By Professor William Vandry (3rd degree Black belt BJJ)
What an incredible performance by Cain Velasquez over Brock Lesnar. The absolute dominance, and destruction of Lesnar proved Velasquez is not simply a fighter or competitor, but a thinking man’s fighter. When I viewed the fight, Velasquez, who is a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, did a very smart strategy against Lesnar. He showed not just his striking, but his Jiu-jitsu tempered Lesnar, and shut down his attacks. Velasquez stated that he trained specifically all positions, and his excellent wrist control of Lesnar when he was in the guard position to shrimp out and go back to his feet was not radical, panic, desperation, it was a good strategy. He did his homework. He reviewed his opponent. He did an excellent job of being a working man’s fighter. Lesnar on the other hand did precisely what I thought he would do. I told one of my Black belts Cain was going to win this fight, and studying both fighters, I explained in my opinion why.
Usually if I review fights, I need to know a lot about both fighters. I need to see their past fights, good points and bad. When Lesnar fought Shane Carwin, I stated Carwin should win, BUT I was always worried that he had not gone past round one. Carwin’s victory over Frank Mir actually made me think of his very powerful punching. What I mean by this is not the amount of punching; I noticed that he was home running every shot. This drains a fighter. If a fighter does not finish an opponent, usually they will tire out, ala the Carwin vs. Lesnar fight. Carwin himself has a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, and probably is better technically than what we saw when Lesnar got the pillow choke.
“Fatigue makes cowards of us all!”
Carwin stated in an interview that he had no legs and was cramping. This is very difficult for any athlete. I remember a tournament years ago I competed in when my opponent and I went at 100 mph and after two minutes neither one of us could move very much. I was a purple belt at that time and it definitely taught me a lot about pace, conditioning and grip control. It’s amazing when you can’t even move your fingers.
Many times in class I do quicker rounds or longer rounds. It usually depends whether or not I am conditioning students for a tournament or just daily training. I note that Cain stated a very important point about his preparation for all positions and angles specifically for Brock Lesnar’s game. This fantastic strategy is what determines a fighter over the long run.
One of my purple belts a month back competed in a tournament in Dallas. His training at best was not consistent due to work and he wanted to jump in at the last minute. Those are not the best things to do, but competition is enticing and challenging, and it’s always good to test yourself. I did a specific drill with him training round after round with higher ranks. He started gassing and I had to change his strategy to defend better and to survive lack of conditioning with a better pace and defense. The strategy worked, as he took second in the tournament.
This type of attitude is how you develop into a better athlete, competitor and most important of all, understanding yourself internally better. Everyone knows their quitting point, but delaying exhaustion, tiredness or bad positions can lengthen your battle for a longer period.
Velasquez knew Lesnar was going straight for the takedown, and I had a strong feeling he would too. Lesnar did pretty much what I expected him to do. He has size, mass and power. He has a wrestling background, and like Velasquez, he too was a Division 1 wrestler and very successful. His strategy was to take Cain down and do what he did to Shane Carwin. Carwin was prepared to go blow for blow, wrestling and even some wind, but he was not prepared to end up on bottom.
When I train at my academy, I work with my purple, brown and black belts specifically on bad positions. I have done this my entire career, and it started when I was a white belt. I saw UFC 3 when Royce fought Kimo. Royce had an injury, it was hot and I heard that he took a cold shower (just rumor, not for sure), which may have given him the shock that eliminated him from the finals.
I really paid attention to the back mount Kimo got for a second when holding the fence. When I was a white belt, I tried to practice not getting choked, so I would let other white belts get my back, hooks in and all. This helped me analyze the defense, and till today I still work on these defenses. I don’t mind being in bad positions because you have to develop your defense. You have to work on bad positions.
Cain was prepared for any position. I felt he did a good strategy using his Jiu-jitsu. One advantage he took was one Shane Carwin did not. He did not try to simply swing until he got tired, he paced. When Lesnar went down Cane very intelligently applied the knee on stomach. Had Carwin done this it may have helped his finish as well. Velasquez also did not swing when Lesnar got his legs up. He raised his arm, and then stepped around to land the punch, not simply swing from a distance. The knee on stomach was one of the pivotal moves on the ground against Lesnar. Even though the strikes ended it, the basic side control and knee along with passing the guard were good fundamental Jiu-jitsu Cain kept in his holster.
Great attitude. Great performance. These humble developments practicing not simply your strongest points, but your weaker ones too are what develop a great attitude like Velasquez has. Doesn’t run his mouth, doesn’t act arrogantly, he just performs and speaks humbly.
The Lesnar effect
Let’s review Lesnar. A world-class wrestler that has physical gifts. Striking is not his strong point, although a strong punch could be. He is capable of punching hard. I think Lesnar has good athletic ability and his wrestling is his strong suit. He has trained ground and works on a fundamental wrestling/MMA strategy. Takedown, pin, squeeze or hammer fist to pummel. That worked very well for Mark Coleman and Mark Kerr a while back. Look at what happened. When Coleman gassed he was in trouble. Same with Kerr. And its not as if these athletes did not have energy, they simply had a pace that cost them in some of their matches. Coleman was the best fighter on earth at one point, UFC champion and Pride champion. Kerr too. However, once you are over 225lbs., pace is one thing but when you are 275 and up such as Lesnar, it usually will not last five rounds.
So where does the Lesnar effect come in vs. Velasquez attitude?
