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Cain Velasquez takes on Junior Dos Santos for UFC title

MIXED MARTIAL ARTS

The first nationally televised UFC fight is for the heavyweight title; Cain Velasquez is favored against Junior Dos Santos in Saturday's bout at Honda Center in Anaheim.

November 11, 2011|By Baxter Holmes
  • Cain Velasquez, left, and Junior Dos Santos pose during a news conference Friday to promote their UFC heavyweight title fight in Anaheim on Saturday night.
Cain Velasquez, left, and Junior Dos Santos pose during a news conference… (Jae C. hong / Associated…)

Cain Velasquez wears the mien of a man you wouldn't want to upset.

Of the last guy you'd want to bump into at the end of a dark alley.

Of the most frightening figure you'd wake up from a nightmare to find standing at the end of your bed.

But when Velasquez, the son of an immigrant farmer who picked lettuce to support his family, hears fans chant "Si, se puede!" ("Yes, we can!") and declare him a role model for Mexicans, he smiles.

And the first Mexican fighter to win a heavyweight title in boxing or mixed martial arts — who will defend his Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight title Saturday against Brazilian fighter Junior Dos Santos at Honda Center in Anaheim — doesn't appear so mean at all.

"I'm happy Mexicans are known as hard-working people and people with a lot of heart," said the 6-foot-1, 240-pound Velasquez. "I try to use that in my fighting. I have a lot of heart."

When he enters the octagon, he'll hear Mexican singer Vicente Fernandez's 1965 song "Los Mandados," a lament to Mexican immigrants in the U.S., roar over the loudspeakers.

There will also be a heavily pro-Velasquez crowd at the Honda Center for the UFC's first prime-time network television appearance on Fox.

"It pushes me harder," Velasquez, who was born in Salinas, Calif., said of his fan support.

UFC president Dana White has billed this as the organization's biggest fight in history, and said for such an occasion he would want only these two fighters in the octagon. "This is going to be an awesome fight," White said.

It should be an interesting contrast in styles between Velasquez (9-0 MMA, 7-0 UFC), a former wrestler at Arizona State, and Dos Santos (13-1 MMA, 7-0 UFC), who's considered one of the most dangerous strikers in all of MMA.

"I love to fight standing, and I will try to keep this fight standing," said the 6-4, 238-pound Dos Santos. "If the fight goes standing, I will try to knock him out."

Velasquez is almost a 2-1 favorite on most sports books and is actually the more powerful striker.

In an appearance on "Sport Science," his punch was recorded at 2,230-pounds of force per square inch, more than any posted by any MMA fighter or boxer.

But Velasquez is returning after a yearlong absence because of a shoulder injury suffered during his one-round heavyweight title fight win against Brock Lesnar last October.

Velasquez said surgery on his torn rotator cuff went well, that he's 100%, and that he expects a long battle with Dos Santos. "I think it's going to be a five-round war," Velasquez said.

Dos Santos, the No. 1 contender who beat interim heavyweight champion Shane Carwin in June, said he thinks the bout will end before that. White agreed, but added that he hopes it lasts at least one round.

Regardless of the fight's length, White said it will be the only bout broadcast on Fox.

If it does go short, White said, they have additional coverage planned.

In terms of attention, the UFC fight falls on the same night as the hyped Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez boxing match in Las Vegas.

But White said UFC's main card is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. Pacific time, and Velasquez-Dos Santos should be over about an hour before the Pacquiao-Marquez fight begins.

baxter.holmes@latimes.com

twitter.com/baxterholmes

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