Posts Tagged ‘Cain Velasquez’

Live Blog: UFC 166: Velasquez-Dos Santos

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Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos have traded off the UFC heavyweight belt in both of their previous bouts.

Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos handed the UFC heavyweight belt back and forth in their two previous bouts. (Pat Sullivan/AP)

Welcome to’s live play-by-play blog for UFC 166: Velasquez vs. Dos Santos, from the Toyota Center in Houston. Loretta Hunt is off tonight, so this is Jeff Wagenheim with you. I’m that rare New Englander who’s not watching tonight’s Red Sox-Tigers AL Championship Series game, although perhaps my colleagues Chuck Mindenhall of MMA Fighting, Mike Chiappetta of Fox Sports and Jack Encarnacao of Sherdog — New Englanders all — are in the same boat. Anyway, I’ll be updating play-by-play throughout the main card, and prelim results are below. Enjoy the fights.

Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos

You know that thing Dos Santos does during his introduction, walking to the center of the octagon and making a feisty gesture down at the canvas, signifying that this is my house? Well, Velasquez was ready for it, just as he was ready for everything Junior tried in their last fight. Cain walked to the center of the octagon as well, wearing a death stare that would send most men running. To steal Mike Goldberg’s signature line, “Here … we … go.”

Round 1: They meet at the center of the cage and Dos Santos lands a left hook that stops Velasquez in his tracks. For a moment. Cain gets moving forward again immediately, and he’s all over Junior. The Brazilian is flinging heavy leather, and Velasquez is surging right through it, in the way Hagler refused to be stopped by Hearns’ heavy punches. Cain gets Junior down, locks in a guiilotine, but Dos Santos defends it and gets to his feet. Velasquez lands a short left, but as they separate, Dos Santos fires a right uppercut that makes Cain stagger a bit. We’re 30 seconds in, and this fight already is better — and more competitive — than either of the first two meetings.. Velasquez is relentless, and Dos Santos is finding a hard time creating the space he needs to land his shots. When he finally separates, he tries a head kick but Cain keeps coming, pushing him against the cage. At the midpoint of the round, Velasquez gets a takedown, briefly is in full mount, then half guard. He lands an elbow, but Junior is mostly tying him up. Dos Santos gives up his back, but then gets up. Velasquez goes right back to blanketing him, landing short punches to the face from the clinch. Dos Santos tries to fend him off, throws an elbow, and when they do separate he tries a spinning kick, which misses.

Round 2: Velasquez is all over Dos Santos from the start, and there’s nothing Junior can do to stop him. Junior is landing some punches, but Cain is landing more and harder. Dos Santos avoids a flurry of shots with head movement, but he’s unable to get any offense going. When they separate, it’s Cain who lands the jabs. Then Velasquez has him in the clinch again. Cain is giving him no space, which is to be expected,. But he’s also beating him to the punch. Dos Santos goes for a takedown and gets Velasquez to the mat, but Cain pops right back up and lands a couple of overhand rights before resuming his clinch game. He punishes Junior’s legs with knees to the thigh, giving the challenger’s face a brief respite from being pummeled.  Just before the horn, Dos Santos lands a short elbow and then a right hand that stops Velasquez in his tracks. For a second. But Cain doesn’t stop for long.

Round 3: Big right hand by Dos Santos opens the round, but Velasquez keeps coming, pushing him against the fence and landing  crisp jab. Junior simply cannot create the separation he needs to utilize his big punches. His short shots are landing, but Cain is walking through them and answering twofold, nailing the challenger with punches and knees. With three minutes to go, Junior does separate long enough to land a right hand, but Velasquez nails him with a left jab. And keeps coming. Then, after Dos Santos connects with an elbow, Velasquez goes for a takedown. It’s stuffed, but Cain comes back with a right hand to the head that drops Dos Santos. He pounces, flurrying with lefts and rights as the crowd roars and referee Herb Dean lurks, watching closely. Velasquez tries a guillotine, and holds onto it as Dos Santos gets up. When Velasquez lets go, Junior falls lifelessly to his back, and both Velasquez and Dean close in. As Cain lands punches, Dean puts his hand on the champ’s shoulder, as if he’s stopping the bout, but then backs off. Dos Santos looks dead on his feet, and Velasquez is now the one separating, in order to land punches. This fight appears close to being stopped. But Dos Santos survives the last two minutes, somehow. He’s staggered by a couple of right hands, and Dean again takes a close look. But Dos Santos makes it to the horn.

