Heavyweight-title hopefuls square off at UFC 104

CanWest News Service
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LOS ANGELES - The storylines are seemingly endless heading into the heavyweight showdown at UFC 104 between Cain Velasquez and Ben Rothwell.
It's the hot newcomer, Velasquez, versus the veteran grinder, Rothwell. One man is six fights into his career, the other, 36 fights. One had a UFC contract after two career matches, the other toiled with more than a dozen organizations before punching his ticket to the big time. It's the all-American collegiate wrestler versus a guy who has won more than half his professional fights via knockout or TKO.
Most importantly, it's two fighters who dream one day of holding the UFC heavyweight championship. And the winner of Saturday's match in Los Angeles will be one big step closer to a title shot.
Rothwell (30-6), making his UFC debut after a successful stint in the International Fight League, says with all due respect to Velasquez (6-0), "I feel great about the fight because I was going to fight a guy that nobody had heard of."
Rothwell was originally scheduled to meet Chase Gormley, while Velasquez was initially taking on Shane Carwin, at UFC 104. But after Carwin accepted a title shot versus Brock Lesnar, the lineup was juggled and Rothwell and Velasquez were matched up.
"That doesn't mean (Gormley) is not tough. It just means that's a fight that you've got everything to lose and really not much to gain. Fighting Cain, everybody knows who he is. I want to be fighting with the guys that are the names in the UFC. I want to be a name in the UFC as well, and that's the only way. You've got to be in there fighting the guys that people know."
Velasquez, a two-time all-American at Arizona State, has been touted for superstardom before he even set foot in UFC's Octagon. After one UFC fight, his coach bragged that Velasquez could beat UFC Hall-of-Famer Randy Couture.
He needed less than four minutes on average to post his first five wins.
"I do believe I'll get my chance sooner or later," said Velasquez, a native Northern Californian who's expected to be a major crowd favourite in Los Angeles.
"I always think of my fights as a title fight. I think of it as the most important fight of my life and that's what each fight is. That's how I look at it. I don't look at what can come up afterwards. I've really got to take care of business with the fight that I have now."
Although the unbeaten Velasquez carries more potential and star power into the Staples Center when they meet Saturday, Rothwell believes he's paid enough dues to make a memorable UFC debut before Lyoto Machida's light heavyweight title defence against Mauricio (Shogun) Rua.
"Obviously I've done something right, because they put me on the poster and made me a co-main event," said Rothwell. "I think it's because the guys that matter have been watching me and they know who I am and they know what I can do. That's why they gave me this opportunity and I plan on being around for a while."

Organizations: International Fight League, Staples Center

Geographic location: LOS ANGELES, Arizona

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