Of all the fights on show at Saturday’s UFC 104 event, Cain Velasquez’s one sided beatdown of fellow heavyweight Ben Rothwell was undoubtedly the most impressive.
The hallmarks of his style – dominant wrestling, unrelenting pace and unlimited endurance, quickly overwhelmed the veteran Rothwell, who has likely never been the victim of such a one-sided defeat in any of his previous 36 fights.
So has Velasquez now set himself up as the likely opponent for the winner of the Brock Lesnar – Shane Carwin title showdown? Dana White was asked this very question at the UFC 104 press conference and here’s what he had to say.
“Is he ready for a title shot yet? I don’t know, I don’t know, we haven’t made that decision.” he said before admitting that it’s difficult to answer questions like that so soon after the fight.
“You’ve got to understand, this guy looks great and everything else, but he’s (only) got seven fights, you know?”
Clearly White is still on the fence about Velasquez as far as a title shot goes, though he was quick to compliment the fighter and was clearly impressed with his performance.
With the news this week that the Lesnar – Carwin fight has been postponed until early next year at the earliest, it is highly unlikely that the UFC will want to keep the divisions other top contenders on ice for the next six months or more.
Therefore Velasquez is almost certain to fight at least one more time,if not more, before he gets his opportunity.
So, with that in mind, who is he likely to face next? Right now the other top contenders in the division would appear to be former champions Frank Mir and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Mir is currently scheduled to face Cheick Kongo at UFC 107 in December so of the two ‘Big Nog’ is the more likely option.
Stylistically this seems like an intriguing match-up with Velasquez having a strong wrestling base, while Nogueira’s BJJ makes him extremely dangerous off his back. It would undoubtedly be Cain’s biggest test to date and a victory over the highly decorated Brazilian would leave little doubt that he is ready to step in the cage with the champion.
On the other hand there is a school of thought that Velasquez should be given more time to continue his development and work his way up the ranks, rather than throw him in with the top contenders after just seven fights.
If that is the case then there are certainly some good opponents to be found elsewhere in the division. 9-1 Junior Dos Santos for instance is another up and coming heavyweight with wins over Mirko Cro Cop and Fabricio Werdum to his name since joining the UFC.
He is currently scheduled to fight another heavy-hitter, Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 108, another worthy opponent for Velasquez, and so the winner of that bout may well be destined to face him next.
Personally I like the latter option. At 27 he still has time on his side and so a couple of additional fights at this stage affords him the opportuniy to further hone his skills, and gain experience that may prove invaluable in the longer term.