Round 4: Dos Santos is a zombie as he gets up from his stool. Velasquez looks a fresh as if he’d just climbed a single flight of stairs. Cain walks across the cage and, after Junior tries to land first, nails him with a right hand. He has Dos Santos against the cage, and he’s glued to him, landing rights and left that are snapping back Junior’s head. Even when Velasquez separates and Dos Santos lands, it does nothing to turn the tide. Junior is trying elbows, and landing some, but they’re not even slowing Cain. With just under a minute and a half to go, referee Herb Dean halts the action so the cageside doctor can check Dos Santos’ face. Where do you start? It’s a mask of blood and bloat. The fight is allowed to go on, and Dos Santos flings a huge right hand, which Velasquez ducks under. Then Cain is on him again, and while Junior lands an elbow, Velasquez again closes in and mauls him some more. Dos Santos connects with a couple more elbows before the round is over, but the Cain train keeps coming.

Round 5: Never would have expected the fight to get this far a few minutes go. Dos Santos lands a couple of punches out of the gate, but Velasquez responds by taking him to the canvas. Junior fights his way to his feet, then eats a couple of left uppercuts against the cage. Velasquez is throwing short right hands, not hurting Dos Santos any more than he’s already hurt but keeping him well under control. Dos Santos lands another couple of elbows, and Cain wipes blood from his nose, then snaps back Junior’s head with a punch. In one final, futile effort, Dos Santos goes for a standing guillotine, but Velasquez escapes as they hit the canvas, and Junior falls face first. He turtles up under an onslaught of punches, impelling Herb Dean to jump in. Cain Velasquez def. Junior dos Santos by TKO at 3:09 of Round 5. 

Daniel Cormier vs. Roy Nelson

This fight is brought to you by Jenny Craig,. Cormier is slimmed down because he is headed to the 205-pound division. As for Nelson, he’s staying at heavyweight but someone must have bought him a bag for his bowling ball so he doesn’t have to carry it around under his shirt anymore.

Round 1: They stalk for the better part of the first minute before Cormier goes for a single-leg takedown and, unsurprisingly owing to his two-time Olympic wrestling pedigree, gets it. Cormier passes guard but can’t do any damage, other than starting to wear Nelson out. Even after Roy gets back to his feet, Cormier is all over him, controlling the action with his grappling,. Nelson tries fgor a kimura, but Cormier defends. Then Daniel puts Nelson against the cage and lands a knee to the gut. A second knee lands low, and Nelson gets a much-needed break. It’s not simply to recover from the groin shot, not simply to get his wind back. No less important, the break allows him to create some distance, get Cormier off of him. In the final 30 seconds, Nelson fires a big overhand that misses, and Cormier nails him with a couple of punches. Cormier is clearly faster. Or Roy is clearly slower.

Round 2: More of the same from Cormier, as Nelson devolves more and more into a one-trick pony whose trick is coming in slow motion. It’s five minutes of Cormier stalking and Nelson trying but failing to connect with anything even remotely significant.

Round 3: Cormier is coasting and Nelson isn’t putting it all on the line, as he needs to. Not much to describe here, as Cormier never comes close to finishing Nelson and Nelson never comes close to turning the tide. Kind of a ho-hum. Daniel Cormier def. Roy Nelson by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27). 

Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez

Yes! Yes! Yes! Sorry, neighbors up and down the block, I had to say that – I mean scream it at the top of my lungs — because Sanchez uncharacteristically went mute on us during his walk to the octagon. He did engage in what looked like the pregame routine of an NFL linebacker with an intense moment at cageside, did a cartwheel in the cage, then went into affirmation mode. How could Melendez match that? Well, he walked out to Santana. Game, set, match.

Round 1: Melendez tries a head kick just as Sanchez is moving forward, and as a result the leg ends up on Diego’s shoulder and he is able to bull Gilbert to the mat. He quickly gets the back, but Melendez doesn’t panic, even after Sanchez gets close to locking in a choke. Melendez stands, walks to the cage and strips Sanchez off of him. From there Melendez begins stalking, and when Sanchez tries a clinch two minutes in, Melendez lands a knee to separate them and then a right hand over the top. Melendez starts with the body shots, then lands a right to the head at the round’s midpoint. Then he takes a deep breath. Melendez lands some more punches, and when Sanchez tries to counter with a kick to the body, Melendez counters the counter, grabbing the leg and driving Diego to the fence. he doesn’t get the takedown, but when they separate, Sanchez is bleeding from above the left eye. The blood is covering half of his face as the round enters its final minute, but Sanchez lands a couple of body shots to slow Melendez. The round concludes with a rock ‘em sock ‘em sequence, both guys flinging lefts and rights, until Sanchez goes down. He springs right up, but the final seconds are all Melendez.