Lesnar had a pro career with the WWF now WWE. He was a star and promoted by a man who I think promotes better than any other promoter in the world, Vince McMahon. McMahon is a pro wrestling promoter, and has a successful pro wrestling TV show. McMahon also has tried promoting other sports, such as the one-year now defunct XFL football league, which was to compete with the NFL, and the WBF, which was a bodybuilding organization he started by contracting many of Joe Weider’s Mr. Olympia candidates. That too defused after one event. You would think he would try MMA promo, but perhaps the money still isn’t there. No million dollar contracts yet.
Ok, back to Brock Lesnar.
On ESPN’s website, Cain was interviewed and kept making points about staying calm and following the game plan.
Cain mentioned Junior Dos Santos and his talent, and even stated he was the best striker in the heavyweight division. This type of humility and giving credence to other fighters is what makes him what he is, a class act.
Lesnar polished his already strong game. However, like so many athletes such as Coleman and Kerr, when the homerun doesn’t happen, there is no back up plan. Lesnar was rocked and when he fell he definitely was unable to gain his stability. Almost happened with Carwin, twice is difficult to overcome.
When Lesnar lost he made a statement that Cain was the best man that night. His choice of words has never been great. I think when you lose, lose gracefully. No one ever likes to lose. I lost a 0-0 match once where I almost got a knee bar, I almost got a clock choke and a sweep, while my opponent did not advance, nor did he score one point against me or try any aggression. I pulled to my guard almost 20 times that match and my opponent kept backing out. I knew at 0-0 it can be anyone, and my opponent was very polite and respectful afterward. I told him, hey no worries, next time maybe. Despite my dominating the action, there is still no excuse. This was my standard to myself. You always tell yourself you should have finished the opponent or done better or prepped better, and then you go back to the books. Brock could have really capitalized this, and despite what host Joe Rogan stated, Brock could have gained even more fans with a bowing of the head, good luck and I will be back speech. When he beat Couture, his poor words set back a public perception of all of us, and especially in the MMA.
It’s going to be difficult to get Mom, Dad and the kids to watch these types of personalities with athletes, and this is one reason we aren’t competing with the national championship or the Super bowl.
In his preflight interview, these comments were made:
“I don’t think Cane Velasquez hits as hard as Shane Carwin.”
“We’ll find out who the true champion is and its not Cane Velasquez.”
“Mr. Velasquez, you are not better than Brock Lesnar and you will find out come fight night.”
- Brock Lesnar
Losing anything is difficult. When I was a child, I remember a classy pro boxer named Alexis Arguello. Alexis was one of the greatest boxers of all time. He lost to a very talented fighter Aaron Pryor. In their rematch, Alexis was stopped, and when knocked down, he didn’t get up. He could have, but it was not a quitting, gutless giving up. It was a respectful bowing out to a superior fighter. Alexis was always a class act, bless his soul.
When Couture lost to Lesnar, he didn’t make excuses, he didn’t run his mouth. Randy is right there with the great Alexis Arguello. He showed grace, tact, respect and most of all, understood his fans were viewing him the whole time and had to watch how he spoke in public.
When Lesnar made comments against Frank Mir in their rematch, he received a chorus of boos. You have to start with a humble approach. You need to always speak in public as if children were always listening to you. You don’t badmouth anyone publicly. In my career, I have never made a public post badmouthing people, its not professional and it rejects the philosophy of the martial arts. You can do your talking in the ring or on the mat, but never derogatory statements.
Lesnar can adjust to this. He had a great chance when discussing his medical condition before his Shane Carwin fight. To overcome a serious medical condition and to win a championship fight was a great springboard for him. He has his own manager and he is his own man. He will do whatever he does. I think fighters need to look at the old days, such as the days of Marciano and Jersey Joe Walcott. They always spoke with respect and honor among themselves and always publicly. And they were all loved and admired alike no matter who won or lost.
This effect on community is what stands best. Rickson Gracie was one of the greatest fighters of all time, and was ahead of everyone in his prime. When the Mark Kerr and other wrestlers came in, there were different styles of grappling coming to play. Rickson always spoke philosophically, and admirably. I always listened to every word he said. He spoke of the bushido or warrior code when he fought, and his spiritual philosophy. I enjoyed that and would like to see more of that.
I have a student that resides in Chicago, Illinois. He is a brown belt under me, and has been doing very well in MMA. I told him a little at a time, don’t rush your career and always keep your humility. He speaks well, and is a class act and never runs his mouth. He will be a well-known fighter and may even fight in Strikeforce or the UFC one day.
To be a complete fighter all angles must be trained.
I remember years ago when my instructor, Master Carlos Machado made a comeback fight against one of Rickson Gracies’ black belts. When we talked about it, he joked and said: “Did you think I might have lost?”
I told him: “Not at all. I know your capabilities, your attitude and your champion heart.”
I did know he was going to win, and I did know he was going to win the Masters world in 2000, both weight and open class. My instructor Master Machado gives you the perfect philosophy and attitude.
Brock can change. He is still in his prime, and has a great opportunity to review his style and come back. I think he has a lot of weapons. I think what many posted online about him simply being big or strong is not the truth. Lesnar is also a world-class wrestler and an athlete. He can come back, and he will look at what happened this fight. I think the strategy was not bad against Cane, as a top game may have been good, but Cane was prepared for that. Lesnar may have been prompted by promoters to be the bad guy, sometimes they like that to stir up the crowds. However, look at a more humble approach, and you will be loved twice as much. Good luck to Brock, hopefully he will heal and still be in the game, but special congratulations to UFC champion Cane Velasquez for his humility, his grace, his gentleman nature and his class that should be exuded by a champion.
Absorb, and think.
Professor William Vandry, (3rd degree Black belt BJJ)
Vandry BJJ Academy: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), Muay Thai Boxing & Judo – Austin, Texas