As we enter the eve of the biggest fight in the history of the UFC much has been made of the historical ramification of the UFC’s first venture onto network television as well as the overall magnitude of such a watershed moment. It’s without a doubt the most important fight the UFC has ever staged; after all, a good impression upon the eyeballs of the curious neophyte could potentially catapult the UFC into unfathomable new heights in terms of the brands popularity.
But what of the fight itself? It’s no secret that the UFC purposely chose to showcase to of its premier talents when it selected reigning UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez to defend his title against Junior dos Santos. These two hulking fighters are most certainly going to bring the action inside the Octagon. No “lay and pray” here, this should amount to an entertaining slugfest between two exciting fighters.
But, who wins this epic encounter? Well, let’s take a look at how these Velasquez and dos Santos measure up.
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Look, I know that Velasquez sports an eye-opening unblemished record of 9-0 with all but one fight ending by way of stoppage due to strikes. But despite rocking a 88.89% KO percentage the fact of the matter is that Junior dos Santos is a much better technician when it comes to striking. I’m not saying that Velasquez is a slouch in that department, hell, he trains with former kickboxing champion Javier Mendez but in comparison terms dos Santos is a much more astute striker. Credit for this has to be in dos Santos’ boxing acumen. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a better MMA fighter with the boxing skills that dos Santos possesses. Whereas dos Santos can give you hell on your feet Velasquez mixes more of a varied, wrestling inspired style to set up the ground and pound that typically earns him the TKO. It’s a close race but dos Santos is just a hair better in this department.
Edge: Dos Santos
In this category Velasquez is head and shoulders above dos Santos. A two-time collegiate All-American at Arizona State Velasquez is what every wrestler-tuned-MMA fighter should aspire to be. Mixing lightning quick takedowns with his kickboxing skills keeps opponents uneasy and unsure of where the fight will take place. If you need further illustration of Velasquez’s wrestling ability take a look at his title winning performance against Brock Lesnar. For all the hype and hoopla directed toward Lesnar’s awesome wrestling, Velasquez out wrestled him throughout the fight. As if Velasquez’s wrestling wasn’t good enough the fact that he trains daily with Daniel Cormier should close any loopholes in his wrestling game.
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By contrast, dos Santos has a very limited wrestling pedigree but to think he will be easily taken down is foolish. Dos Santos has tremendous takedown defense as we witnessed in his complete domination of Shane Carwin in his last fight. According to FightMetric, dos Santos has successfully stuffed 83% of the takedown attempts from his opponents. In recent years dos Santos has worked diligently on his wrestling and even managed to score some surprising takedowns on Carwin but to compare dos Santos and Velasquez’s wrestling is to compare an AMC Pacer to a Porsche 911.
All you need to know in regards to who holds the edge in submissions is the fact that dos Santos is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt under Antonio Nogueria. The surprising thing is that despite such a pedigree only three of dos Santos’ victories have come by way of submission. Despite having the tap his opponent dos Santos is more content to stand and trade with those unlucky enough to swap punches with him. Still, dos Santos learned BJJ under Big Nog and that’s all I need to know in validating his submission credentials.
Did you know that Velasquez is a purple belt in BJJ under Dave Camarillo? Yeah, I didn’t either and while said purple belt means that Velasquez obviously knows how to choke you out, the fact that he has yet to win a fight by submission is eyebrow raising. For a guy who seemingly can take his opponent down with ease it’s funny that Velasquez has yet to secure a submission victory. Of courses, who needs submissions when you knock out people, am I right?
Edge: Dos Santos
As far as the intangibles go you have to look at the uncanny cardio possessed by Velasquez. There simply is no earthly way to quantify how a man that big and powerful can keep up a grueling pace over the course of a fight. Velasquez inexplicably has the cardio of a track and field star bundled in the body of a human wrecking machine. If his considerable speed and power are not enough, the guys never gives in to fatigue.
Dos Santos’ biggest intangible relates to his exceptional boxing ability. Not only can dos Santos throw leather like a viable pugilist but his head movement and feet placement ensure that not only does he not get hit with return fire, but his use of angles means that he will bludgeon his opponents with a variety of ways.
So who wins this fight? While on paper dos Santos looks like he has the skills to dethrone the champion I’m going with the smart money with Cain Velasquez. Not only is Velasquez fast, strong, and has superior wrestling, but again his cardio in on another planet. Despite dos Santos’ many talents in the end Velasquez is just a tad better.