Round 2: Sanchez’s chest and stomach are streaked with blood within the first minute of the round, even though Melendez’ punches aren’t especially targeting the eye. Gilbert is strafing the body, but he’s taking some punches and kicks, too. The crowd is into it, but there’s a groan when the referee halts the action so the cageside doctor can check Sanchez’s nasty cut. Diego complains that there’s Vaseline in his eye, but says the cut is OK. The fight goes on. Melendez stalks him, and every time Sanchez gets aggressive, Gilbert tags him. But Sanchez doesn’t slow down. He gets hit flush with a couple of right hands, then briefly gets Melendez to the mat. But Gilbert gets up and lands a leg kick. Sanchez tries another takedown and eats a knee to the face. As the round ends, Sanchez’s face and body are a mess. But he’s not sagging.

Round 3: After his trainer, Greg Jackson, tells him he’s down two rounds and needs a KO, Sanchez takes the news to heart. He gets in Melendez’s face, and even though he’s getting the worse of the exchanges, he;s getting the fight he needs. Melendez is playing matador, parrying every bull charge by Sanchez. Midway through, the doctor is again brought in to check the cut. “Let him go,” he says. And an uncaged Sanchez charges forward, landing a leg kick, the aright to the head. Diego pounds on his chest. Then, with just under two minutes to go, Sanchez lands a right uppercut that floors Melendez. Sanchez pounces a the crowd explodes. he gets Gilbert’s back, tries to lock in a choke. As Melendez maneuvers into top position, Sanchez tries for a guillotine. Too sweaty. They stand, and they trade.  Finally, Melendez goes for a takedown and gets it, but with 30 seconds left, Sanchez reverses position and they get back to their feet. The fight ends with more rock ‘em sock ‘em action and with the roof of the arena blowing into the heavens from the force of the crowd’s roars. Wow. Gilbert Melendez def. Diego Sanchez by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28). 

Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Shawn Jordan

It was a bit surprising that Shawn Jordan agreed to come to the octagon on time, considering that his old college football team, LSU, was tied with Ole Miss late in the fourth quarter. But the Johnny Cash music started playing, and Jordan started walking. Then came Gabriel Gonzaga, sporting the fifth-degree black belt of moustaches, a ‘stache that could knock a man out with one twitch. And the heavyweights were ready to go.

Round 1: Not much going on in the fight’s first minute, other than Gonzaga landing a leg kick or two and fending off the few punches thrown by Jordan. Then Jordan surges forward with a 1-2 that Gonzaga absorbs while backing away, and counters with a right hook that drops the ex-football player. The Brazilian swarms his fallen opponent with right hands on the canvas until referee Jay Stafin pushes him away. What’s worse for Jordan: LSU gave up a late field goal and lost, too. Gabriel Gonzaga def. Shawn Jordan by TKO at 1:33 of Round 1. 

John Dodson vs. Darrell Montague

The flyweights are best viewed in slow motion, lest one miss half of the scattershot action. So be forewarned.

Round 1: Early on they’re stalking, fast-twictch stalking to be sure, but stalking nonetheless. A Montague low blow makes Dodson wince but doesn’t halt the fight. They exchange audible leg kicks, then Dodson lunges forward with a right hand that lands. More stalking, but then at the midpoint of the round Dodson connects with a hard left hand that floors Montague. Dodson pounces, and when his opponent manages to stand up he picks him up and throws him to the mat. Dodson lands a flurry, but Montague survives and gets to his feet, a bit wobbly. Dodson shows mature patience, landing punches but resisting the temptation to throw caution to the wind. No need to, since he’s landing over and over. With just under a minute to go, Montague has a little bounce back in his step, but Dodson nails him with a straight left that sends him to the canvas, face-first. Dodson pounces again, but before he can land another blow, referee Jacob Montalvo jumps in to end it. As a dazed Montague grabs for the ref’s leg, trying to wrestle, Dodson sprints to the cage and does a backflip. John Dodson def. Darrell Montague by KO at 4:13 of Round 1. 

Prelim results:

–C.B. Dollaway went all Nick Diaz on Tim Boetsch early on, taunting him, dropping hands to his sides … but taking more punches than Nick ever did. Then Dollaway tried a Moe Howard maneuver, poking him the eye twice … and losing a point for the second foul. That didn’t really make a difference in split decision, though, as two judges scored it 30-26 for Boetsch (so he would have won, 30-27, without the point deduction).

