Cain Velasquez may have silenced his critics with the five round beating he put on Junior dos Santos this past Saturday night (Dec. 29, 2012) in the main event of UFC 155, which regained his Heavyweight Title, but he did more than help himself out with his performance.
He also redeemed his head coach, Javier Mendez, who took some serious flack following his 64 second knockout loss back at the first UFC on Fox fight in 2011. No one knew just how badly Velasquez had been hurt entering the fight and Mendez took the brunt of the criticism due to what many felt was a poor gameplan.
Thanks to Cain's return to form this past weekend, Mendez's was also given a clean slate.
The head trainer out of American Kickboxing Academy spoke with MMAmania.com during an appearance on The Verbal Submission talking about Velasquez's dominating performance, the gameplan which helped pave the way and what the future holds for his star pupil in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): It must have been nice for you last night in between rounds in the advice department for Cain. You pretty much just had to say, "Hey, keep doing exactly what you've been doing."
Javier Mendez: Yeah, you know, unfortunately the first time out, we couldn't do anything that we needed to do. This time around we had a healthy Cain and a motivated Cain and we were able to implement the plan that I originally started for the first fight out but it just wasn't the case the first time around with his knee. This time, he was much more comfortable.
If the fight had ended the same way it ended the first time, if Cain was flat on his back again, then it was just because it was meant to be and Junior was just that good. Not that Junior isn't that good, I actually feel very confident saying there's going to be a third match against Junior and if we don't do our homework, it will be a reversal again. The only thing I will say and I will always say is that no heavyweight in the world is going to beat Cain Velasquez as long as he's got his mindset where it's at right now in a five round decision. No one. No one can.
But...he can get knocked out. Obviously, it's happened. I've always said that could happen and it did happen in the first one and in the third one, when they do fight and I'm pretty sure they will, it could happen again.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You kind of touched on it, but was last night almost exactly how you expected that first fight to go had Cain gone into the fight healthy?
Javier Mendez: Yes, last night was exactly what I was expecting to happen. Of course, we as coaches assume our guy is gonna win, but truthfully speaking, that's what we were expecting. We were expecting to beat him up for five rounds. I never train Cain to do less than that. If he's fighting a three round fight, I prepare him for a three round war. If he's fighting five rounds, I want him ready for a five round war. I never want my guys that I am hands on with thinking we're gonna knock them out in the second and I think personally speaking that hearing Junior say, "I think I'm gonna knock him out in the second round. I'm gonna stop it in the second round," in the back of your mind, I think it plays tricks on you. The second round comes and the man is still standing, still moving forwards. I think it screws you up and the reason why I believe that's true is when I was fighting, my coaches would tell me certain things and I'd be fighting this individual that they're telling me is not supposed to have this certain weapon and that weapon is beating the hell out of me, it's messing with my head. Being a fighter, myself, it helps being a coach at an elite level because it's happened to me where I'm told something isn't what it's supposed to be and it turns out a lot better than what I was told.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk a little bit how you're feeling too. You took some serious flack after that first fight, people not knowing the severity of Cain's knee injury criticizing the gameplan, that Cain should have shot in earlier, Dana White going on national television and asking why he didn't shoot for a takedown. That really bothered you. Do you almost feel like you redeemed yourself too with Cain's performance last night?
Javier Mendez: For me, personally speaking and this is me, I think the number one redemption was Cain and the number two was me. Because of that very reason, him and I are linked together. We're really, really close. I'm basically his mentor and he goes on my every word, so they were thinking, "What the hell? He didn't perform like he's supposed to. What went wrong here?" I got blamed by everybody except Dewayne Zinkin our manager. He knew the injury severity because I told him the week of the fight that we were still really jacked up, Cain couldn't even kick with that left leg, we're in trouble. Dewayne Zinkin knew, but no one else knew the severity of Cain's injury to the full effect. Everyone knew he was a bit injured but the full extent of the injury, no one knew but me and Dewayne because Cain doesn't like telling anybody anything.
It was a difficult thing for me. It almost got me to quit the whole business because the pressure of blaming me for, "Why did I change the gameplan?" from my own partner "Crazy" Bob Cook. He took me into my office and said, "Hey, I need to know. Why'd you change the gameplan?" I go, "Bob, what are you talking about? I never changed the gameplan." I was practically in tears. For me, it was really hard. It was a pretty difficult situation to be in and finally Bob believed me but even he doubted me so you can understand. How did I feel? I was overjoyed because he proved to everybody that he was as good as he was and that he was that injured [the first time]. I'm not saying that if they fought again that Junior couldn't repeat what he did. He's a great champion himself, but I am saying that the best Cain Velasquez did not fight the first fight. I am saying that.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk some specifics from the fight last night. Cain came out so explosive and overanxious a bit, closing the distance, shooting for takedowns a bit sloppy at first. Were you a little concerned that he was too excited and too amped up at the beginning of the fight?
