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UFC 104:

Cain Velasquez impressive in win, may still have to wait for title shot

Despite dominating Ben Rothwell, Velasquez still sits behind Antonio Nogueira

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Justin M. Bowen

Cain Velasquez connects on Ben Rothwell Saturday night during UFC 104 at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Velasquez won with stoppage in the second round.

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Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher in the front row Saturday night during UFC 104 at Staples Center in Los Angeles. Launch slideshow »

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LOS ANGELES — There’s stepping up. And then there’s what Cain Velasquez did to Ben Rothwell Saturday night.

Besides blindfolding him and kicking him in the ribs a few times, the UFC couldn’t have been much worse to Velasquez over the last few months.

After originally telling the undefeated fighter he would be facing Shane Carwin for the next heavyweight title shot, the UFC instead pitted Velasquez against a dangerous newcomer with no guarantee of moving up the division’s ladder with a win.

Velasquez responded to the challenge by demolishing Rothwell en route to a second round TKO win at Staples Center on Saturday that improved his professional record to 7-0.

His performance did not go unnoticed.

“I thought he was awesome,” said UFC President Dana White. “He’s a great fighter and he gets better every time he goes out there.”

That said, White remained unclear as to where the win will place Velasquez in the hunt for the next title shot in the heavyweight division.

Champion Brock Lesnar already has a fight scheduled with Carwin next month and many believe that Antonio Nogueira, fresh off a win over Randy Couture in August, is still ahead of Velasquez to face the winner.

Although White wouldn’t confirm his heavyweight picture, he alluded that Velasquez still may not be ready for the title shot.

“Is he ready for a title shot? I don’t know. I haven’t made that decision,” White said. “The guy looks great but there’s one thing you’ve got to understand, he’s only got seven fights.”

Velasquez, sitting just down the table from White during the remarks, quietly disagreed in his own way.

“I know I need to get better, but I came into this sport to be a champion,” he said. “I want that belt and whoever wins between Lesnar and Carwin — that’s who I want.”

There’s reason to believe that Velasquez could offer one of the more unique challenges to either Lesnar or Carwin.

The fact that Rothwell outweighed Velasquez by around 30 pounds on Saturday night obviously served as little advantage, as more than once Velasquez completely picked him off of the ground before body-slamming him to the canvas.

For Velasquez, competing with larger opponents is nothing new as he says he wrestled in the 285-pound weight class in college.

“In wrestling, I was always competing against bigger guys,” Velasquez said. “That’s a 285-pound weight class, guys would come to the mat weighing almost 300 pounds. I’m used to it and this is the weight I’ve chosen to fight at.”

That’s encouraging news, as both Carwin and Lesnar weigh-in for their fights at the maximum weight of 265.

After the disappointing turn in events for Velasquez, it’s clear that motivation won’t be a factor as well.

His performances so far should guarantee that no fighter ever overlooks Velasquez — even if occasionally it may seem the UFC might.

“If anybody was looking past Cain Velasquez, they definitely aren’t after they saw him in the Cheick Kongo fight (at UFC 99),” White said. “He got hit with some big shots that would have knocked other heavyweights out. I don’t think anyone can come in and overlook him.”

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected].

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