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Cain Velasquez Picking Junior dos Santos to Beat Alistair Overeem at UFC 146

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Though Cain Velasquez has his own fight to worry about at UFC 146, he has no trouble admitting that he’ll be keeping a close eye on the main event bout that pits challenger Alistair Overeem against current UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos. As Velasquez told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, this is one fight where he’ll be openly rooting for the man who took his belt with a first-round knockout back in November.

"I’m hoping dos Santos wins, because I definitely would love a rematch with him," Velasquez said, adding, "I think he will. He’s an athletic guy. His boxing is really good."

Velasquez found out how effective dos Santos’ boxing was when he caught a right hand behind the ear in the first minute of their title fight at the first UFC on FOX event. Though the fight was over quickly, he still thinks he "could have attacked more," or at least done a better job of staying out of the Brazilian’s punching range.

"You learn from it," he said. "You take it to your next fight, and you don’t do it again."

As for how he thinks dos Santos matches up with the former Strikeforce heavyweight champ, Velasquez admitted it’s a tough match-up for both men.

"I think in the clinch and in the distance -- obviously the kicking range -- Overeem will have a better shot. But in the punching range, dos Santos can win the fight whenever."

According to Velasquez, there’s plenty at stake in his fight, too. UFC officials have told him that the winner of his main card bout against Frank Mir will get a crack at the UFC heavyweight title, he said. That means all he has to do is get through a fellow former champ -- one who’s on a three-fight winning streak in the UFC, no less -- and hope that dos Santos retains his title in order to set up the rematch he’s been hoping for.

But as he prepares for this fight, things haven’t exactly been harmonious back home in the American Kickboxing Academy. Though Velasquez is doing his best to stay out of it, the departure of former AKA welterweight Josh Koscheck made headlines recently, especially when he criticized AKA head trainer Javier Mendez on his way out the door, saying: "If you had real coaching, you would have seen a lot more champions out of that gym. I think that now, in my career, we're going to see big improvements really quick."

Velasquez said he’s done his best to avoid reading or hearing about the beef between Koscheck and Mendez, though he does hope the two can patch things up at some point.

"The tension is between [Koscheck] and Javier. If they have the time to sort it out, they need to. But my relationship with Javier isn’t going to change, and my relationship with Koscheck isn’t going to change. He’s still a friend of mine. ...He’s a friend of mine, and Javier’s obviously my top coach. That’s just the way it is. I don’t get involved in other people’s business."

The AKA team had a reason to pull together recently, when light heavyweight Mo Lawal was battling a serious staph infection following knee surgery in January. Lawal recounted how touched he was by the outpouring of support from his teammates, which Velasquez said is indicative of the kind of fighters AKA attracts.

"Generally, everybody in the gym is a good person, regardless of what kind of exterior they show in the media and everything else. You sit down, you talk with these guys, you train with these guys, they’re all good people."