him. He’s a beast, no doubt about that, but his opponent Cain Velasquez is light years ahead of him in the speed and boxing categories. I’m, therefore, going to assume that Velasquez will have a game plan going in that will allow him to finish the fight before it really begins and bring an end to Lesnar’s thrilling run atop the UFC heavyweight division.

Pick: Cain Velasquez via KO (First Round)

Shawn’s Pick: Cain Velasquez, while at a massive size disadvantage, is a better boxer, has better conditioning and will push Brock to his limits on Saturday night.  Brock’s muscle is going to eat up a lot of oxygen and Cain will either knock him out or sub him.  I like the idea of a submission.

Pick: Cain Velasquez via submission (Second Round)

Will’s Pick: Brock Lesnar is bigger (at least by twenty-five pounds), stronger and more explosive than Cain Velasquez. Those physical attributes will help the World Heavyweight Champion overcome the gap in technique and defeat his strongest challenger yet.

Whatever advantages Velasquez has in footwork and lateral movement can be negated by the charging velocity of Lesnar’s forward thrusts. And the weight that Lesnar has dropped will surely improve his already freakishly good conditioning. Velasquez has the technical kickboxing to outpoint Lesnar standing but he doesn’t have the KO power that brought Carwin so close to defeating Lesnar. Indeed with his poor headmovement, Velasquez is only one second away from giving even a rudimentary striker like Lesnar the opportunity to land flush. While Velasquez is a great wrestler, his college credentials are inferior to those of Lesnar and he lacks experience in using it against the very best inside the Octagon. Velasquez could easily win but Lesnar has all the tools to further develop his legacy inside the UFC by taking yet another challenger down to the ground and imposing himself on them.

Pick: Brock Lesnar by TKO (Second Round)

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