I picked Cain Velasquez to best my favorite heavyweight fighter of all time this past weekend. In a three round fight, I thought he could squeak out a decision against the second best heavyweight of all time. I thought Nogueira would give him all he could handle, but Cain Velasquez walked through Nogueira almost effortlessly. I was thinking about the fight yesterday and a conversation I had with a local fighter jogged my memory.
A few months back I was talking with local MMA fighter D'Juan Owens, and one thing he said to me stuck out yesterday in regards to Cain Velasquez. D'Juan was speaking on how fighting as an amateur is tough because guys are relatively new to the sport but constantly training and improving. He said that you could see a guy fight one night, then see him fight again 5-6 months later and he'll look like a totally different fighter. So it was difficult to assess just exactly what that guy was bringing to the table skills wise.
The fight with Nogueira was Velasquez's 8th fight of his career. In a sense, Velasquez has been gaining MMA experience in the UFC like an amateur would before turning pro. The only difference is Velasquez's highly decorated amateur wrestling background and access to some of the best coaching and training partners in the world. Not to mention that the UFC has done a great job of increasing the challenges in each of his fights in the UFC. The guy is only 27 years of age with eight fights on his resume and the improvement he has made since the Cheick Kongo fight is astounding. Usually high level wrestlers can pick up jiu-jitsu pretty well because a lot of the positions are similar. That is unless you are from the hammerhouse camp. We've yet to see Velasquez use a lot of jiu-jitsu, but I think it's safe to say that he's versed in that department with Dave Camirillo in his camp. The stand up game is usually the hardest thing for wrestlers to pick up, but if Velasquez's performance at UFC 110 is any indication...I'd say he isn't having any problems in that department.
I really overlooked this aspect of Cain still being able to improve at such a quick rate because he's still relatively young in the sport. As I said, you couple his talent with his top tier fight camp, and we really could be watching the future of the heavyweight division grow up before us. I guess in two fights we'll have our answer.