It seems each time Brock Lesnar steps into the Octagon as heavyweight champion, it is the most anticipated heavyweight fight in history. This time is no different when he faced multi-dimensional challenger Cain Velasquez for the UFC heavyweight championship in the main event of Saturday's "UFC 121: Lesnar vs. Velasquez" from Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Here is MMA For Real's preview of the fight:
Record: 5-1-0 overall, 4-1-0 UFC
Key loss: Frank Mir (UFC 81)
How he got here: A former NCAA Division I wrestling and WWE champion, Brock Lesnar quickly has evolved into the biggest name in mixed martial arts. After making his MMA debut in June 2007 against an overmatched Min Soo Kim, Lesnar signed with the UFC in October 2007 and made his debut against Frank Mir at UFC 81 in February 2008. Although he fell by submission in 90 seconds, Lesnar made the most of that 90 seconds, dominating Mir until making a rookie mistake and getting caught in a kneebar. After dismantling Heath Herring at UFC 87, Lesnar got lucky and the timing worked out so he could face Randy Couture for the heavyweight crown. Lesnar proved he was for real, picking up a second-round TKO win to capture the title. After beating Frank Mir in the biggest fight in UFC history in the main event of UFC 100 to unify the promotion's heavyweight titles, Lesnar missed a year of action due to diverticulitis. His fighting career was in jeopardy, but he fought back from the illness and stepped back into the Octagon in July at UFC 116, overcoming an early onslaught from interim champion Shane Carwin before securing a fight-ending arm-triangle choke in the second round.
How he gets it done: Despite submitting Carwin in his last fight, Lesnar is mostly a ground-and-pound fighter. Three of his four wins have come due to a stoppage from strikes on the ground, including his brutal finish against Mir at UFC 100. Expecting Lesnar to pull out another submission in this fight would be foolhardy should the fight end up on the ground considering his lack of experience, but that is an area where, much like Carwin, Velasquez has never been tested, so it can't be completely ruled out. Although the chance of Velasquez gassing like Carwin are slim to none and slim is standing at the city limits. Lesnar's standup leaves a bit to be desired and he is at a disadvantage with it. This is a fight more than any other where he'll need to take full use of his wrestling credentials in order to retain his championship.
X-Factor: Velasquez will have conditioning for miles. Can we say the same about Lesnar? Who knows, but you can't like his chances of matching conditioning with Velasquez. Even if Lesnar has equivalent conditioning, his body size will negatively impact that. He has to come in in better condition than Velasquez, a daunting task. What will happen to Lesnar if he gets tired? He took a pounding from Carwin and looked fine, a positive sign, and there are reports that he has trained like a mad man for this fight. To me, the conditioning factor, while it absolutely cannot be overlooked, might in fact be an overrated talking point of this fight.
Record: 8-0-0 overall, 6-0-0 UFC
Key losses: None
How he got here: A hot-shot prospect out of the famed American Kickboxing Academy, Cain Velasquez looked destined for stardom from his initial UFC fight, a dominant first-round TKO against Brad Morris. After steamrolling Jake O'Brien and Denis Stojnic, Velasquez faced Cheick Kongo at UFC 99. Although he dominated Kongo, he could not finish him like he had the others. Since, though, Velasquez routed both Ben Rothwell and most recently former PRIDE heavyweight and UFC interim heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Velasquez especially impressed against Nogueira, showing much-improved technique on the feet and stopping the sure-fire hall of famer by knockout in just 2:20. With that win in February, Velasquez earned his shot at the championship.
How he gets it done: After utilizing a ground-and-pound approach for the majority of his UFC fights, Velasquez outboxed Nogueira and showed a new aspect of his game. Now, it's tough to pin Velasquez to one particular style, making him an infinitely more difficult opponent to plan for. Add to that his excellent conditioning and Velasquez has the makings of someone who can potentially dominate. With only eight fights under his belt, Velasquez is rapidly improving and the new wrinkles into his game could make all the difference against Lesnar.
X-Factor: This is two-fold: First off, this is the big time. There's no doubt about that one. This is the biggest fight Velasquez has ever been in by a country mile. Any Lesnar fight brings a big-time atmosphere and tons of media attention. We'll see if Velasquez can handle that. My guess is that he will. Second, how will Velasquez handle adversity should he face some? The only time Velasquez has faced any adversity was against Kongo where Kongo clocked him and rocked him once in each round but Velasquez was able to take Kongo to the mat and avoid further damage. Lesnar, at 264 pounds for this fight, hits hard despite any technical issues. If he hurts Velasquez, it stands to reason Velasquez won't be able to get an emergency takedown against Lesnar. If he can't, how will he handle that kind of pressure?
Bottom line: What makes this fight so great is how many question marks there are. You can easily make arguments for and against both fighters in this one. This will be a memorable fight. I hate pointing to something non-skills related as a tipping point, but I'm going to do that here. I think Lesnar's big-fight experience is going to be key here. We know he isn't going to pucker. Honestly, chances are Velasquez will handle it well, but in a fight this close, I have to go with the champ. Although I can see this one going into the later rounds, I'm going to go with Brock Lesnar to retain the UFC heavyweight championship with a TKO in the second round.
Who do you think's going to win? Let us know in the poll and express why in the comments section!