UFC 188 Odds Giving Velasquez Benefit of the Doubt: Will Cain be Able to Last?

Jason Lake

Thursday, June 11, 2015 7:35 PM GMT

Cain Velasquez returns to the Octagon Saturday night after nearly two years away. Do his assorted injuries make him a poor value bet against the UFC odds?

Welcome back to the ranch, folks. Today, we're going to talk about the big main event for this Saturday's UFC 188 card (10:00 p.m. ET) in Mexico City. Specifically, we're going to look at the heavyweight champion, Cain Velasquez, and all those injuries he's suffered over the past couple of years. Velaquez is a giant –500 chalk on the UFC odds board for his unification fight against Fabricio Werdum. Is that too high a price to pay for damaged goods?

Quite possibly. If you're going to fade a favorite in the Octagon, you need some good reasons, and Velasquez has at least two: his left shoulder, and his right knee. He hasn't fought since October 2013 because of these injuries. How much can we reasonably expect from Velasquez when he makes his return? Will the champ have to come up with a new attack plan to compensate? Inquiring minds want to know.

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City of Knives
Let's begin with the injuries themselves. In his last fight, a fifth-round TKO victory over Junior dos Santos (+185) at UFC 166, Velaqsuez suffered a partially torn labrum in that aforementioned left shoulder. Rehab wasn't enough to fix it, so he went under the knife. Velasquez was expected to miss about a year of action.

We've seen this movie before. Velasquez tore the rotator cuff in his right shoulder when he took the Heavyweight strap off Brock Lesnar (–165) in 2011; he put off surgery until it was deemed necessary, came back one year later, and dropped the title to dos Santos (–120) in their first encounter at UFC on FOX 1. Uh-oh.

It gets worse. Velasquez was supposed to face Werdum when the UFC made its first trip to Mexico City last November. This was going to be a big-time event, too. They even set up Velasquez and Werdum as opposing coaches for The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America, a new local version of their popular “reality” series. Instead, Velasquez sprained/tore the MCL in his right knee. Werdum beat Mark Hunt (+265) for the Interim title in the revised main event.

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Stone Age Romeos
Maybe it's just as well Velasquez had to put off that fight. After having surgery on his right knee, Velasquez admitted that he was already dealing with a torn meniscus in that same knee, but was going to compete anyway – that's how important UFC 180 in Mexico City was to him and the organization. This was less than two weeks before the show. Velasquez was limited in the things he could do in training, and just days later, his MCL gave out.

Perhaps Velasquez was doing himself more harm than good in training camp. President and promoter Dana White even called out American Kickboxing Academy for pushing their athletes too hard, saying their methods were “Stone Age.” Velasquez recently spoke to UFC Tonight and defended his AKA camp, claiming he's “100-percent healthy” and ready to put Werdum away.

 

One Hit to the Body
Fight fans are giving the champ the benefit of the doubt. He's a better fighter than he was three years ago when he lost the title to dos Santos, who was the favorite in that matchup. Velasquez has improved his striking significantly – he knocked out Antonio Silva twice in their two meetings, both in the first round, and spent most of his last fight with dos Santos on the offense, landing 247 strikes in total.

We're likely to see more of that on Saturday. At some point, Velasquez will probably take Werdum to the ground, but Werdum can be dangerous on his back, so there's no hurry. Velasquez should have a significant advantage in stand-up, and he's got the conditioning to put heavy volume on Werdum for five rounds if need be. The only question is whether Velasquez' body will break down again during the fight. It's a fair question to keep in mind before you place your UFC picks.

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