By Simon Samano
For Fox Deportes
They showed up in droves and packed the sold-out Honda Center to the rafters, excited to see their new champion fight. With as electric as the atmosphere was that night in Anaheim, Calif., you’d have thought Maná was playing a concert.
It’s been six long months since the night Cain Velasquez first tasted defeat, six long months since he was knocked out in 64 seconds to lose the UFC heavyweight title to Junior dos Santos. Not only did Velasquez let down himself and his team, it happened in front of a huge Southern California Mexican-American crowd that was there to support him.
Not that La Raza has given up on Velasquez, not at all. He’s still a champion in their eyes.
As Velasquez gets set to face Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva at UFC 146 on Saturday in Las Vegas, memories of losing the title have been erased from his mind. He’s set on moving on and beginning the road back to the top.
“You can’t really dwell on the past,” Velasquez said during Thursday’s pre-fight press conference. “You’ve got to just learn from it and move forward, take that into your training, take that into your next fight. Just learn from it however you can and try to get better as a person and as a fighter.”
Velasquez (9-1) was originally supposed to fight Frank Mir until Alistair Overeem tested positive for steroids, which the UFC responded to by bumping Mir into the main event against dos Santos. That forced Velasquez to alter his strategy in the middle of training camp.
Mir, for the most part, is a ground specialist with decent striking ability. Silva, on the other hand, presents a different challenge that goes well beyond his massive 6-foot-4 frame.
“He puts everything together really well,” Velasquez told Scott Wilson of FoxSports.com. “He does punches, kicks, knees. He’s good on the ground. He does everything. He’s a guy that really doesn’t tire out. He’s got a good gas tank. He’s a big dude with a good amount of power. So he does everything well.”
Of course, the same can be said for Velasquez, although many agree he’s the superior fighter. It also helps that his training partner at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., is Daniel Cormier, who just last week won the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix where he defeated Silva in the semifinals of the tournament.
“I train with Daniel a lot,” Velasquez said. “I have to try to be quicker than (Silva). I think that fighting style with him will do well. I have to be good on the ground with my wrestling and jiu-jitsu. I think I can beat him with that, too. I think (whether we fight) on our feet or on the ground, I’m winning this fight.”
If Velasquez wants an immediate shot at the title, it’s going to take some style points. Three rounds of domination or a stoppage should do the trick.
Velasquez proclaimed moments after losing the title that he’d get it back. Well, Silva presents the first obstacle to doing that for himself, his team and La Raza, who are sure to be in attendance Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
“No, never any pressure,” Velasquez said, “just knowing what I’ve got to do out there. No matter what, I want to have exciting fights, that’s just how I see it. No pressure to win, just going out there doing my thing. That’s it.”