- Brian Knapp
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In a word, annihilation.
The undefeated Cain Velasquez tore through Brock Lesnar in a career-defining performance, as he captured the heavyweight championship in the UFC 121 "Lesnar versus Velasquez" main event Saturday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. The end came 4 minutes, 12 seconds into Round 1, as Velasquez reached the mountaintop just nine fights into his professional career.
"I trained for a five-round fight," Velasquez said. "I'm always ready for that. You can't expect an early stoppage."
Velasquez weathered an early attack from the hulking former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar, kept his composure and picked his spots with power, precision and resolve. Lesnar took down the challenger twice in the first two minutes, and Velasquez answered the challenge seamlessly on both occasions. Velasquez scored with his own takedown 2:48 into the period, took a dominant position in back of the champion and pummeled him with punches and hammerfists. From there, it was all downhill for Lesnar.
"We expected him to come out, go hard in and go for the takedown," Velasquez said. "We were ready for that. We worked on positions, on worst-case scenarios."
Lesnar twice returned to his feet, only to be met with more strikes from the American Kickboxing Academy standout. A two-punch combination dropped the champion near the cage, and Velasquez pounced. Lesnar fought valiantly to defend himself but ate too many punches, forcing Herb Dean to step in on his behalf. He rose to his feet beaten, battered and bloodied.
"I expected nothing less," Lesnar said. "I knew there was a great challenge in front of me. He's a great fighter. What can I say? He was better than me tonight."
Shields edges Kampmann in UFC debut
Former Strikeforce middleweight champion Jake Shields out-grappled Martin Kampmann on the ground and survived his strikes on the feet, as he earned a split decision in his Octagon debut. Two of the three judges sided with Shields by 30-27 and 29-28 scores; a third saw it 29-28 for Kampmann.
Shields took down and mounted the Xtreme Couture Mixed Martial Arts standout in each of the first two rounds but tired noticeably as the fight advanced, perhaps hindered by the weight cut to 170 pounds. Seemingly in position to spring the upset, Kampmann -- who popped Shields with a pair of knees from the clinch earlier in the fight -- got caught playing to his opponent's strength in the third. Ultimately, Shields trapped the Dane in a body triangle and threatened him with a rear-naked choke as the bout came to a close.
A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Cesar Gracie, Shields has won 15 consecutive fights. The 31-year-old Californian has not tasted defeat in nearly six years and will likely find himself on a short list for potential contenders to welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre's throne.
Sanchez dominates Thiago
"The Ultimate Fighter" Season 1 winner Diego Sanchez returned to form as an elite welterweight, as he dominated world-ranked Paulo Thiago en route to a unanimous decision. All three judges scored it for "The Nightmare": 30-26, 29-28 and 29-28.
Sanchez rebounded nicely from a slow start and forced the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt to wilt underneath his relentless pace. Having returned to Jackson's Mixed Martial Arts in his native Albuquerque, N.M., the mercurial 28-year-old scored with a pair of takedowns in the second round and another in the third. His attack did not end there, as he battered Thiago with punches and elbows from the top. He finished with a champion's kick, as he mounted the exhausted Brazilian and unleashed a series of punches in the final 10 seconds of the match.
The victory snapped a two-fight losing streak for Sanchez.
"I was really humbled by these last few losses," he said. "I worked really hard for this."
Hamill decisions mentor Ortiz
Hamill damaged Ortiz with power punches in the first round before he turned to takedowns and ground-and-pound in Rounds 2 and 3, as "The Ultimate Fighter" 3 semifinalist took a lopsided unanimous decision from his former mentor. Scores were 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27, all in Hamill's favor.
Winless in five appearances (0-4-1) since his October 2006 victory over UFC hall of famer Ken Shamrock, Ortiz's moments were few and far between. Once on the ground, Hamill neutralized his underrated guard with elbows and punches from the top. Ortiz, long known for his supreme conditioning, faded as the fight drifted into the third round. There, Hamill delivered a takedown with 1:26 left and battered him with strikes from above.
Schaub overwhelms, outpoints Gonzaga
"The Ultimate Fighter" Season 10 finalist Brendan Schaub leaned on his superior speed, conditioning and striking technique as he cruised to a unanimous decision over Gabriel Gonzaga in a featured heavyweight duel. All three judges scored it 30-27.
Spawned by the Grudge Training Center in Colorado, Schaub overwhelmed the plodding Brazilian with his athleticism. The 27-year-old pumped a left jab into Gonzaga's face from the outset, stuffed his only takedown attempt with 90 seconds left in Round 1 and dropped the former heavyweight title contender with a right hook. The punch punctuated a combination at the end of the first round.
"That was kind of our game plan," Schaub said, "to mix it up, get him frustrated and pick him apart."
Gonzaga was never the same. He scored with three thudding leg kicks inside the first minute of the second period but largely abandoned those attacks as the battle deepened. Schaub, a former Golden Gloves champion, attacked both the head and body and had Gonzaga on his heels for much of their 15-minute encounter.
"Gabe's one of the top heavyweights in the world," said Schaub, who has rattled off three wins in a row. "It's a big step up for me. I'm just glad to get out of here with a victory."
Brian Knapp is a contributor to Sherdog.com.
13hMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne