When Cain Velasquez faced Junior Dos Santos in November 2011, the then-UFC heavyweight champion came in as the favorite with all the pomp and circumstance of having beaten the most feared man in the sport — Brock Lesnar.
Even though Dos Santos was a highly regarded contender with excellent boxing skills, most were of the opinion Velasquez’s aggressiveness and wrestling skills would be the difference. Unfortunately for Velasquez, things didn’t go the way he — or many others — thought it would go.
Just 1 minute 4 seconds into the fight, the Brazilian challenger landed a right hand behind Velasquez’s left ear. And that quickly, Dos Santos had become the champion. Velasquez sat up on the canvas, wondering what had just happened. The Mexican-American had just been knocked out and lost his title just as easily as he had won it. Now, a little more than a year later, Velasquez has his shot at redemption.
“I got in this sport to be a champ, and I’m not the champ right now,” Velasquez said. “I feel empty right now. I’m missing something in my life and my career, so I’m heading in there to take what’s mine.”
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On Saturday night, Velasquez enters the octagon again to square off against Dos Santos in hopes of recapturing what was once his.
Things are different this time, as Velasquez says he’s 100 percent. A recent YouTube video surfaced purportedly showing Velasquez sustaining an injury to his ACL just a week before the loss to Dos Santos. He was also coming off rotator-cuff surgery.
“I definitely wasn’t 100 percent for that fight, but no excuse. He was hurt as well [Dos Santos had a knee injury],” Velasquez said. “I’m getting back to where I need to be, and now that I’m 100 percent, and training how I need to train, I’m feeling better than I’ve felt in a long time.”
Another big contrast to that fateful night 13 months ago is the fact Velasquez will again be playing the role of underdog, just like he did when he faced Lesnar for the championship in 2010. He would rather play that part than the role of unstoppable phenom.
“I always like being the underdog, and now that the circumstances are different, and being healthy, makes me a million times more mentally prepared than I was last November,” Velasquez said. “Not being the champion, and being the underdog definitely makes me hungrier.”
Velasquez now has his shot at getting rid of that empty feeling, of regaining the belt, and again ruling the UFC heavyweight division.
“I went in there without urgency the last time, and abandoned my game plan,” Velasquez said. “I played his game. I stayed on the outside longer than I should’ve, and with those small gloves and us being heavyweights he landed a punch and the fight ended early.
“My style is to be aggressive right away, and that’s what I’ll be doing this time. I’ll be putting tons of pressure, and winning this title by whatever means possible.”