Not only is it thrilling to get a heavyweight championship fight on Fox, but Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos are (in the opinion of most) the clear top two heavyweights in the world. This is a true championship fight, between fighters who are fun to watch, aggressive, and well-rounded. To appreciate the rarity of this event, a #1 vs. #2 championship, consider the history of the heavyweight division. For many years, the #1 heavyweight in the sport was Fedor Emelianenko, and rightly so, but it can’t be said that Emelianenko regularly fought the #2 heavyweight. He fought Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira twice, and he fought Mirko Cro Cop, but that’s about it. In Emelianenko’s defense, after he beat Nogueira and Cro Cop, those fighters generally remained in the top three.
SILVA 1.0 loved Cain Velasquez, to the point of assigning him the second-highest SILVA score in the sport, behind Georges St-Pierre. It liked Junior dos Santos too, but still had him behind Daniel Cormier and Matt Mitrione, which makes me very glad that I’ve moved on to SILVA 1.1. So I’ve been telling everybody who will listen that my pick to win this fight is the defending champion, Velasquez.
Just one problem… SILVA 1.1 has dos Santos rated as the world’s top heavyweight, with Velasquez as #2. Woops.
One thing we know for sure is that Velasquez will be absolutely relentless. When Velasquez fought Brock Lesnar to win the title, he immediately got in Lesnar’s face, started throwing bombs, mixed in a takedown, and while Lesnar tried to keep up with Velasquez for a short while, he got beaten up in short order. That’s Velasquez’s style in all of his fights. He moves forward, does NOT move backward, throws punches with extremely high volume and good power, lands takedowns, and then continues the barrage on the ground. This is reflected in Velasquez’s record:
- Win – Jesse Fujarczyk – TKO (Punches)
- Win – Jeremiah Constant – TKO (Punches)
- Win – Brad Morris – TKO (Punches)
- Win – Jake O’Brien – TKO (Punches)
- Win – Denis Stojnic – TKO (Punches)
- Win – Cheick Kongo – Decision (Unanimous)
- Win – Ben Rothwell – TKO (Punches)
- Win – Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira – KO (Punches)
- Win – Brock Lesnar – TKO (Punches)
What happened in the Kongo fight? Well, according to Fight Metric, Velasquez only landed 261 punches in that fight. So there you go.
If Velasquez has shown a weakness, and it’s a very big “if,” it’s his striking defense, as Kongo hit Velasquez very hard a couple times, and Lesnar was threatening to really hurt Velasquez for a moment in their fight. But in the big picture, those are very fleeting moments in a career that has otherwise been completely dominated by Velasquez.
Still, if that is a weakness, then there’s nobody in the UFC heavyweight division better suited to take advantage of it than Junior dos Santos. dos Santos is an excellent boxer, and throws strikes with great power, finishing off Gabriel Gonzaga, Gilbert Yvel, Stefan Struve, and Fabricio Werdum in short order. When dos Santos doesn’t get the knockout blow, he still bludgeons his opponents, beating down Mirko Cro Cop and making him quit, crushing Roy Nelson, and giving Shane Carwin a good whooping. dos Santos hasn’t finished his opponents quite like Velasquez has, but he’s done extremely well regardless.
The great thing about previewing this fight is how predictable both men are. We know what Cain Velasquez wants to do: throw a steady barrage of punches, mix in some takedowns, and then clobber the opponent on the ground. We also know what Junior dos Santos wants to do: keep the fight standing and out-box his opponent, throwing very heavy punches in the process.
I find it particularly useful to look at Fight Metric’s matchup preview for this fight. What you’ll find is a numerical picture of just how dominant each fighter has been:
- Significant Strikes Landed per Minute: Velasquez 7.05, dos Santos 6.79
- Significant Strikes Absorbed per Minute: Velasquez 1.15, dos Santos 1.99
- Takedown Accuracy: Velasquez 72%, dos Santos 75%
- Takedown Defense: Velasquez 88%, dos Santos 83%
The biggest difference is that Velasquez averages about seven takedowns per 15 minutes, while dos Santos rarely attempts takedowns. But when opponents attempt takedowns against dos Santos, they get stuffed routinely.
Basically, if the way these two fight is anything like how they usually fight, they’re going to move forward into the center of the cage, and they’re going to clash. Fists will fly in this one.
SILVA PREDICTION: JUNIOR DOS SANTOS (84.30) OVER CAIN VELASQUEZ (82.88)
So does this mean that I’m picking Junior dos Santos to win the fight? In the official sense, yes, because that’s who SILVA is predicting will win. But if I was being perfectly honest, I wouldn’t even make a prediction. These fighters are both warriors, and it’s extremely difficult to tell how either of them would lose. Even their SILVA scores are very, very close. I would say “flip a coin,” but honestly, don’t even bother doing that. Just sit down on Saturday night, and enjoy the war that these two are going to put on.