–Hector Lombard got Nate Marquardt backpedaling with an overhand right, sent him to the canvas with a left hand and swarmed him with hammer fists until referee Jay Stafin bravely dove in to save a defenseless Marquardt at 1:47 of the first round. Then Lombard expended just as much energy lifting his opponent off the canvas and hugging him. Call it ferocious sportsmanship.

–Jessica Eye and Sarah Kaufman went toe to toe for three rounds, and while it was Kaufman who looked closest to a finish, wobbling the former 125-pounder in the third round, Eye got the nod from two of the three judges. It’s tough to argue against the decision in a close fight, except that one judge (Ruben Najera) inexplicably gave Eye that final round, in which Kaufman hurt her and then stalked her to the finish. Hmm.

–K.J. Noons staggered Georges Sotiropolous midway through the third round but inexplicably didn’t pounce on the Aussie, instead trading with him to the final horn of their lightweight bout and rolling the dice with a judges’ decision, which unanimously went his way.

–Adlan Amagov fought off a takedown attempt and blistered T.J. Waldburger, flooring him and finishing their welterweight bout with strikes at 3:35 of Round 1. Waldburger was out cold and taken from the octagon on a stretcher.

–Tony Ferguson staggered Mike Rio with a left hook and sunk in a d’arce choke to get the tapout just 1:52 into their lightweight fight.

–Andre Fili bloodied and battered Jeremy Larsen in the first round and finished him 53 seconds into the second to take what was scheduled to be a featherweight bout until Fili missed the 145-pound limit at Friday’s weigh-in.

–Kyoji Horiguchi floored Dustin Pague early in Round 2 and finished the bantamweight opener with punches at 3:51.

  • Published On Oct 19, 2013
  • With Anthony Pettis injured, José Aldo will defend UFC belt vs. Chan Sung Jung

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    Jung, known as the "Korean Zombie," will face Jose Aldo as Anthony Pettis will miss the fight with a torn meniscus. (Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images)

    Jung, known as the “Korean Zombie,” will face Jose Aldo as Anthony Pettis will miss the fight with a torn meniscus. (Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images)

    You win some, you lose some.

    Title bouts, that is.

    On Thursday afternoon in Winnipeg, Manitoba, as he was hyping a UFC 161 card (Saturday, 10 p.m. ET, PPV) that has zero championship fights on it, promotion president Dana White captured the full attention of the assembled media by announcing the next title defenses for his heavyweight, light heavyweight and welterweight champs. Three belts, up for grabs.

    Then, on Friday, White unveiled still another tussle for a brass-and-leather strap. But this time, the news, which was released via Twitter, was not so welcome. Well, unless you’re a zombie from East Asia.

    Anthony Pettis, the lightweight contender who dropped down to featherweight in order to challenge José Aldo, injured a knee in training and is out of the Aug. 3 title fight in Rio de Janeiro. According to White, he’ll be replaced in the UFC 163 main event by Chan Sung Jung.

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  • Published On Jun 15, 2013
  • UFC 160 Predictions: Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva

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    All three of's UFC experts predict Cain Velasquez (left) to defeat Antonio Silva. (Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

    All three of’s UFC experts predict Cain Velasquez (left) to defeat Antonio Silva. (Zuffa LLC via Getty Images) analysts Loretta Hunt, Jeff Wagenheim and Jon Wertheim provide their predictions for UFC 160, which takes place Saturday (10 p.m. ET) and will be live-blogged on

    Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva

    HUNT: It’s hard to get the brutal image of their first encounter a year ago out of my head. Velasquez fought with a ferocity we hadn’t seen before and violently ripped Silva’s bloodied face open from top position. A loss like that would have broken other fighter’s psyches, though Bigfoot has bounced back surprisingly well. Is the rematch a whole new fight? Possibly, but Velasquez still has the advantage in all areas, including the key wrestling component. Velasquez by TKO.

    WAGENHEIM: As much of a mismatch as this fight is, don’t call Silva undeserving. “Bigfoot” earned his title shot with knockouts of previously unbeaten Travis Browne and title-challenger-in-waiting Alistair Overeem. That said, it would be shocking if the bulky Brazilian even makes this fight competitive. (OK, it’ll be more competitive than his first meeting with Velasquez, in which Silva was on his back within five seconds and was assaulted the rest of the way.) Cain is faster, in better shape, is disciplined and has the wrestling chops to dictate where this fight is fought. That means the big fists of “Bigfoot” are unlikely to be a factor, and Velasquez will roll onward, possibly into a rematch with Junior dos Santos. Velasquez by TKO.

