By Thomas Gerbasi
LOS ANGELES, October 24 – He’s only had seven pro bouts, but with rapid fight-to-fight progress and a one-sided second round thumping of highly regarded Ben Rothwell Saturday night at STAPLES Center, it’s clear that Cain Velasquez isn’t just the future of the heavyweight division; he may be ready to be its present.
The fans certainly agreed, as they greeted Velasquez (7-0) with a huge roar as he was introduced to the Los Angeles crowd and immediately the Mexican-American favorite looked to give them even more to cheer about as he traded blows with Rothwell (30-7) before tripping him to the canvas. Velasquez bulled the former IFL star and UFC debutant into the fence, with the UFC newcomer’s attempts to escape greeted with more takedowns. Rothwell did fight his way free and the two traded punches briefly before Velasquez scored two more takedowns, simply showing his dominance against a world-class foe as he proceeded to pound away on Rothwell. With under a minute to go, Rothwell managed to get to his feet, but only briefly as Velasquez took him down again, bloodied him and fired away with more strikes until the bell rang, capping off one of the more dominant rounds in recent memory.
There was no stopping Velasquez in round two as he took Rothwell back to the mat and laid into his foe with more and more punches. After bulling Rothwell into the fence again, Velasquez locked his foe up and landed six unanswered head shots, prompting referee Steve Mazzagatti to call a stop to the bout 58 seconds into the round. The stoppage brought a chorus of boos from the crowd and protests from Rothwell, but there was little doubt that the accumulation of punishment taken by the game Wisconsin native played into the final call.
Lightweight contender Joe Stevenson continued his recent resurgence, making it two wins in a row as he pounded out a second round submission win due to strikes over Spencer Fisher.
Both fighters had their moments in the first half of the opening round, but it was Stevenson (36-10) who finished stronger, taking Fisher – who had been cut over the right eye early on – down to the mat in the closing moments, where he was able to score with some ground strikes before the bell.
Stevenson stuck to the gameplan of using movement to frustrate Fisher in round two, and Fisher (24-5) wound up getting taken to the mat when he got too reckless with his striking. On the canvas, Stevenson fired away with ground strikes, and after a steady stream of shots, ‘Joe Daddy’ upped his pace even more, and the unanswered strikes forced Fisher to tap out at 4:03 of the round.
Brazil’s Gleison Tibau was efficient and effective throughout his three round catchweight battle with Josh Neer, doing enough to earn a unanimous decision win over ‘The Dentist’.
Scores were 30-27 twice and 29-28 for Tibau, who improves to 30-6; Neer falls to 25-9-1.
Tibau kicked the action off with an Octagon-rattling takedown, but Neer recovered quickly and got back to his feet, looking to do some teeth rattling with his strikes. Tibau responded with another takedown, and again, Neer got off the canvas with ease. And though Tibau’s takedowns continued, his inability to keep Neer there kept ‘The Dentist’ in the fight.
There was little change to the pattern in round two, though Tibau was able to get the mount position briefly after his second takedown of the stanza. The Brazilian then transitioned to Neer’s back and looked to pull off a spectacular submission while the two stood, but the resilient Iowan fought his way free again and scored with some solid strikes before the round ended.
Tibau continued to control the pace of the bout in the final round, and his ability to score takedowns at will while taking Neer’s thunder when striking proved to be the difference in the fight.
Conventional wisdom before the welterweight opener between Anthony Johnson and Yoshiyuki Yoshida was that ‘Rumble’ was going to be too big and strong for Yoshida. Well, after Johnson missed weight on Friday by six pounds, he was even bigger than his foe, and it led to a first round blowout victory for the Georgia native.
“I’m sorry to the UFC and the fans; I tried to make the weight,” said Johnson, who said a knee injury slowed his weight cutting process. “I was eating everything I wasn’t supposed to eat. I was in shape. I was just overweight.”
Johnson’s superior size and power was evident almost immediately, and though Yoshida gamely tried to get close enough to put his judo to work, once Johnson landed with some of his bombs, it was just a matter of time. A right hand dropped Yoshida hard to the mat, and Steve Mazzagatti intervened immediately, with the end of the bout coming at the 41 second mark of the opening round.
“I just saw somebody chasing me and I was throwing punches,” said Johnson. “I saw a big face in front of me and I decided to punch it.”
With the win, Johnson improves to 8-2; Yoshida falls to 11-4.