Former ASU wrestling All-American Cain Velasquez now UFC Champion
On Saturday night, October 23, Cain Velasquez, a two-time All-American with the Arizona State University wrestling program, became the new face of the ever-expanding world of mixed martial arts as he completed his climb to the top of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight division when he scored a first-round technical knock out of former champion Brock Lesnar at UFC 121 in Anaheim, Calif., to become the UFC World Heavyweight Champion. The win not only kept Velasquez undefeated at 9-0 in his young mixed martial arts career, but it also proved that he is a force to be reckoned with in the UFC.
Despite entering the Octagon 20 pounds lighter than his opponent, who was an All-American heavyweight at Minnesota, Velasquez weathered an early storm from Lesnar before taking the fight to the former champion and unleashing a barrage of punches to eventually force a referee stoppage at 4:01 into the first round. Velasquez has now won seven-consecutive fights in the UFC, which is the longest active streak in the promotion’s history. He also won his eighth professional fight by knock-out, his third in a row in the UFC and captured his fourth first-round win during his time in the UFC.
Velasquez is not the only former Sun Devil wrestler that has found success in the world of MMA and joins a trio of Sun Devils that held belts during their careers. Perhaps best know of that trio is UFC Hall of Famer Dan “The Beast” Severn, who went 70-13-7 in his career. Severn is the only triple crown winner in the promotion’s history as he won the UFC 5 tournament, the Ultimate Tournament and the UFC Superfight.
“Dangerous” Dan Henderson continues to fight (currently with Strikeforce) and was a veteran of the UFC as well. The winner of the UFC 17 tournament, Henderson later joined PRIDE and rose to elite status as a multiple champion by holding the titles at both welterweight and middleweight at the same time. The final Sun Devil to win a title in the UFC was Don “The Predator” Frye. A training partner for Severn at UFC 5, Frye fought in and won the UFC 8 tournament and later captured the Ultimate Ultimate 96 tournament.
Velasquez, who graduated from ASU with a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies in 2006, is currently one of four former Sun Devil wrestlers in the UFC. Two of his teammates that helped ASU take sixth place at the 2006 NCAA Championships are currently fighting, including The Ultimate Fighter Champion Ryan “Darth” Bader and The Ultimate Fighter runner-up C.B. “The Doberman” Dollaway. One of their coaches during their time at ASU, Aaron “A-Train” Simpson, also is currently fighting in the UFC as well.
All four fighters will be on hand Friday night at the Riches Wrestling Complex in Tempe as the current Sun Devils hold their annual Maroon & Gold Wrestle-offs starting at 6:30 p.m.