    WERTHEIM: By sheer “force of force” Bigfoot instills fear. But ultimately this will come down to speed. Velasquez will be quicker to snap off punches and kicks, quicker to avoid and execute takedowns and quicker in transition. Velasquez by decision.

    Junior Dos Santos vs. Mark Hunt

    HUNT: Has Dos Santos gotten his house in order? He admitted distraction from personal issues walking into his loss to Velasquez last December and it cost him the title. If he’s got his head and training straight, his striking speed and power can break Hunt’s career-resurrecting streak. Should Dos Santos want to take the path of least resistance, six of the granite-chinned Hunt’s seven losses have come by way of submission. But that won’t happen. Dos Santos by TKO.

    WAGENHEIM: This is not as much of a mismatch as the main event, but it’s still a mismatch. Hunt has a puncher’s chance, and against Dos Santos, a guy who’s confident in his own standup game and might be willing to trade fisticuffs, that opportunity might dangle in front of the New Zealander for a while. But Junior has been in before with hamhock-fisted sluggers (Roy Nelson, Shane Carwin), and he’s dominated the standup. Plus, something tells me the ex-champ is going to be on a mission to show he’s better than the guy who was battered for 25 one-sided minutes by Velasquez back in their title fight last December. Just as Cain came out like a cannon blast in his first fight after losing the belt to Dos Santos, expect something explosive from redemption-minded Junior. Dos Santos by TKO.

    WERTHEIM: The good news: Hunt made it to the fight after his various travel issues. The bad news: it’s hard to see him winning. Credit Hunt for his resurgence (dude turns 40 in March) but — short of landing a bomb — how does he hurt JDS? Much like the main event fight, you have to favor the younger, quicker more versatile fighter. Dos Santos by TKO.

    Glover Teixeira vs. James Te Huna

    HUNT: This feels like a holdover fight for Texeira as the UFC clears away the debris of Jones-Sonnen atop the light heavyweight division. In short, striker Teixeira has faced much stiffer competition than Te Huna’s lighter docket. Teixeira by TKO.

    WAGENHEIM: This is the type of fighter Teixeira has to tear through if he’s to continue his out-of-nowhere rise in the light heavyweight division. That’s not to downgrade Te Huna, but the heavy-handed New Zealander — the other heavy-handed New Zealander, that is —  is not what you’d call a well-rounded fighter. So Glover can test the waters by standing and banging, and if the sea gets choppy he can take the fight to the ground … and drown James. Teixeira via submission.

    WERTHEIM: An interesting contrast in styles. The head says Teixeira — a complete fighter who hasn’t lost since 2005 — ought to win. The heart says that Te Huna, a Maori with dangerous power, has a chance. Fight of the night potential. We’ll play it safe. Teixeira by decision.

    Gray Maynard vs. T.J. Grant

    HUNT: Canadian Grant finally seems to be finding his stride in the big O, and Maynard hasn’t fought in 11 months due to a knee injury. I always thought Grant had the goods and this is the one where he needs to step up and deliver. Is he ready? My gut says Maynard by decision.

    WAGENHEIM: Twice, Maynard was so close to the lightweight belt he could smell the leather. But ever since his near misses against Frankie Edgar, Gray has been a missing person. He’s stepped into the cage only once in the past 19 months, and didn’t get to show much that night last summer against Clay “Usain” Guida. I mention this because Maynard can’t afford to be rusty against Grant. T.J. is 4-0 since dropping to the 155-pound weight class, and he’s starting to get a whiff of the strap as well. Can Grant take the fight to the ground, where he paints his masterpieces? That’s tough against Gray. Maynard by decision.

    WERTHEIM: Were it not for one lapse against granite-chinned Frankie Edgar, Maynard would have authored a completely different career. As it stands, credit him for putting himself back in the lightweight picture. After a bizarre win over Clay Guida in his last fight, he can make a statement by beating the impressive Canadian T.J. Grant. If he can bring his superior wrestling skills to bear, Maynard should survive. Maynard by decision.

    Donald Cerrone vs. K.J. Noons

    HUNT: Cerrone is the more well-rounded lightweight and although entertaining, boxer Noons is mighty predictable. Barring another fluke fall-apart from Cerrone like the Pettis loss four months ago, this will be a fun one, however long it lasts on its feet. Cerrone by submission.

