Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009 | midnight
- Video: Machida stays undefeated, defeats Shogun at UFC 104
- Dana White leans towards rematch between Lyoto Machida and Shogun Rua
- Cain Velasquez impressive in win, may still have to wait for title shot
- Slideshow: Machida v. Shogun
- Slideshow: UFC 104 undercard
- UFC 104 Live results: Machida takes controversial decision win over Rua
- UFC 104 fight predictions
- Fight preview: Lyoto Machida v. Mauricio Shogun Rua
- Fight preview: Cain Velasquez v. Ben Rothwell
- UFC 104: Where to watch
- Slideshow: UFC 104 official weigh-in
- UFC 104 weigh-in blog: Johnson misses weight by six pounds
- Ben Rothwell not alone in UFC debut
- Fireside chat with Dana White at UFC 104
- Slideshow: UFC 104 pre-fight photo gallery
- Take Five: Five things to know about UFC 104
- Lyoto Machida still fighting like a challenger
- 'Shogun' Rua thinks he can solve the Machida puzzle
- Razak Al-Hassan: More than just 'the guy that didn't tap'
- Cain Velasquez faces big risk, small reward at UFC 104
LOS ANGELES — Sooner or later in a UFC fighter’s career, there comes a time when he must step for a fight he probably never wanted in the first place.
Although he’s done his best not to come out and say it, that’s probably the case this weekend with Cain Velasquez.
The undefeated 27-year-old received the opportunity of his career earlier this year when it was announced he would face Shane Carwin in a bout that would likely decide the next top heavyweight contender.
That opportunity vanished when the UFC granted Carwin an immediate title shot and instead matched up Velasquez with IFL star Ben Rothwell.
On top of that, UFC President Dana White has remained vague on whether or not Velasquez would be next in line, even if he does post a win over Rothwell.
“He’s in the mix, definitely,” White said. “The heavyweight division has never been more exciting. There are so many different guys. But the guy that wins this fight is in the mix.”
It’s yet to be seen how the soft-spoken Velasquez will step up to the challenge of dropping from a potential top contender to "in the mix."
But while his perfect record suggests he’s ready to be a champion, many fans found themselves second-guessing that contention after watching Velasquez struggle with Cheick Kongo in his last fight.
According to White, however, those criticisms have been completely unjust as he said it was simply the first time Velasquez had faced adversity.
“He faced a lot of criticisms over that fight which was absolutely ridiculous,” White said. “No fighter has been able to take him to deep water before. Kongo took him there and I thought he reacted perfectly.”
One fighter who believes in Velasquez is Carwin himself, who said Friday that the two will meet in a fight eventually.
“After I beat Brock Lesnar and he beats Ben Rothwell, we’ll see each other,” Carwin said. “I believe he deserves that.”
The scouting report is pretty set on Velasquez.
He’s a notoriously good wrestler and has landed 67 percent of his takedown attempts.
While White is right in that Velasquez responded to the challenge Kongo faced him with, there’s no getting around the fact that questions regarding Velasquez’s standup and chin were raised after seeing him get clocked in that fight.
Rothwell prides himself on being a well-rounded fighter, although it didn’t start that way. Rothwell describes his first style of fighting as a ground-and-pounder, but that changed when he sought the instruction of kickboxing coach Duke Roufus in 2003. He's also got the takedown defense to thwart Velasquez, as he defends 85 percent of takedown attempts
If Velasquez has improved since his last fight and is able to mix in different offensive strategies, he remains the favorite to come out victorious Saturday night.
Last time out:
Velasquez: Unanimous decision win over Cheick Kongo at UFC 99.
Rothwell: First round win by submission over Chris Guillen at AMMA 2.
The lines:Velasquez: minus-300; Rothwell: plus-220
Velasquez: On whether he felt he received criticism for his last performance: All I can do is look at film and get better. I don’t listen to what people say. I go get better. That fight gave me things to go back and work on.
Rothwell: With all my heart and soul, I know exactly what I’m supposed to do and it’s unfortunate for Cain because that’s who I’m going to do it to. I have respect for my opponents; it’s no hard feelings. But inside the Octagon, it’s business.
Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or firstname.lastname@example.org.