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Forecast as Champ From Beginning, Cain Velasquez Reaches Lofty Expectations

<! mediaid=3502155 Jae C. Hong/AP: img hspace="4" border="1" align="right" vspace="4" src="" alt="" />One of the hardest things to do in life is live up to great expectations. They come bestowed upon you by someone else, gifted or cursed with a tinge of pressure and with the assumption that innate talent will be matched by an unrivaled effort to master your craft.

From the moment he entered mixed martial arts, Cain Velasquez's name has always been followed by expectations of greatness. Less than a year into his career, his trainers were telling people he would soon be the world heavyweight champion. His teammates said the same. The hype seeped all the way up to the top of the sport. UFC president Dana White signed Velasquez without ever seeing him fight, inking him to a deal on the word of the AKA camp and after watching a quick workout session.

Maybe that's why we've rarely seen Velasquez smiling in the last two years, the weight of those lofty expectations on his shoulders. Finally though, he has his moment to smile. Facing his chance to capture the UFC heavyweight belt, Velasquez easily sliced through the monster Brock Lesnar with a first-round TKO.

It was a victory as dominant and complete and statement-making as any crown ceremony ever needs to be. Lesnar took Velasquez down twice but couldn't hold him there for more than a few seconds. On the feet, Velasquez didn't just beat Lesnar to the punch; he beat him up. Learning from the lessons laid by Shane Carwin in his near-victory at UFC 116, Velasquez picked his shots carefully and seemingly landed every one of them. He crushed Lesnar with a knee from the clinch and knocked him down with a powerful right hand behind the ear.

On the ground, the fight was even more one-sided; Velasquez connected on 48 of 59 strikes as Lesnar could do nothing to stop or even slow the onslaught. Lesnar squirmed, shrimped and covered up, and eventually, according to some near the cage, he verbally submitted. The final decision was read as a technical knockout, but the exact method was just a hazy footnote to a clear history.

"We had to pick our shots," Velasquez (9-0) said during the UFC 121 post-fight press conference. "I knew the ref wouldn't stop it that early. I wasn't going to go crazy with punches with him on the bottom. I wanted my punches and elbows to get in and I thought about where to throw them."

The precision of the finish was downright clinical. Velasquez, they say, is obsessed not only with outworking everyone, but outworking everyone the right way. Technique matters, no detail too small. So even with Lesnar covering up, Velasquez's educated hands found their targets repeatedly, drawing blood, causing pain.

By the end, by the time referee Herb Dean pulled Velasquez off Lesnar, the champion's face was bloodied and bruised, and he had deep gash below his left eye that would later need stitches.

Velasquez is always a quiet guy. Even his teammates will tell you that he doesn't say much, but what he does is a lot of is listening. He's a quick learner, and he's absorbed all of the lessons laid down by his coaches Dave Camarillo, Javier Mendez and the rest of the AKA crew.

So when he won, he didn't jump atop the cage and straddle it and scream to the fans. He didn't trash talk Lesnar. He didn't do anything remotely flashy, even though he would've been excused for being in the heat of the moment before a throng of fans who were screaming themselves hoarse. He simply threw his hands in the air and finally let out a smile.

Later, Velasquez continually answered questions about his brilliant performance with "We." The success was not just his; he wanted to make sure that everyone who helped and supported him along the way got their due. His coaches, teammates, family and the fans – Mexican and otherwise – who rallied around him during fight week.

Velasquez isn't the type to celebrate for long, and it's a good thing. His first challenger Junior Dos Santos already awaits him.

But let him have this one day. It was a nice gesture for Velasquez to recognize the people around him. Everyone draws strength and motivation from different things, and it seems like he has many sources on which to draw. But in the end, he was the one in the cage. He was the one who had all those years of promises from others thrust upon his back. He was the one who carried that extra weight against an already formidable challenger. And in the end, Velasquez did the hardest thing to do in life: for one night – the most important night – he lived up to every great expectation ever uttered about him.

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