    WAGENHEIM: As a Jackson/Winklejohn guy, Cerrone has the stronger pedigree. He’s more well-rounded, which gives him more ways to win. And while “The Cowboy” hasn’t exactly been riding high of late, Noons has looked lost while dropping four of five. K.J. is better with his hands, but that won’t be enough. Cerrone by decision.

    WERTHEIM: You can’t help feel the matchmakers sympathized with Cerrone, an entertaining UFC favorite. After a rough loss to Anthony Pettis, the Cowboy gets back on the horse against Noon, a dangerous fighter, but one who has lost four of his last five fights. Cerrone by TKO.

  • Published On May 24, 2013
  • UFC 155 Live Blog: Junior dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez

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    Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez square off in UFC 155 in Las Vegas. Check out below for’s Loretta Hunt’s blow-by-blow coverage.

  • Published On Dec 29, 2012
  • As Cormier plays waiting game in Strikeforce, his UFC future is unfolding

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    Daniel Cormier won the championship belt after defeating Josh Barnett during the heavyweight tournament final bout of the Strikeforce World Grand Prix in May. (Kyle Terada/US PRESSWIRE)

    TORONTO — Daniel Cormier is so close to the UFC he can taste it. The Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix champion was in attendance at Saturday night’s UFC 152 at the Air Canada Centre, watching the fights and looking for one.

    The undefeated 33-year-old has been promised a prominent spot on the UFC’s roster of big boys once he fights once more in the sister promotion. And he does have a bout scheduled for a Nov. 3 Strikeforce card in Oklahoma City. But no opponent. Frank Mir was to come over from the UFC, where he was a two-time heavyweight champion, but was injured in training and pulled out of the fight this past week.

    So now the prom is six weeks away, and Cormier (10-0) is left waiting for a dance partner. He’s hoping to hear a name early in the coming week, but he’s not fretting and he’s not setting a deadline. “When I fought ‘Bigfoot’ Silva, Strikeforce called me just five weeks before,” he told as he was waiting for the fights to begin. “And I had been in Louisiana for a few weeks, doing nothing. But I fought then, and I’ll fight now, no matter what. I’m not bowing out. I’m not doing that to my Okies.”

    Cormier has a history in the state where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plains. He wrestled at Oklahoma State, making it to the 2001 NCAA Division I final. He continued to live and train in the area for several years, twice making the U.S. Olympic team. That deep background in wrestling, aside from allowing him to dictate where fights are fought, has instilled in him a comfort level in taking on whomever whenever.

    “I’ve been training for Nov. 3 for a month,” said Cormier. “To get ready for a specific opponent, once one is in place, I just need a few weeks. It depends. Frank was a problem because he’s a southpaw, and I’ve never fought one before. But now if they bring me a conventional fighter, I can fall back into my comfort zone.”

    It’s not the softspoken Cormier’s way to call anyone out, but he must have a few names stored away in the back of his mind, right? “The only names that I have in my head are the ones that have stepped to the front and said they want to fight,” he said. “Roy Nelson said he’d do it. Pat Barry said he’d do it. Fabricio Werdum said he’d do it. Those guys are now on my radar. So I know that maybe I should start watching film on them a little bit, start training in accordance with what I might be doing against those guys.”

    How does one prepare for a fight that might be against kickboxer Barry or might be against jiu-jitsu ace Werdum? And then there’s the larger issue: Can a fight with either of them elevate Cormier’s status in the same way that the bout with Mir could have? “Any guy from the UFC could do that,” Daniel insisted, before acknowledging, “Maybe not as much as Frank Mir would have.”

    That’s an understatement. I mean, a win over Barry, who is 7-5 with losses in three of his last four fights, wouldn’t exactly put Cormier in the crosshairs of Junior dos Santos. Or, um, Cain Velasquez.

    Cormier smiled at the mention of his training partner, who by the time Daniel reaches the UFC might once again be the heavyweight champ. “I think he will be,” said the fellow American Kickboxing Academy fighter. “I really do believe it. He’s amazing.”

    Should Velasquez regain the belt in his Dec. 29 rematch with Dos Santos, Cormier’s options would be to drop to the 205-pound division — he wrestled at 211 pounds in the Olympics — or go for the heavyweight belt against his teammate. Cormier and Velasquez have discussed that latter possibility. “We’ve talked about it a little bit, not really going into detail,” said Daniel. “But we’ve always said that if a guy is a champion, it’s not fair for his teammate to have to say, ‘I’m going to be No. 2 for the rest of my career.’ So if and when the time comes, we’ll sit down as a family and discuss whether we want to go forward with that. I’ll tell you this: We would not allow it to rip us apart.”

