You’ll have to excuse Cain Velasquez if he’s not exactly in shock here, people.
After six months on the sidelines with a shoulder injury, the UFC’s even-keeled heavyweight champion now finds himself in much the same position as he was in late last year: Still undefeated, still the top-ranked 265-pound fighter in the world and still staring down the barrel of an upcoming title defense against Junior dos Santos.
For the record, that’s exactly where Velasquez figured he’d be after UFC 131. At least that’s what he told ESPN.com on Friday, when he predicted dos Santos’ speed and technical striking skills would win the day during Saturday’s No.1 contender fight against Shane Carwin. Good call, champ.
“He fulfilled all those [expectations],” Velasquez said on Monday. “I just thought Carwin was going to be too slow for him and not really have the stand-up skills and it turned out that way. With him being that much quicker than [Carwin], he was able to do what he wanted. He was able to not get hit and do damage … I kind of saw that [coming].”
Velasquez has seen dos Santos coming for awhile now. The two were originally slated to fight after the 26-year-old Brazilian defeated Roy Nelson at UFC 117 in August and before Velasquez got put on ice by a rotator cuff injury. Now that they are -- fingers crossed -- finally set to meet near the end of this year, Velasquez just needs to get final clearance from his doctor to resume hard training. He hopes that green light will come by the end of this month.
“Once [the doctor] clears me I can start working out 100 percent,” Velasquez said. “[I’ll] just start to slowly get back into it and then I usually start my camp, a hard training camp about eight weeks before the fight. Right now, I’ll just be playing catch-up, trying to get back to where I was.”
Anyone who knows the UFC champ can confirm it’s pretty hard to get a rise out of him, so it’s no wonder the fact he opened as a slight underdog against the newly anointed No. 1 contender failed to draw much of an emotional response.
“I don’t really care about that,” he said.
Even after getting definitive confirmation that he’ll next take on dos Santos and not Carwin, Velasquez said it won’t change much about how he approaches the fight. Either foe would have tried to keep it on the feet and slug it out with him, so it’ll just be a matter of honing in on a few things specific to the acclaimed Black House fighter’s skill set.
Not that Velasquez’s scouting mission to Vancouver over the weekend was a total wash. He was cageside to watch dos Santos take a lopsided unanimous decision from the battered and beaten Carwin and Velasquez said he saw some things he can do differently to put the challenger on the defensive, especially in the ground game.
“[Carwin] just took that one shot and stayed with it,” he said. “Then when he did take [dos Santos] down, he didn’t really scramble to [improve] his position right away, which you have to do against someone like dos Santos because he moves a lot once he gets taken down. That’s something that I saw that I really think I can take to my training camp and make beneficial for me.”
Velasquez and dos Santos are expected to scrap in October or November of this year, depending on the speed on the champ’s recovery.