Brock Lesnar defends his UFC Heavyweight title against the undefeated Cain Velasquez, Jake Shields makes his UFC debut, and Tito Ortiz gets back in the octagon all this weekend at UFC 121.  The event takes place at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.

Brock Lesnar (5-1) (champ) vs. Cain Velasquez (8-0)

Lesnar is on a 4 fight win streak including back-to-back title defenses against Frank Mir (his only loss) and Shane Carwin.  Brock is the undisputed #1 Heavyweight in the world of MMA, but Cain Velasquez has never been beaten.  His resume is also impressive with victories over Big Nog, Ben Rothwell, and Cheick Kongo. 

Both fighters were elite college wrestlers and are more than comfortable on the ground, but more so when they are on top.  Lesnar says he has lost weight, but will still weight in at the UFC Heavyweight limit of 265.  Velasquez and his training partners say his endurance is second to none, and if this goes into the championship rounds expect Cain to dominate. 

We saw a vulnerable Lesnar in his last fight at UFC 116 vs. Carwin, but he still managed to hang on thru the 1st round and submit Carwin in the 2nd.  As good as Cain is right now, I don’t see him pulling off the upset. 

Pick: Lesnar via TKO in Round 2

Martin Kampmann (17-3) vs. Jake Shields (25-4-1)

The former EliteXC Welterweight Champion and Strikeforce Middleweight Champion, Jake Shields, finally makes his long-awaited UFC debut, and he will do so at 170 pounds.  Shields is on a ridiculous 14 fight win streak that included victories over Yushin Okami, Carlos Condit, Mike Pyle, Nick Thompson, Paul Daley, Robbie Lawler, Jason Miller, and most recently Dan Henderson.

He may not be the most entertaining fighter out there, but Shields is certainly one of the most successful.  A win over Kampmann should put him in line for the winner of GSP and Koscheck. 

Kampmann is no push over, with wins over Condit and Paulo Thiago since dropping down to welterweight.  He is a dangerous fighter who can just as easily win with a KO or submission.  I expect Shields to show a little nervousness early in his UFC debut, but ultimately earn the win.

Pick: Shields via unanimous decision

Diego Sanchez (21-4) vs. Paulo Thiago (13-2)

The Ultimate Fighter Season 1 Middleweight Winner, Diego Sanchez, who dropped from welterweight to lightweight (where he had a title shot) is now back up to welterweight.  He lost his return to 170 to John Hathaway via unanimous decision, but now he gets a shot at another Top 10-15 Welterweight in the world in Paulo Thiago. 

Thiago has suffered only 2 losses in his MMA career, one to Jon Fitch and the other to Martin Kampmann in his last fight.  Despite both fighters coming off defeats, the winner puts themselves right back in the mix, particularly if they win in impressive fashion.

Pick: Thiago via submission in Round 3

Tito Ortiz (15-7-1) vs. Matt Hamill (9-2)

Tito was scheduled to fight Chuck Liddell after being coaches together on TUF, but an injury forced him off the end of the show as well as the fight.  He has not fought in nearly a year, since his close loss to Forrest Griffin.  Ortiz is just 0-3-1 in his last 4 fights although all were against former UFC Light Heavyweight Champions.  His last victory was back in 2006 vs. Ken Shamrock. 

Hamill is technically the only guy to defeat Jon Jones, however is was Bones who DQ’d himself for the loss.  The former TUF Season 3 runner-up also holds a win over the now ex-UFC star Keith Jardine, in his last fight. 

Ortiz is definitely on the downside of his career while Hamill is on the way up, but I don’t think Hamill has reached the level of The Huntington Beach Bad Boy just yet.  Tito, in my mind, has a few more fights left in him.

Pick: Ortiz via unanimous decision

Gabriel Gonzaga (11-5) vs. Brendan Schaub (6-1)

Gonzaga vs. Schaub is a match up of two fighters looking to crack the Top 10 in the Heavyweight division.  Gonzaga has only lost to top-notch fighters (Fabricio Werdum (2), Randy Couture, Shane Carwin, and Junior Dos Santos in his last fight).  Schaub has not fought the same caliber of guys yet, his only loss coming at the TUF 10 Finale to Roy Nelson.  Both fighters hold a win over Chris Tuchscherer.

Gonzaga’s striking is just too dangerous for Schaub in this one.  It is a great measuring stick fight for Schaub, but I don’t see him coming out on top in this one.  Meanwhile a win for Gonzaga will help push him up in the ever competitive UFC Heavyweight Division.

Pick: Gonzaga via KO in Round 1

That is your main card for UFC 121, here is the rest:

UNDER CARD (on Spike TV)

  • Ryan Jensen vs. Court McGee
  • Patrick Cote vs. Tom Lawlor

UNDER CARD (un-aired)

  • Sam Stout vs. Paul Taylor
  • Mike Guymon vs. Daniel Roberts
  • Chris Camozzi vs. Dongi Yang
  • Jon Madsen vs. Gilbert Yvel


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