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Saturday, 05/25/2013, 12:40 pm

EDITORIAL | Cain Still Reaching for “Legendary Champion” Status

By JAKE CHASTAIN

The world of MMA is a very harsh place. The saying, “he landed a lucky punch” never seemed to hold more weight than it does inside the UFC octagon. The rise and fall from fame and stardom can be extremely fast and unexpected, almost identical to a rollercoaster. Just ask Cain Velasquez.

Just a year and a half ago Cain was the undefeated reigning UFC Heavyweight Champion. His record was unblemished and his skills and technique almost matched the perfection of his record. But, in the blink of an eye, all of that talk of perfection came to a crashing close as one punch from Junior Dos Santos ended Cain Velasquez’s perfect MMA record and halted his title run before it could even begin. Just like that Cain Velasquez went from ‘king of the mountain’ to ‘talks of yesteryear’.

But the true mark of a champion in this sport has been the mixture of consistency and longevity. The UFC title has been held by many men. Each weight class has had its fair share of champions passing the belt around. But not every fighter that ever touches the UFC gold is considered or recognized as a true, legitimate champion. No knock to these other fighters because it is still a very well deserved and highly praised accomplishment to be UFC Champion, but names like Matt Serra, Forrest Griffin, Evan Tanner, and Andrei Arlovski won’t go down in most fans’ minds as “champions”.

These are good fighters but it takes something extra to stick out and become a legend of the sport. It’s the names that seem to stick around for a long time that ultimately gain that “champion” status that is never forgotten; like Randy Couture and Dan Henderson. It’s the fighters that are able to defend the strap and really solidify themselves as a true dominator of their respective weight classes; like Anderson Silva and GSP. And it’s the guys that are able to win the belt on multiple occasions, such as BJ Penn and now, Cain Velasquez.

Much like GSP’s story when he lost his title to Matt Serra, Cain bounced back tremendously from his title forfeiting and first career loss. He knocked-out Antonio Silva in his first fight back after losing the belt to JDS and then he went on to put together one of the most impressive and dominating title fight performances in UFC history when he mauled Junior Dos Santos in a rematch that regained Velasquez his title in December of last year.

But even after accomplishing that feat and becoming a two-time UFC heavyweight champion his place in the record books is not safe or solidified just yet. Cain is still yet to defend the UFC crown, which is a huge part of becoming a true “champion” in this sport. He’ll have his chance to inch one step closer to becoming recognized as one of the best heavyweight’s in UFC history if he can come away with a victory this weekend at UFC 160 as he faces Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in a rematch that Silva earned by knocking-out Alistair Overeem in February.

Cain will enter that fight, unlike his first title defense against JDS, as a huge favorite over Silva. If he can put together an impressive performance he will undoubtedly become one of the best heavyweights the game has ever seen. Although I think he is already one of the best we’ve seen he has to prove it with stats to truly gain that “champion” status that we’ve been talking about. Cain has the record (11-1 MMA), he has the skill (amazing boxing and wrestling), he has the impressive wins over top names (Brock Lesnar, JDS, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira), and now all he needs is a few title defenses under his belt to legitimize his place atop the UFC heavyweight division and arguably nudge his way into the “greatest heavyweights of all time” conversation.

But Cain has been in this position before and in a sport where “one lucky punch” can take you from top-to-bottom in the blink of an eye, I’m sure he’s not taking this fight lightly.

2 –Time UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez will continue to reach for that “Legendary Champion” status this Saturday, May 25th in Las Vegas at UFC 160. Don’t miss it live on PPV.

-Jake Chastain

@jchastain45

 

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