On Saturday, December 29, UFC 155 features Junior dos Santos v. Cain Velasquez II, a heavyweight rematch of the fight where dos Santos earned a stunning knockout of the former champion to gain the belt. A premise to this fight is that the first KO was a fluke. It wasn’t.
Junior dos Santos is the perfect champ. The man came from abject poverty in Brazil, trained with the Nogeira brothers, and has used his black belt in BJJ and athleticism to develop stellar take down defense. He then applies far superior hands and footwork, in combination with powerful uppercuts and shots to the liver, solar plexus, and ears to wear down and finish opponents.
In the 70s and 80s I was an ardent boxing fan, so when I saw dos Santos demolish fellow Brazilian Fabrico Werdum in 2008, I said out loud to myself “Junior will win the belt”. The only question then was, could he keep the fight standing, or would he fall susceptible to the take down by UFC wrestlers like Shane Carwin?
In 2011 here in Vancouver, dos Santos fought Carwin, kept the fight standing, and ripped apart the American known for his fierce power. He even took down the wrestler toward the end of the fight.
Aside from doing charity work in impoverished neighborhoods in Brazil, JdS mentors young fighters. Unlike Anderson Silva, Junior doesn’t showboat. Unlike GSP he finishes most of his fights. And unlike Jon ‘Bones’ Jones, he didn’t crash his Bentley while allegedly over the limit and in the company of women who weren’t his wife. To sum up, dos Santos is the HW champ I’d draw if I worked for Marvel Comics.
Cain Velasquez is a gentle soul out of the Octagon, but a strong finisher in it. He began his fighting career in NCAA wrestling where he was a PAC 10 champion and All American. NCAA wrestling is a hot fire that forges strong steel. And like dos Santos, Velasquez is humble.
Cain Velasquez has speed and agility for any division let alone HW, which makes for great applied wresting in MMA, but despite training with the American Kickboxing Academy and being a very good striker, that won’t serve him well against a great or stellar striker who can keep the fight standing long enough to impose his will. And dos Santos’s hands and footwork are off the chart within the scale of mixed martial artists.
Recently, Velasquez has said he was fighting injured in his title defense loss to dos Santos, but the Brazilian said to Joe Rogan in the Octagon after that win that he had been on crutches just a few days earlier with a bum knee, and that he was afraid walking into the Octagon because he didn’t know if it’d hold up. It did. There are no excuses for Cain or his fans for the first fight.
Fans bemoaned Velasquez for not going for a take down before he got KOed, but he did. Fans tend to forget that in the first fight, dos Santos threw a leg kick and Cain got hold of the ankle. But dos Santos’s own dynamism and flexibility dissuaded any kind of takedown. JdS ripped his leg from Velasquez’s grasp, and that was the beginning for the end for Cain that night.
Despite the quick KO loss v. dos Santos, Cain is the #1 contender. It’s hard to imagine any other HW beating him, especially after his utter annhilation of Brock Lesnar (who is no longer with the UFC) and Antonio Silva, but hard to imagine a game plan where Cain can out muscle JdS---center cage or even in a clinch against the fence---in order to force the Brazilian to the mat.
This fight may last a little longer than the first, but Cain will not get dos Santos down before the champion can apply his brutal, punishing fists. JdS via KO/TKO in mid round one.
Click here to see plenty of other great matchups in UFC 155.
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