    That’s a discussion for a different time. For now and for the foreseeable future, Cormier is working out alongside Velasquez five days a week. And as he sees it, sparring and grappling with the man he believes is the best heavyweight in the world puts him in good standing for his upcoming fight against an opponent who has not yet — “against TBA,” he jumped in. “And it doesn’t really matter who it is. When you’re training with No. 1 or No. 2 every day, the rest should take care of itself.”

    – Jeff Wagenheim

  • Published On Sep 23, 2012
  • Post-fighting words: UFC 146 edition

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    Junior dos Santos

    Junior dos Santos beat Frank Mir via second-round TKO in his first title defense. (Julie Jacobson/AP)

    The main event was scheduled for five rounds, the other bouts for three rounds. But three of the five fights on the UFC 146 main card Saturday night in Las Vegas did not make it out of the first round, with two of them lasting only a minute or so. In all, we saw four KOs. Why? Because it was the mammoth fight organization’s first all-heavyweight main card. And you know what Jimmy Cliff says about heavyweights: The harder they come, the harder they fall. One and all.

    So, since the most we got from the big guys was the 8:14 that, after a Stipe Miocic TKO, left Shane del Rosario as wobbly as a late-night tourist on The Strip, let’s go a full five championship rounds here.

    Not with fisticuffs, though, but philosophy.

    OK, maybe that’s too lofty a description of the words that were spoken inside the octagon in Sin City over the weekend. But it’s always refreshing to be reminded that — belying their fierce looks, sculpted physiques, abundant tattoos and the occasional red Mohawk — many of these men have depth, compassion and a childlike sense of humor.

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  • Published On May 28, 2012
  • Experts’ predictions for UFC 146

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    Frank Mir (right) guns for the UFC heavyweight title held by Junior dos Santos (left) on Saturday night in Las Vegas. (Josh Hedges/Getty Images) analysts Ben Fowlkes, Loretta Hunt, Jeff Wagenheim and Jon Wertheim provide their predictions for UFC 146 on Saturday in Las Vegas.

    Junior dos Santos vs. Frank Mir

    FOWLKES: For all his skills and success and experience, Mir still has a suspect chin and an underwhelming takedown ability. The latter has improved in recent years, but the former only tends to get worse with age. JDS has faced better wrestlers than Mir and managed to stay on his feet. There’s no reason to think he won’t do it again here, which is bad news for the former champ. Dos Santos by TKO.

    HUNT: Mir has made a career out of stepping into big-time fights, and he’s had mixed success. However, Dos Santos, a striker with power and technique, is Mir’s kryptonite. Dos Santos by TKO.

    WAGENHEIM: If Mir can take this fight to the ground, watch out. But how is he supposed to get Dos Santos off his feet? A more likely scenario: Mir goes to the mat all by himself, involuntarily. Dos Santos by KO.

    WERTHEIM: JDS has been a tornado to everyone else’s trailer park lately. Mir will seek to take the fight to the ground and grab a limb. That’s not his best chance; it’s his only chance. Dos Santos by TKO.

    Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio Silva

    FOWLKES: Velasquez has a lot in common with the last man to beat Silva, not the least of which are the coaches at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose. AKA teammate Daniel Cormier had little trouble putting his quickness to use against Silva’s size back in September, and I doubt Velasquez will either. Velasquez by decision.

    HUNT: Former UFC champ Velasquez has to be the favorite, even though he’s been nursing his knee back since last November’s loss to Dos Santos. Word out of Silva’s camp is he’s down to a svelte (for him) 270 pounds coming out of one of his best camps ever. Will Silva’s physicality be too much for Velasquez? I’m not so sure. Velasquez by TKO.

    WAGENHEIM: One punch last November transformed Velasquez from champion to under-the-radar second fiddle. A sure way for him to get noticed … and get a shot at his old belt: End this fight just as swiftly and suddenly. Velasquez by KO.

    WERTHEIM: Silva’s size is the X-factor (XXXL factor) that has enabled him to beat Fedor and succeed in Elite XC. Look for Velasquez, quicker to the punch and the better wrestler, to get back to winning. Velasquez by decision.
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  • Published On May 25, 2012
  • Bader learns to work smart ahead of UFC 139

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    Once thought to be the future of the UFC, Ryan Bader (above) finds himself in a must-win situation entering his fight with Jason Brilz at UFC 139. (AP)

    Nine months ago, Ryan Bader was the future of the UFC. He was undefeated, under 30 and taking on fellow up-and-comer Jon Jones. Bader lost the bout while Jones went on to become the UFC’s youngest champion a month later. Bader lost his next fight too,  falling to Tito Ortiz, and now the 28-year-old finds himself on the UFC 139 undercard against Jason Brilz. Both fighters need a victory to avoid a three-fight losing streak.

