Velasquez Stops Lesnar For UFC Title

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Velasquez Stops Lesnar For UFC Title

Sunday, October 24, 2010 1:58am

By GREG BEACHAM
, AP Sports WriterANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Brock Lesnar was downright stunned when Cain Velasquez took his biggest shots, escaped his violent takedowns and just kept coming at him at UFC 121. The baddest man in mixed martial arts was locked in the cage with an opponent who was just as tough, even more skilled -- and totally unintimidated by his bad-boy aura. Four minutes later, Velasquez also was the UFC heavyweight champion. Velasquez stopped Lesnar late in the first round with a relentless flurry of punches Saturday night, claiming the title belt from the UFC's biggest star. "It's a great feeling to have the belt," the former Arizona State wrestler said calmly, looking down at the gaudy ornament on the podium before him. "Now the hard work comes in, definitely." Velasquez remained unbeaten and claimed MMA's highest-profile belt by beating the fearsome Lesnar at everything he does best. The UFC's top pay-per-view draw and champion for the past 23 months was largely helpless against Velasquez, who reduced him to a cowering defensive posture for the second half of their brief fight. Only a slight case of nerves even shook Velasquez at all. After a frenetic opening minute featuring huge blows by both fighters, Velasquez battled back from two takedowns and never stopped pursuing the bigger champion. "I felt great about the fight," Velasquez said. "We knew his game plan going in, and it kind of did surprise me how hard he came forward. I froze. I wasn't as relaxed as I should have been, but after that takedown he got on me, that's when I was able to say, 'Relax, relax.'" Velasquez eventually staggered Lesnar across the octagon, with Lesnar stumbling to the canvas several times. Lesnar (5-2) tried to cover up near the cage, but Velasquez mercilessly rained down blows on Lesnar and eventually broke his guard, forcing referee Herb Dean to stop the fight with 48 seconds left in the round. "He looked incredible tonight," said UFC President Dana White, who didn't seem disappointed to see his top attraction's demise. "The guy gets better every time he fights. He's incredibly well-rounded. I think he answered all the questions tonight." While Velasquez (9-0) scarcely made a mistake in the entire fight, Lesnar was left cut and seriously bloodied from Velasquez's punches. Several ringside observers thought they heard Lesnar verbally ask for the fight to be stopped, although Velasquez said he was too busy punching to hear it. "What can I say? He was better than me tonight," Lesnar said in the octagon. Velasquez exposed Lesnar's clear deficiencies in standup fighting, just as Shane Carwin did in his own shot at Lesnar in July. But Velasquez didn't punch himself into exhaustion, as Carwin did in Las Vegas, instead being more judicious about his strikes. "We just had to pick our shots," Velasquez said. "I knew that the ref wasn't going to stop it that early. He was covering up well. I wanted some punches to connect, some elbows to get in there, so I really took my time and thought about where to land them." Lesnar's third title defense came just four months after his return to the octagon following a yearlong bout with diverticulitis, an intestinal malady that threatened his life and forced him to revamp his training and diet. The former professional wrestler and football player adapted without losing the sheer bulk that makes him the toughest physical matchup in the UFC. But he had never faced a fighter with the athleticism and well-rounded skills of Velasquez, who trains at a famed kickboxing academy in San Jose. Velasquez also drew motivation from the chance to become the first Mexican-American heavyweight champion in a major promotion in either MMA or boxing. The UFC returned to the Los Angeles area for the first time in a year with its most anticipated event of the fall. The main event didn't disappoint -- although many fans in the sold-out arena likely didn't expect the result after one round of pyrotechnics in the main event. Velasquez entered the cage to cheers from his Latino fans in Orange County, while Lesnar drew a mix of boos and cheers when the bearded fighter walked to the cage. The first 30 seconds were nonstop action, with both fighters trading haymakers and knees. Lesnar took down Velasquez twice with a loud thump as both fighters hit the ground, but Velasquez eventually pushed Lesnar back against the cage, testing both fighters' strength -- and Velasquez held his own despite giving away 2 inches and roughly 30 pounds to Lesnar. When the punching resumed, Velasquez landed most of the blows. Lesnar stayed in a right-handed stance, but might have had trouble seeing out of his left eye, eventually leading to his stumbles and tumbles against the cage. Earlier, Jake Shields won a contentious split decision over Martin Kampmann in his UFC debut at Honda Center, extending his career winning streak to 15 fights. Matt Hamill beat Tito Ortiz by unanimous decision to keep the former light heavyweight champion winless in the past four years, and Diego Sanchez beat Paulo Thiago by unanimous decision. Although White agreed with the decision, most fans booed when Shields' hand was raised after a slow, largely uneventful fight with Kampmann. Shields (26-4-1) hasn't lost an MMA fight since December 2004, going through eight promotions since that defeat.

Preview: Cubs-Giants Thursday on CSN+

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Preview: Cubs-Giants Thursday on CSN+

The Cubs take on the San Francisco Giants on Thursday, and you can catch all the action on CSN+. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Thursday’s starting pitching matchup: Mike Montgomery vs. Jeff Samardzija

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the Cubs: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Cubs Pulse.

Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ headline Cubs prospects ticketed for Arizona Fall League

Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ headline Cubs prospects ticketed for Arizona Fall League

Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ will headline the group of seven Cubs prospects ticketed for the Arizona Fall League.

As the Cubs project their next wave of talent, Jimenez is thought to be close to untouchable after a breakout performance at the All-Star Futures Game and a Midwest League MVP season at Class-A South Bend.

Jimenez – who originally signed out of the Dominican Republic and got a $2.8 million bonus in the summer of 2013 – is hitting .331 with 14 homers and 81 RBI through 111 games with the South Bend Cubs. At the age of 19, the dynamic outfielder reminds the Cubs a little bit of Kris Bryant during his freshman year at the University of San Diego with that 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame and powerful right-handed swing.

Happ – the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft out of the University of Cincinnati – is a switch-hitter (.717 OPS at Double-A Tennessee) who has tried to increase his versatility by moving between second base and the outfield and become a Joe Maddon-type player.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

The Mesa Solar Sox roster unveiled Wednesday also includes Victor Caratini, an advanced defensive catcher who drew interest around the trade deadline and could be packaged in a bigger deal for pitching if Willson Contreras continues to develop behind the plate and Kyle Schwarber comes back healthy next season.

Cubs officials trying to build a pitching pipeline for Wrigley Field will also get a look at right-handers James Farris, Ryan McNeil, Stephen Perakslis and Duane Underwood Jr. in the showcase league.

Jason Hammel helps Cubs sweep Pirates and surge into September

Jason Hammel helps Cubs sweep Pirates and surge into September

Another quick hook left Jason Hammel seething over the weekend at Dodger Stadium, bringing back uncomfortable questions about how much manager Joe Maddon trusts him, and whether or not the Cubs would find a spot for him on a playoff roster.

Four days later, Pearl Jam’s “Alive” blasted from the Wrigley Field sound system as Hammel warmed up before facing the Pittsburgh Pirates, with no guarantees about October or next season.

Hammel responded with another strong start during Wednesday’s 6-5 victory, completing a three-game sweep that left the Pirates staggering in the wild-card race and helped the Cubs cut their magic number to win the division down to 16.

Outside of a few extreme lows that distorted the perception of his superb overall season – 10-run outings against the New York Mets and at Coors Field and the 39 pitches he dismissively called a side day in Los Angeles – Hammel has been an integral part of the elite rotation that pushed the Cubs to such a huge lead in the National League Central.

Now up 15 games on the St. Louis Cardinals, the Cubs surged into September with an 85-47 record, an expectation their pitching staff will get healthy and become whole again and a sense of harmony within their clubhouse.

“That’s rearview mirror now,” Hammel said, wearing a Pearl Jam shirt during his postgame press conference. “Joe and I talked it out. There’s no room for off-the-field BS or disagreements or to hold a grudge. 

“I told him how I felt. He told me how he felt and the reasoning for everything. We’re grown men. We solved it and have to respect each other’s views and opinions. To carry something like that would really mess up something special we got going on right now.”

Hammel (14-7, 3.14 ERA) shut down the Pirates for six innings, allowing only one run, scattering three hits and showing the confidence that made him an All-Star-level performer in the first half. 

Hammel regained control of his fastball, spun some curveballs and incorporated a changeup to create doubt in hitters’ minds and add a different wrinkle to opposing scouting reports. He limited the damage to one run in the fifth inning, working around three walks and screaming and flexing his muscles after striking out Andrew McCutchen swinging at a 93-mph fastball to end the threat.

“Yeah, I wanted to get back out there,” Hammel said. “The last one just didn’t sit well with me. So far, so good.”

On a night when the crowd chanted “MVP,” Kris Bryant backed Hammel by launching his 36th homer and playing Gold Glove-level defense at third base. Bryant saved a run by diving to his left to catch a Sean Rodriguez line drive and end the second inning. Bryant began the fourth inning with his answer to Anthony Rizzo’s tarp catch, leaning over the wall and into the stands to catch a Josh Bell pop-up.

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

But the defensive play of the night belonged to Addison Russell, who with the bases loaded and the Cubs trying to protect a 5-2 lead, raced over from shortstop and made a sliding catch near the left-field line to end the seventh inning.

“This team’s going to be really good for a long time,” said Hammel, who had been packaged with Jeff Samardzija – Thursday’s starter for the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field – in the Russell trade with the Oakland A’s in 2014. “These kids – I say kids now, because I can, because I’m old – they’re impressive and they continue to dazzle.

“You can’t really say surprised, because we’ve come to expect all these great plays and the big knocks that they’re driving in. We’re witnessing greatness.”

After getting 22 wins in a month for the first time since September 1945, this could become the next awkward conversation: If John Lackey (shoulder) returns to full strength – and the rest of the rotation doesn’t experience any setbacks down the stretch – what are the chances of Hammel making a playoff start?

“Stay healthy and we’ll see what happens,” Maddon said. “I don’t bet on the come. Let’s get to the playoffs first, make sure everybody’s well, and at that point then you look at the group you have. And then maybe at that point you look at the group you may be playing. And then you try to formulate the best plan of attack from your personnel versus their personnel. 

“I’ve not even thought about a playoff moment once.”

The Cubs will now have all of September to think about October.