The man who would be king made his mixed martial arts (MMA) debut inside the Hexagon nearly seven years ago at the Save Mart Center from the campus of California State University in Fresno. Headlining the card was a 265-pound main event featuring David Abbott vs. Paul Buentello.
Yes, there was a time when "Tank" was a bigger name in MMA than Velasquez.
"I'm confident of my striking ability," Cain would say before the event. "Take it to the ground or keep it on the feet, whatever, I'll do both. Fight everybody and beat everybody. Be the best, that's all I want to be."
Little was known about the wrestler from American Kickboxing Academy (AKA), based in San Jose, Calif., except for the undeniable fact that he was an impeccable mat technician. True, it was his cagefighting debut, but he was still heavily favored over his 3-1 opponent, Jesse Fujarczyk.
"Fujarczyk has tattoos on his back in Latin that read 'Faith' and 'Hope,'" cautioned the cageside play-by-play team. "He may need both in this bout."
Velasquez opens the first fight of his career by walking through a low kick and driving his foe to the fence. Fujarczyk applies a limp guillotine and stares across the cage, bewildered. Stymied by the wall, Cain scoops up his prey, spins him around and slams him to the ground.
Beginning, meet end.
Velasquez lands right in side control and immediately secures an arm. He spends the next minute working his way into the crucifix position and once it's locked in, begins raining down punches on Fujarczyk's exposed noggin. "The Ronin" manages to buck his way out of the hold and onto his knees.
Then eats a punishing combination to force a referee's stoppage.
The official time was 1:58 of the opening frame and Cain Velasquez had arrived. He would make a quick pit stop in Bodog Fight later that year, burying Jeremiah Constant, before transitioning over to Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in early 2008 with a first-round shellacking of Brad Morris to break his Octagon cherry.
See how that
massacre fight unfolded here.
Fast-forward to UFC 160, which takes place on May 25, 2013 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Velasquez rules the heavyweight roost. Aside from a setback against Junior dos Santos in late 2011, it's been nothing but smooth sailing for the 11-1 champ.
Expect his opponent on Saturday night, Brazilian "Bigfoot" Antonio Silva, to try to bring the perfect storm.