Earlier this week I labeled the rubber match between UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos the most important heavyweight fight in UFC history. While the division has grown leaps and bounds since the days when Tim Sylvia and Randy Couture were reigning supreme, both dos Santos and Velasquez clearly stand head and shoulders above the current crop of heavyweights.
Dos Santos, of course, won their first meeting just 64 seconds into the first round of their championship bout at UFC on Fox 1 after a perfectly placed overhand right sent Velasquez crashing to the canvas and earned the Brazilian the heavyweight championship. But in their second meeting, the outcome was the polar opposite as Velasquez battered dos Santos for 25 straight minutes en route to a unanimous decision to reclaim the 12 pounds of gold he lost in their first meeting.
With so much at stake in this epic conclusion of their trilogy, expect one of the greatest displays of heart and skill inside the octagon on Saturday night as these two men look to not only settle the age old question over who is the greatest heavyweight in UFC history, but also to settle the argument over who really is the “baddest man on the planet.”
With some of the most devastating hands in UFC history, dos Santos has proven to be one of the best pure strikers in all of MMA. The former champion is a serious threat to land a one-punch knockout at any point in the fight, as he is one of the best at capitalizing on his opponent’s miscues and landing his trademark uppercut. But aside from the ability to score a flash knockout, dos Santos has shown he can land an incredibly high number of strikes as well. Dos Santos has landed 574 significant strikes in his UFC career, the most of any active heavyweight. In fact, he lands an astounding 5.46 strikes per minute, the third highest rate of any fighter in UFC history. Combine this with 11 knockdowns landed inside a UFC octagon, the most in heavyweight history, and you have one of the most devastating strikers ever to put on a pair of gloves.
But Velasquez is no slouch on his feet. With 983 total strikes in his UFC career, the most of any active fighter, and being the only fighter in UFC history to land 100 or more significant strikes and 10 or more takedowns in the same fight, the Mexican superstar has emerged as one of the most technically sound strikers in the entire division.
Velasquez was clearly better their last matchup. With violent combinations and lightning quick head kicks, he turned dos Santos’ face into a bloody pulp. It was about as one sided as a fight can be. But with that being said, he is not a better pure striker than dos Santos, who gets the edge here.
Edge: Dos Santos
The most lopsided matchup in this entire battle has to be in the wrestling department. A former wrestling All-American at ASU, Velasquez has made the transition from the wrestling mat to the octagon with ease. In their first meeting, Velasquez took dos Santos down a total of 11 times, so it’s no secret what his game plan will be in their third meeting. Using some quick head movement and footwork, the former Sun Devil set up his single leg takedowns whenever dos Santos would miss one of his vaunted left hooks.
But while Velasquez dominated with his wrestling-based attack, he was unsuccessful on 22 takedown attempts, including six in the first round alone. Dos Santos has proven to be one of the most difficult fighters to drag down as he’s successfully defended 74 percent of the takedowns thrown at him in the UFC octagon. But while he may be difficult to get a hand on, he simply can’t hold a candle to Velasquez’s world class wrestling skills.
This is the one area where fight fans just simply don’t have enough to base their judgment on, as neither man has looked to lock in a submission to finish a fight or defend a submission attempt in their UFC careers. Both men are black belts in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under some very impressive instructors; they just haven’t showcased any of their skills when the lights are on. Dos Santos does have a submission victory but that was in his second career fight back in 2006, so the edge could go to him but since it is highly unlikely this bout will end via submission neither fighter gets in the edge in this department.
This is one of the most anticipated rubber matches in UFC history and it is guaranteed to be fireworks as both men will be looking to etch their name in the history books as the greatest heavyweight in UFC history. If dos Santos can land that one power shot like he did in their first meeting, it’s hard to imagine him not walking away with the belt. But in the end I see Velasquez’s tenacious wrestling attack and world class cardio being the key factors as he pulls off the late round TKO victory with some vicious ground and pound.
Velazquez via Round 4 TKO