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Cain Velasquez has successful surgery, hopes for March return

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez underwent successful arthroscopic surgery Thursday to repair a partial tear of his meniscus. It was an injury he had been training with and was not the injury that forced him out of UFC 180 on Nov. 15 in Mexico City.

Velasquez had to pull out of his title defense with Fabricio Werdum due to a sprained MCL, suffered on Oct. 16 when he was doing sprawls. It's a drill they worked on because they wanted to avoid Werdum, a submission expert, being able to pull guard and get the fight to the ground.

Velasquez attempted to train early in the week, but was unable to do so, and was told that he needed one month to rehab the knee. With the Nov. 15 date out of the question at that point, the decision was made to then first get the meniscus repaired.

Even though wrestling itself would seem to be the part of the fight that Velasquez has the biggest advantage over Werdum, Mendez felt Velasquez had to train hard in every single aspect of MMA for the fight.

"He's pretty impressive," said Mendez, regarding Werdum, who he's been studying for months. "He's not a wrestler, but he knows how to get the fight on the ground better than almost anyone with no wrestling background. I studied him. He's an amazing guy. We thought we'd have to fight everywhere."

Mendez brought up studying Werdum's fight with Alistair Overeem, which Werdum lost via decision. It was Werdum's only loss in the last six years, as the one he's been looking at the most and was impressed with how often Werdum got the match to the ground.

He noted that even with the meniscus injury, suffered weeks ago, that Velasquez was right where he wanted him to be before the second injury.

"Before that, he was training kicking, in his sparring session on Monday (Oct. 13), he looked fantastic," Mendez said. "His wrestling, his takedown defense, he looked really good. We were right on track, and then his knee started locking up when he was sprawling (Oct. 16)."

Mendez said that even though Velasquez was looking forward to fighting on the debut show in Mexico City, where he's the most popular UFC fighter, he doesn't appear to be down about the injury, perhaps because he'll be able to train again in just over a month.

"It's hard to say because he doesn't really say what he feels," said Mendez. "He's hard to read. He seems like he's taking it in stride. He doesn't complain. It is what it is."

The approximate timetable is that Velasquez will be ready to train again in December, and they are targeting early March for a fight. It is rumored that UFC 184 will be on Feb. 28 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. With the strong Hispanic population of the Los Angeles market, Velasquez is a natural headliner. He's already fought three times in the market, once at the Staples Center and twice at the Honda Center in Anaheim, including his first title win over Brock Lesnar four years ago. But that date may be pushing it slightly, and it's expected Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort would headline that show. Velasquez against the winner of the Nov. 15 fight between Werdum and Mark Hunt for the interim title could headline in March.

"It depends on the UFC," said Mendez. "Whatever decision they make is what's going to happen, provided he's healed.

"I assume he'll be good to go for full-time training by December. He'll have all of November and part of October off. I don't see him being out that long at all."

Mendez said they have no favorite between Werdum and Hunt, but noted that the strategy for each fighter would be completely different. He said he can see either man winning, but favors Werdum because Hunt only has a few weeks to train for the fight.

"It's an interesting fight that could go either way," he said. "It depends on what kind of shape Mark Hunt is in. I can see Werdum getting knocked out, but I could also see Werdum submitting him. The longer it stays standing, the worse it is for Werdum. Even if he's outpointing Mark standing, he may get overconfident and that will cost him. You can't get overconfident with that guy, because one shot is all he needs. You'd better come at him with the right game plan. Cain's injury was good for Fabricio because now he's having a fight with someone who isn't quite ready, and isn't quite as versatile as Cain is. But, Hunt is super dangerous on the stand-up."

Velasquez is coming off shoulder surgery from an injury suffered in his last fight, a win over Junior Dos Santos one year ago. His injury comes during what can only be called a snake-bitten year for UFC, in which of the current nine champions, only two, new bantamweight champion T.J  Dillashaw and flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson haven't had surgery or had to postpone a fight this year due to injuries.

Mendez, who was a world champion in kickboxing, but has had world class boxers, kickboxers, Jiu Jitsu practitioners, wrestlers, martial artists and all-around MMA fighters in his gym, said the injury rate is unavoidable with this sport.

"It happens more than we'd like, but it's part of the damn sport. Injuries happen."

"It's the nature of the sport, with so many disciplines," he said. "We'll never be able to put a stop to that. There's just too many disciplines. That's the nature of the beast. That's the path we chose. I see guys get injured sparring kickboxing, sparring boxing, and then I watch wrestling I see guys get injured, then Jiu Jitsu, they get injured there. It's not one particular discipline. The one that produces the least amount of injuries is boxing. It's not that often that boxers get hurt in training camp, but it happens. But not as much as kickboxers, and wrestlers get hurt more than kickboxers.

"We gotta keep training the way we train because to rise to the top you have to do all the right things to get there."

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