Junior dos Santos (16-2, 12 KO’s, 2 Subs)
Cigano earned Fight of the Night honors after dispatching Mark Hunt at UFC 160 with a spinning heel kick that ended the match at 4:18 of the third round and set up another go-round with the champ Cain Velasquez. The former champ is hoping that this fight mirrors their premier match when dos Santos, installed as a +155 underdog in UFC odds, stunned Velasquez and the MMA world in general with a first-round KO earning him the UFC heavyweight title and Knockout of the Night.
The rematch did not go as planned in dos Santos’s first and only title defense as Velasquez dominated the rematch for five rounds en route to a unanimous decision victory which saw Cigano gassed in the latter rounds. The former champ will have to ramp up his cardio training for this one if he is to weather the storm from a swarming Velasquez. Though dos Santos is a bona fide BJJ black belt it’s easy to lose sight of that due to his heavy reliance on his ultra-heavy fists. Dos Santos is a pure striker but he may have to retool his takedown defense if he is to avoid losing this one again on points.
Cain Velasquez (12-1, 10 KO’s, 0 Subs)
The reigning UFC champion must believe in déjà vu because he keeps fighting the same opponents repeatedly. His last four fights have been against two opponents and Dana White seems to be flush out of legitimate heavyweight contenders. After losing his title to dos Santos, Velasquez promptly disposed of Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva with a devastating first-round knockout. Seven months later he was back in the cage with the man who seized his title and shocked the world, Junior dos Santos. It was a triumphant return as Velasquez dominated from box to wire.
In his last trip inside the Octagon, the reigning champ saw a familiar face in Antonio Silva and proceeded to pummel the big Brazilian in just about the same fashion as he did in their first meeting. Silva was yet another victim of Velasquez’s concrete fists and iron-willed determination. Though Silva has no submissions on his record, he is a former Division 1 wrestler who blends BJJ and Muay Thai into his ferocious repertoire of martial mayhem.
Both fighters are amongst the biggest bangers in the business so don’t discount the challenger for a minute when placing your sports picks. He could shock Velasquez just as he did in their first fight but I am confident the champ recalls his alarming defeat quite well. As we peruse the UFC odds, the champion is rightfully installed as a clear favorite, -225/+175 at WilliamHill.com.
The key to this matchup is based primarily on Velasquez’s ability to take dos Santos down repeatedly and wear him out. If you recall the last fight, by the fourth round Velasquez was walking through Cigano’s uppercuts because there was just no steam left in the engine. I cannot see dos Santos’s takedown defense improving so much over a relatively short period of time that the last fight won’t be a blueprint for this one.
The only significant difference is that the champion may not be quite as cautious in the middle rounds as he was in their previous fight. He will see Cigano wear down, realize his power has diminished and may indeed go in for the kill with more savagery than in the last match. I am predicting a middle round knockout for the champion in my UFC picks.
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