Breaking down Cain Velasquez’s challengers

UFC 121The UFC 121 round one destruction of Brock Lesnar by Cain Velasquez was one of the most exciting moments in MMA history. The UFC heavyweight division is the deepest in talent it has ever been but is there anyone in the division that can knock off the new champion?

The UFC heavyweight division is a very interesting division. Other than the UFC light heavyweight division, there is far more star power in the heavyweight division than the others. Shane Carwin, Frank Mir, Minotauro Nogueira, Brock Lesnar, Randy Couture, Roy Nelson, Mirko Cro Cop, and Junior dos Santos are all stars with most being headliners. But beyond the star power, does the division offer anyone that can test Cain Velasquez?

Brock Lesnar – The ex-UFC heavyweight champion was one win from being the greatest UFC heavyweight champion of all time. Unfortunately while he did win against Shane Carwin, he lost his mystique. Carwin exposed Lesnar’s weak stand up game and opened up the playbook on the “Baddest Man on the Planet.” I don’t think at Brock’s age that he can change his fight game and improve striking that much to handle Velasquez. I would be shocked if there wasn’t a rematch at some point, but I see it going the same way UFC 121 did.

Junior dos Santos – dos Santos will be the first challenger for Velasquez. If anyone can explain to me how Chael Sonnen gets an immediate rematch with Anderson Silva while Lesnar has to wait on Velasquez I’d love to hear it. I think that dos Santos is the biggest threat to Velasquez which is ironic because he is first. He matches up better than anyone else with speed, skill, size, and conditioning. Velasquez can very well wind up being a 1-fight champion come his match with dos Santos.

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Shane Carwin – Here is the deal on Shane Carwin. He isn’t as bad as he looked in the second round against Brock Lesnar and he isn’t as good as he looked during that 12 fight win streak. Carwin is probably the hardest hitter in the division which always gives him a punchers chance. The problem with going toe to toe with Velasquez is that for every one punch that Carwin throws, the champ will throw 3-5. If Carwin can land that lucky punch, it’s over for Cain Velasquez but landing the punch is a lot easier said than done.

Randy Couture – I can’t even believe I am saying this. But, Couture has a chance against Velasquez. Couture doesn’t have the conditioning of what he had 10 years ago, but he is still in great condition. Couture could go to the ground with Velasquez and grind out a win. What people forget is that Couture handled Brock Lesnar better than anyone else did up until Lesnar fought Shane Carwin. Couture does not have the speed or reflexes to get into a stand up war with Velasquez. Couture could definitely beat Frank Mir or Shane Carwin and if it is only one of those two guys standing between Couture and a title shot, Couture could be fighting for the UFC heavyweight championship one more time.

Now let’s take a look at some not so obvious challengers to Cain Velasquez in and out of the UFC who could test the new world champion.

Anderson Silva – Before you laugh, Silva has been talking for two years about moving up to heavyweight for a few fights. Silva reportedly walks around during non-fight time at around 220. Silva had no problem bringing his middleweight punching power to the 205lb. division. The heavyweight division starts at 206, so say Anderson Silva comes in at 210 that is only a 30 or so pound difference from Cain Velasquez which isn’t much different from the Velasquez-Lesnar difference. Silva has cleaned out the middleweight division and Dana White doesn’t seem interested in promoting Silva at light heavyweight if he won’t fight Lyoto Machida. I think this would be a hell of a fight and something that would no surprise me to see happen in late 2011 if both men remain undefeated.

Alistair Overeem – He isn’t in the UFC right now, but the Strikeforce heavyweight champion has said numerous times that he would be open to going to the UFC. If Velasquez gets through dos Santos, Lesnar gets through Mir, and Velasquez destroys Lesnar again, what’s next? The UFC will need to actively recruit new heavyweights and who better than Overeem? Overeem doesn’t have the same ground skills that Velasquez has, but he has the same speed and power in his stand up that Velasquez has. Overeem’s star is shining after destroying Brett Rogers on Showtime. Overeem seems to be frustrated lately with Strikeforce’s lack of competition and could start looking elsewhere.

Fedor Emelianenko – We’ve been down this road before. I am going to write more about Fedor later in the week, but let’s just say that I think the UFC just moved a lot closer to signing Fedor after Lesnar lost at UFC 121. I am a big Fedor fan (although I’m bashed as a hater if I write anything even remotely critical) but until I see Fedor fight again I have to wonder whether he is declining or just got caught against Fabricio Werdum. Fedor matches up much better against Velasquez than he would have against Brock Lesnar. I’d still take Velasquez if this fight happened today but a Fedor win would be nothing shocking. Fedor has 1 fight left on his Strikeforce contract and more importantly, one fight left on his M1 contract. Dana White h as already said that Fedor would get an immediate title shot if he entered the UFC. I think this fight is a lot closer to happening than people think.

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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