February 21, 2010
During his postfight conversation with Cain Velasquez, UFC analyst Joe Rogan captured the moment saying, "to be a legend, you have to beat a legend." Velasquez is now on the fast track to a UFC heavyweight title shot after taking out veteran Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in less than three minutes. Even more impressive was the way the former Arizona State wrestler did it. The 27-year-old made "Big Nog" look slow and landed anything he wanted with kicks and punches.
A three-punch combo started the trouble for Nogueira. He got drilled by a left, a right hook/uppercut and then a left bounced off the top of his head as he was falling to the canvas. A great fighter has to have a killer instinct and there's no questioning Velasquez's thirst for blood. He pounced on the grounded Nogueira and landed five clean punches in what seemed like two seconds. Nogueira was stunned, referee Herb Dean had to jump in and stop the fight at 2:30 of the first giving Velasquez a win in the main event of UFC 110 in Sydney, Australia.
"I just tried to keep focused," a subdued Velasquez told Rogan. "And when I got in good position, try to beat him to the punch."
UPDATE: Velasquez got the $50,000 knockout of the night bonus. He probably edged out fellow ASU grappler Ryan Bader for the honor. Bader blasted out Keith Jardine earlier in the evening.
Velasquez has made his living brutalizing people on the ground but that's a dangerous proposition with the submission abilities of Nogueira (32-6-1, 3-2 UFC). He was so proficient with his striking that never had to take that risk.
"We were planning on pushing the pace. We could work the standup and when the takedown was there take it," said Velasquez (8-0, 6-0 UFC).
Velasquez did break momentarily from his usual stoic nature. Just after the fight, with blood trickling down his face, he celebrated B.J. Penn-style by licking the plasma from his hands.
The win holds plenty of significance. Beyond beating someone who's carried the MMA heavyweight torch since the late 90's, this was a fight between the No. 3 and No. 4 big boys in the UFC. Back in January when UFC heavyweight king Brock Lesnar annoucing that he was returning from an intestinal disorder, the winner of this fight was promised a spot as the alternate to face him sometime during the summer. Velasquez will get an immediate shot at Lesnar only if the winner of Frank Mir-Shane Carwin, next month at UFC 111, suffers an injury that makes him unable to fight for the belt.
From the opening seconds, there were signs of trouble for the 33-year-old Nogueira. He was holding his hands low and not moving side-to-side. The stationary target, made "Big Nog" an easy target for kick-punch combinations from Velasquez. The lethargic defense was very remiscent of his troubles against Frank Mir. But this time there is no "staph infection" excuse to fall back on.
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