    “He’s still one of the up-and-comers,” said UFC middleweight Aaron Simpson, one of Bader’s MMA training partners and the guy who recruited and coached him as a wrestler at Arizona State. “He’s still pretty new to the sport.”

    Bader, Simpson, heavyweight Cain Velasquez and middleweight C.B. Dollaway all started serious MMA training between 2006 and ’07. Dollaway, Bader and Velasquez — the 184, 197, and heavyweight wrestlers, respectively — graduated from Arizona State in 2006. Simpson, the coach of ASU’s upperweights, helped the trio become part of the sixth-best wrestling team in the country — and probably the scariest team to disagree with in an argument. All four (Simpson says he’s “not your typical 37-year-old”) are now fighting in the UFC.

    “I don’t want to have a 9-to-5 job; I’ve been an athlete my whole life,” Bader said. “I like going into the gym and getting better every day.”

    Bader’s athletic mentality is what got him into MMA, but it might also be the cause of his current losing streak. Bader admits he has a “you can never get enough” training attitude that he picked up while wrestling. According to Simpson, the light heavyweight has to be forced to take time off to let his body recover and was “run down” going into his last two fights.

    “I don’t think that was the real him out there,” Simpson said. “As a coach I’ve learned it’s not just working hard, it’s working smart. I think he’s just now learning that.”

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  • Published On Nov 17, 2011
  • Stock Watch: UFC on Fox 1 an initial success

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    Junior dos Santos

    Junior dos Santos knocked out Cain Velasquez in just 64 seconds at UFC on Fox on Saturday. (AP)

    Out of the gate, UFC on Fox is looking very much like a hot stock.

    Initial ratings from Saturday’s broadcast indicated a modest success in viewership with an audience of 4.64 million viewers, a figure in the ballpark of the second CBS-televised fight-night that featured Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson. But Fox issued a release on Sunday stating 5.7 million households tuned in to watch Junior Dos Santos club Cain Velasquez to win the heavyweight title.

    The initial numbers for FOX said Saturday’s event was only second to ABC’s broadcast of the college football game between Oregon vs. Stanford in adults 18-49 and tied the game with a 7 share in that age group. FOX’s revised numbers projected it to win its time slot in adults 18-34, adults 18-49 and men 18-34. UFC on FOX also beat the numbers for the first MMA event on network television, the Kimbo Slice-led “EliteXC: Primetime,” FOX said.

    These are the demographics for which advertisers pay, and they complement FOX’s track record of success in attracting young viewers. The network said it didn’t have much trouble selling ad time for UFC on FOX, same as CBS didn’t for EliteXC when Slice or Fedor Emelianenko or Gina Carano was involved. They were sellouts, and that spells longevity.

    But it also brings us to a key question moving forward. Will the numbers garnered by a high-profile fight such as Velasquez vs. Dos Santos still hold when a title isn’t at stake, or when the wattage of an event’s marquee stars is lower? CBS saw a steep drop-off in ratings in cards not packaged with bankable properties such as Slice and Fedor.

    This much is sure: The promotion leading into UFC on FOX is a tremendously encouraging sign. The network pushed the show in a big way. What we’ll find out now is whether FOX’s stellar support is enough to drive viewers to future UFC events broadcast on the network. It’s a tough market out there. MMA fans have become choosy with all the product to watch.

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  • Published On Nov 14, 2011
  • Three thoughts on UFC on Fox 1

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    Junior Dos Santos

    Junior Dos Santos scored a first-round knockout of Cain Velasquez in 64 seconds. (Jason Redmond/AP)

    What does the Ultimate Fighting Championship look like on live network television? We got a taste of it Saturday when Fox aired the UFC heavyweight championship between Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos. For fight fans, this was a pinnacle moment — a chance to share the very best of the sport they love with co-workers, friends and family who’d never watched it before. The fight lasted only 64 seconds, but there was much more than that to glean from this historical broadcast. Here are my observations …

    Strong start out of the blocks

    Fox Sports Media Group CEO David Hill wasn’t kidding when he told reporters earlier this week the network would add a cheeky viewer warning to the telecast. You knew you were going to be watching something different when Fox flashed this at the top of the hour:

    “The following might be the most exciting live sporting event in the history of television, and it’s our duty to say: VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.”

    Well played, Fox.

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  • Published On Nov 13, 2011