Former ASU wrestler Velasquez regains UFC Heavyweight Championship

LAS VEGAS — Revenge is bittersweet for Cain Velasquez.

After losing the UFC Heavyweight Championship to Junior Dos Santos by knockout on Nov. 12, 2011, the former ASU wrestler regained the title Saturday in UFC 155 after defeating Dos Santos via unanimous decision. Velasquez (11-1) won 50-45, 50-43 and 50-44 on the judges’ scorecards and handed Dos Santos (15-2) his first loss in the UFC.

“It was definitely a tough fight,” Velasquez said. “The pace I put out there, it was tough. Junior stayed in there the entire time, but I feel great.”

In the last fight, Dos Santos knocked Velasquez down with a devastating right hook to his face and finished him on the ground 64 seconds into the first round. Velasquez reportedly suffered a knee injury prior to that fight, which may have slowed him down in their first meeting.

Velasquez claimed he was fully healthy heading into Saturday, and things went a completely different direction in the second bout.

Dos Santos boasted the best takedown defense in the heavyweight division and the second-best in the entire UFC coming into the fight. Dos Santos had spent 13 seconds on his back in his entire UFC career, but Velasquez put him on the ground early in the first round. Dos Santos shook off Velasquez’s next several takedown attempts, but later in the round, Velasquez landed a huge shot to Dos Santos’s chin, which dazed Dos Santos and made him vulnerable to takedowns.

The ASU alum used his wrestling background throughout the rest of the five-round fight by sweeping Dos Santos’s legs and slamming him on the ground several times. Whenever both fighters were standing, Velasquez grappled with Dos Santos against the cage and landed many punches. Velasquez recorded 11 takedowns in the fight.

“It got easier when the fight went on because the pace of the fight tired him out,” Velasquez said.

Velasquez inflicted enough damage on Dos Santos to make his right eye swollen virtually shut by the end of the fight. Dos Santos suffered a broken jaw in the second round and was taken to the hospital immediately after the fight, UFC president Dana White said.

“He looked terrible, and Junior is a really tough guy,” White said.

Velasquez knew that he needed improve outside of his wrestling specialty to win the fight, since Dos Santos arguably possesses the best boxing skills in the heavyweight division.

“I knew that Junior was a tough striker and he was able to end our last fight that way, so I was prepared for him this time,” Velasquez said. “I was able to effectively use my striking and my grappling to control him throughout the fight and get the title back.”

Velasquez wrestled at ASU from 2003-05 and finished with a 50-14 overall record. He placed fifth at the NCAA championships and won the Pac-10 heavyweight championship in 2005.

White said that a rubber match between Dos Santos and Velasquez will likely be held in the near future, but Velasquez will likely face another opponent later to be named prior to the third bout.

 

Reach the reporter at jnacion@asu.edu