Yup, I said it. People should have seen this coming from a mile away, and not act shocked and surprised when Lesnar lost.
Let’s take a look at the two fighters:
Cain Velasquez (then-challenger): 6’1″, 244 lbs, 8-0 record (7 wins by KO/TKO)
Brock Lesnar (then-champion) 6’3″ 265 lbs, 5-1 record (3 wins by KO/TKO)
Now let’s take a look at their credentials:
Background: Cain and Brock were both All-American wrestlers in college. Lesnar was a NCAA Champion in 2000 and NCAA runner-up in 1999 at the University of Minnesota (note: in 1999, Lesnar lost the NCAA Championship title match to Stephen Neal, who went on to be an offensive lineman for the New England Patriots and win three Super Bowl titles). Velasquez wrestled at Arizona State, and finished fourth in the NCAA’s in 2006, his highest collegiate career finish.
In essence, Lesnar was a Division I Champion and Velasquez was not. However, Velasquez, like Lesnar, was a multiple time All-American, and competed with the best NCAA heavyweight wrestlers. This means their wrestling cancels each other out in an MMA fight.
Experience: Velasquez had eight MMA fights, Lesnar six. That is pretty much even in terms of number of fights and experience, so those cancel each other out.
Strength: Velasquez usually fights around 240 pounds, but is a lean 240 pounds (he looks more like 220 pounds) yet is very strong for his size. On the other hand, if you have ever seen a picture of Brock Lesnar, you can assume he’s as strong as an ox (which he is).
Technique: Lesnar, although fairly new to MMA, has improved leaps and bounds in his training in two years. HIs work ethic and athletic ability are top-notch., Velasquez is a dangerous striker and kickboxer, and holds a purple belt in Brazilian Jiujitsu (Brazilian jiujitsu belt lineage is as follows: white belt, blue belt, purple belt, brown belt, black belt). Velasquez’s technique is crisp, precise, and efficient, and doesn’t waste energy in fights by chasing opponents, throwing haymakers, etc.
Cardio: Lesnar for his size has great endurance and stamina. He lasted three rounds with Heath Herring, and withstood an onslaught from Shane Carwin in his last fight. Velasquez, on the other hand, is a cardio machine. He never wears out and looks as fresh at the end of the fight as he does at the beginning.
Now let’s go to the fight between the two men:
Lesnar comes out like he was shot out of a cannon, hitting Velasquez with some good shots and flying knees. Lesnar also takes Velasquez down early in the fight, but Velasquez is able to scramble back to his feet within a few seconds (hence, wrestling is canceled out).
Lesnar holds Velasquez against the cage (cue Lesnar strength) trying to get position. After Velasquez escapes, he takes Lesnar down with a single-leg takedown, but Lesnar is able to get to his feet (again, wrestling cancels out).
Velasquez starts dropping hard punches on Lesnar, which Lesnar is obviously hurt. Lesnar covers up and tries to avoid the onslaught (Lesnar does not like being punched in the face). Lesnar then stumbles across the Octagon, falls down, tries to stand up and falls back down again. Velasquez gets on top of Lesnar and reigns down punches until the fight is stopped (hence, 7 wins by KO/TKO).
For this fight, technique prevailed over strength. Mixed martial arts isn’t about who the biggest, strongest, or fastest person is. It’s about knowing proper technique and executing it to the best of your ability. Lesnar tried to use his strength and wrestling to bully Velasquez, but Velasquez stayed calm, used his superior technique to gain advantages, and prevailed as the new UFC heavyweight champion.
Additionally, a lot of people were pulling for Lesnar because he is one of the biggest stars in the UFC, and definitely the most mainstream fighter. The UFC put a lot of hype around him (claiming October the month of ‘Brocktober,’ people saying he’s the baddest man on the planet, etc.) but the hand-picked champion in Lesnar (story for another time) was defeated soundly by Velasquez. So it seemed like the casual fan was supporting Lesnar just because of his name, and UFC/MMA fans were supporting Lesnar because he’s the champ/he’s the best/he’s huge/etc. But little did people realize that Velasquez wasn’t scared of Lesnar, faced him head on, and most importantly, used his superior technique to win.
So there you have it. Velasquez beating Lesnar shouldn’t be viewed as an upset. Instead, Velasquez executed his gameplan, and deserves to be the new UFC heavyweight champion.