Javier Mendez: I was a little hoping he would settle down because he was rushing it a little too much. We did want him to shoot though. I told him, "You shoot, you miss, you shoot, you miss. I don't care. I want you to keep shooting. If you take him down for three seconds and he gets back up, take him down again. If it's four seconds, then you did better. Keep doing it because then he's gonna get more tired too." I said, "The more you push, the more he gets tired."
The whole idea was to continue to push and not let dos Santos reset. If we allowed dos Santos to reset, he was going to come off strong like he does. If you let dos Santos off with the powerful punches that he has, you're gonna have some problems.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Cain and Daniel Cormier went onto Fuel TV after the fight and like you said, they mentioned that it was really important to get dos Santos moving backwards and that was the best opportunity to land a good strike against him. Now during the fight, that was when Velasquez was able to land the huge right hand that dropped dos Santos. What were you thinking when that right hand connected and dos Santos went down?
Javier Mendez: When he hit him with the Pops special. Pops is my coach, Walt "Pops" Carvalho, who's 78 years old. He came down from Hawaii, has his own MMA fighters in Hawaii. The man is 78 years old and I swear he has the Guinness Book of World Records for ability to hold pads for anybody regardless of size. He loves the big guys more than anything. He worked with Cain. He came down specifically for a month to work with Cain and my boys and of course, he's my mentor so I said, "asolutely." I actually learned a lot from watching "Pops" work with Cain, about holding the mitts and being able to last longer because my elbows have been killing me. They've been killing me for the last 15 years and he's still going strong.
"Pops" showed him that overhand and Cain took it like water. It was great to see that and to watch that punch come through. When it hit, I said, "That's it, we're where we needed to be" because I just needed him to force dos Santos to face adversity because if you watch all of dos Santos' fights, every single one of 'em, he never faced adversity once. We told Cain that he had to let dos Santos know that he meant business too because dos Santos is very good at mind games and getting himself psyched up.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You mentioned dos Santos never facing adversity, well Cain made him face a ton of adversity in their fight, but he never gave up. Every time Cain took him down, he'd eventually work his way back to his feet without referee assistance and he was firing back in the final few rounds despite being completely exhausted. Were you impressed by his heart despite how much Cain was destroying him?
Javier Mendez: I wasn't as much surprised and the reason that I say that and I've said it before that I truly believe in my heart that Cain and dos Santos are apart from everybody else. When I'm making that kind of comment about dos Santos in regards to Cain, that means he's special. Anything these guys do is not gonna surprise me because I wouldn't have said he was special if I didn't truly believe it. You can say that I admired him more that what I felt about him was true.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): While Cain did so much extremely well in the fight, some people were harping on one particular thing, which was the fact that when dos Santos worked to get back to his feet, he would leave his back open to Cain. Several were wondering why Cain didn't try to take his back and get the choke especially considering he tried the armbar during the fight. Can you offer some insight on that?
Javier Mendez: Yeah, in that situation there, I can just tell you that it's not something that he shouldn't have done. He should have put his hooks in. Leandro Vieira, who's our new jiu-jitsu coach for almost a whole year now, and he's from Checkmat Jiu Jitsu, one of the top competition teams in the world. Vieira has been training Cain and he was yelling for Cain to put hooks in.
As everyone knows, when you're used to a certain style, which for Cain is his ground and pound and his wrestling, a lot of the times a fighter knows they're supposed to do this but they'll neglect a certain thing that could have helped them end the fight right away. I definitely will not disagree that the fight could have ended there.
Fighters are prepared properly, but in the end, they don't necessarily fight as properly as they were prepared. It's almost an impossibility to fight a perfect fight. Cain knows better than that but it's one of those things where you're the heat of the moment and things slip by.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You said that you felt Cain and Junior were a step above everyone else at heavyweight. Do you see Alistair Overeem as having the ability to give Cain a challenge should he get past Antonio Silva? What are your thoughts on that potential fight?
Javier Mendez: I think a potential fight with Overeem would be fantastic. I think he's a great fighter. My only question mark on him and this is my only question mark and I want to see if he passes it but I want to see the new Overeem. I want to see how that guy does. If he destroys Bigfoot like I think he probably can, then that's another discussion to have but until that point, it's a question mark for me. I don't want to see the old Overeem. I've seen him. I want to see the new guy. What's the new guy like?
You can follow Javier on Twitter @AKAJav.
To listen to our complete conversation with Javier Mendez, click here (interview begins at the 33:00 mark)