clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Cain Velasquez Hopes Hard Work Pays Off Against Brock Lesnar

Cain VelasquezTo hear Cain Velasquez talk about Brock Lesnar, maybe size does matter. But the way he looks at things, it's not something he can't overcome.

Velasquez (8-0, 6-0 UFC) gets his shot at Lesnar, the UFC heavyweight champion, Saturday at UFC 121 in Anaheim, Calif. Only Randy Couture has been a smaller opponent for Lesnar than Velasquez, who is 6-foot-1 and likely to come in around 240 pounds.

Preparing for the 6-3, 265-pound Lesnar presented unique training camp challenges for Velasquez.

"I definitely haven't faced anybody else of his size, his athletic ability, his power," Velasquez said on a media call for UFC 121 last week. "All I can do is just train as hard as I can at the gym, get as many sparring partners that I can that are good wrestlers and make the best of it. I definitely feel confident in my abilities."

Only Cheick Kongo stands between Velasquez and a resume featuring nothing but first- and second-round knockouts. Kongo went the distance with Velasquez at UFC 99 in Germany last year, though Velasquez dominated and swept the judges' scorecards.

After the Kongo win, he made easy work of former IFL heavyweight champ Ben Rothwell at UFC 104, then became just the second man to knock out Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, landing a right hand at UFC 110 in Sydney that is still echoing somewhere in the Outback.

That win earned him the shot at Lesnar, who defended his title with a remarkable come-from-behind submission win over Shane Carwin at UFC 116 in July. For Velasquez, a Mexican-American with working-class roots, Saturday's main event is his dream shot.

So how does he find a way to prep for the massive presence of Lesnar, who has proven to have nearly as much athleticism as he has raw power? Simple – he'll work harder than the next guy.

He credits the work ethic that was instilled in him in his youth, largely thanks to his father shuttling back and forth between work opportunities in California and Arizona.

"I always saw my dad going back and forth to California (from Arizona) by himself, and working for us – I've always known that," Velasquez said. "I didn't put it all together then, but as I was getting older I knew what he was doing – I knew that was for us. I definitely got that from him and my mom, the work ethic, and put that into whatever else I was doing as far as sports."

That work ethic led him to high school wrestling titles in Arizona, a junior college national title and All-American status at Arizona State. And at the elite American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., it helps him hang with the likes of Josh Koscheck, Jon Fitch and Mike Swick.

Even Lesnar, in his his more mild-mannered 2010 persona, understands the work Velasquez has put in to get his crack at the title.

"Cain trains to be the best in every category that he can be, because if you want to be at the top of the game now, you have to be a well-rounded fighter," Lesnar said.

Being well-rounded is something Lesnar has worked at – and it showed against Carwin in July. Carwin dominated Lesnar through the first round, so much so that he completely wore himself out and had nothing in the tank for Round 2. That allowed Lesnar an easy takedown, a quick guard pass and an eventual arm triangle submission.

Lesnar's background, like Velasquez's, is in wrestling. So naturally, Velasquez continued to work his wrestling. But he said going back to his college wrestling days, when he was outsized, he used his strong cardio to push the pace. Whether that's enough to be the equalizer against Lesnar remains to be seen.

Just like his father often had to go where the work was and adjust each time, Velasquez, too, has learned how to make the adjustments each time he has to go to work.

"I just watched film and tried to change for (Lesnar's) style of fighting," Velasquez said. "With every fight, everyone will be different – you've got to change for every style of fighter. It's not one thing – it's a lot of things. He brings a lot of things to the table, and I look at all of them."

And when the main event is in the books Saturday night, Velasquez hope that hard work will have finally paid some dividends.

"All my dreams of being in this sport (are) of holding that title," Velasquez said. "I just want to be the best in the sport."

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting