Velasquez Downs Lesnar for Heavyweight Title; Shields Earns Title Shot at UFC 121

ANAHEIM – Cain Velasquez came into his heavyweight title fight at UFC 121 hoping for a five-round battle. He ended up needing just over four minutes to stop Brock Lesnar via TKO and claim the UFC heavyweight title in front of 14,856 fans at the Honda Center on Saturday night.

It may have been a relatively brief affair, but what it lacked in length it more than made up for in intensity.

Lesnar set the pace right away. As soon as the bout began, the champion took one step directly to the side and then charged across the cage at Velasquez, bringing all of his 264 pounds crashing directly into the challenger.

"I was kind of surprised by how hard he came forward right at the beginning," Velasquez said at the post-fight press conference. "I kind of froze for a minute."

Though visibly undersized against the hulking Lesnar, Velasquez managed to avoid some early takedowns and got up quickly after later ones, eventually forcing Lesnar into striking exchanges where the quicker Velasquez had the upper hand.

Midway into the first round Velasquez cut Lesnar around his left eye and even secured a takedown of his own. Once back on his feet, a wobbly Lesnar attempted to flee from Velasquez's punches and wound up stumbling to the mat. It proved to be the beginning of the end.

"We just had to pick our shots," said Velasquez. "I knew that the referee wasn't going to stop it that early, so we had to pick our shots. I wasn't just going to go crazy, just trying to punch him because he was on bottom. He was covering up well."

After working back to his feet, Lesnar took several more hard shots and again crumpled to the mat. From there it only took a few more perfunctory punches from Velasquez before referee Herb Dean called a stop to the bout at 4:12 of the first round.

Velasquez said after the bout that he wanted to dedicate the victory and the title to Mexicans both in the U.S. and Mexico, adding that he hoped more Latinos would enter MMA in the future.

As for Lesnar, the former champ did not attend the post-fight press conference because, according to UFC president Dana White, "he didn't want to take away from Cain's moment." He was also reportedly busy getting stitches for the cut around his eye.

When asked whether Lesnar's loss would hurt the drawing power of the UFC's most high profile fighter, White replied that people would "always be interested" in Lesnar, but admitted that he needed to work on his ability to take punches.

"We've seen fights where his stand-up know, he's not winning any boxing titles or anything, but his stand-up looks good when he's throwing punches and landing them. When he's getting hit is when everything starts to fall apart."

In the night's co-main event, welterweight Jake Shields, who defected to the UFC after holding the Strikeforce middleweight belt, won a somewhat unpopular decision over Martin Kampmann in his UFC debut.

Shields acknowledged that the performance was "not my best," and attributed some of the lackluster effort to a difficult weight cut that involved dropping twenty pounds in a single day, a move the UFC president called "ridiculous."

Asked if Shields would still receive a title shot after winning a fight that left the arena showering him with boos, White replied, "Yeah, he won."

Finally, Diego Sanchez took a step toward a career comeback with a thrilling three-round decision over Brazilian Paulo Thiago – a bout that netted both men the $70,000 bonus for Fight of the Night.

Sanchez chalked the win up to moving back to his old training home at Greg Jackson's gym in Albuquerque, as well as to a renewed career focus.

"I was partying there for a while," said Sanchez. "Everyone knows, I was drunk at the MMA award show. That's the past."

Other bonus awards on the night went to Velasquez for Knockout of the Night and to Daniel "Ninja" Roberts, for Submission of the Night after his anaconda choke win over Mike Guymon.

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