|Postfight presser by Anthony Springer Jr.
Photos by Ed Mulholland
With just seven fights under his belt, respect for Cain Velasquez has been a long, slow, uphill climb for some skeptic who believes the California fighter was over hyped.
Velasquez arrived in the UFC and quickly impressed, stopping his first two UFC opponents with punches in the opening round. While many believed he would be one to watch in the future, few could predict his meteoric rise up the ranks of the heavyweight division.
At UFC 99, Velasquez put tape over the mouth of his critics with a dominant performance over Cheick Kongo, overcoming punches that would’ve knocked out many of the division’s best. The victory earned Velasquez more respect, but some still weren’t convinced.
If you’re not a believer in Cain Velasquez after watching him maul veteran fighter “Big” Ben Rothwell, the American Kickboxing Academy fighter may have to slay a great white with his bare hands to convert you.
After a brief standup exchange, Velasquez returned to his bread and butter–wrestling–and rag dolled the much heavier Rothwell, who tipped the scales at the heavyweight limit of 265-pounds. While Rothwell got acquainted with the Octagon mat and the lights inside the Staples Center, Velasquez wowed the capacity crowd, putting together combos that should’ve separated his more experienced opponent from consciousness.
Less than a minute into round two, referee Steve Mazagatti had seen enough, halting the fight after Velasquez landed four flush punches to the face of Rothwell as “Big” was trapped on the side of the cage.
The hasty stop did not go over well with the fans or UFC president Dana White.
“I don’t think that guy should be allowed t watch MMA, let alone referee it,” White said bluntly at the post fight press conference.
Despite the stoppage, there was nothing but praise from White in the direction of Velasquez.
“I think he’s awesome. I’ve been saying that since he started. I think he gets better every time he gets in there. Ben Rothwell was very motivated for this fight and he believed that [this fight] was his destiny. He had a game plan; he had the size advantage and the experience advantage.”
Velasquez made Rothwell look like an amateur, and even the able Cain was surprised at the lack of takedown defense on display.
“I just felt like he would defend a lot more,” Velasquez noted.
There was some speculation that Rothwell dismissed his younger opponent due to the lack of experience. Both Velasquez and White denied that assertion.
“I don’t think he did with the experience that he had, he knows how to train for specific fights. I was just a better man tonight,” a humble Velasquez said.
“If you look past Cain Velasquez, you definitely didn’t after the Kongo fight. I don’t think anybody is looking past Cain. [Ben] believed it was his destiny and he wanted to win,” White added
Velasquez just wanted to win a little bit more.
With the dominant victory, don’t be surprised if Velasquez’ next bout finds him headlining a fight for the heavyweight title.