With the highly anticipated return of former heavyweight kingpin Cain Velasquez just hours away, the question remains if we will see the dominant display of cardio and technique that Cain is known for against a very dangerous opponent in Francis Ngannou.
Following a hiatus from combat sports for over two years, one individual who has no doubt that Velasquez will make a big statement tonight on ESPN is his longtime friend and coach, Javier Mendez. On the most recent episode of BJPENN.COM Radio, Mendez discussed his star pupil, the long journey back to action, and the continued evolution of Cain as a martial artist.
“Camp was different,” said Mendez. “It was him being smarter, him calling us and saying, ‘Hey, I’m taking the day off. I’m feeling tired. Hey, I’m only going to do this today.’ It’s been great. He’s stronger than ever. His weight is on point, his mind is on point, his body’s on point. Everything’s done right this time around. He’s learned how to take care of himself a lot better than ever. The rest has been two and a half years off and most of that time was spent with his family, healthy, but he just wanted to focus on the family.”
“[Cain] hasn’t lost a step.” Javier continued. “He’s actually smarter, he’s technically better, still stronger. No, you’re going to see a better, improved version of Cain, you’re not going to see the old Cain. Expect a new Cain, expect a better version of what you’ve seen in the past. That’s what you will expect and that’s what I’m expecting and that’s what he’s expecting. Everybody will be in for a treat. He’s a great one for a reason and he’s going to prove again why he is a great one, if not the greatest. I think he’s the greatest, but time will tell when everybody will realize he is the greatest.”
While we’ve all grown accustomed to Velasquez mauling his opponents and displaying ungodly pressure on the path to victory, Mendez recognizes the dangerous challenges Francis Ngannou poses in this matchup. However, the AKA head coach and founder is confident that Cain will not be subdued by the power shots of Ngannou.
“He’s the most dangerous guy that we could have gotten. He’s the only guy that has the best chance because of that power and that’s it. But Cain’s too smart, he’s not going to fall trap for that. He’s going to do what he needs to do to nullify that. It’s no secret, he’s going to take his ass down and he’s going to beat the crap out of him. There’s no secret about that. And if he gets up he’s going to take him down again. If he gets up he’ll do it again. It’s just a matter of how many times Ngannou is going to have the energy to stand up before he gets smashed, that’s all.”
Avoiding the level change and vicious ground and pound has proven to be close to impossible for many of Cain’s former opponents but he’s also no stranger to dominating foes in the striking realm as well. This is mixed martial arts after all, and Velasquez has complete a game as they come.
When asked if the plan is to avoid Ngannou on the feet at all costs, Mendez replied, “No, we’re going to have to strike with him too. There’s no way possible. If he goes just with the mindset, ‘We’re just going to wrestle…’, it’s pretty stupid, that’s not MMA. Cain has a high IQ in MMA so Cain isn’t going to just go wrestle with him. No, he’s going to punch his face, he’s going to kick his legs, he’s going to play MMA and then he’s going to take his butt down and drown him, that’s what he does.”
Regardless of how the victory presents itself, Mendez believes that the x-factor of Ngannou will fall short as Velasquez reclaims his place in the heavyweight division. As for an official prediction from the AKA head coach, Javier left off saying, “He’s going to smash him. [Ngannou has] the power shot, but we’re banking it ain’t going to happen. I feel he’s going to make a huge statement, but I never predict rounds, I always go five round mauling. So I’d go five rounds to zero. Cain’s hand is going to be raised and people are going to go, ‘The champ’s back.”
What do you think, Penn Nation? Does Cain Velasquez return to his former glory tonight on ESPN?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM 2/17/2019