It’s been a few weeks since UFC 166 where Cain Velasquez put a stamp on his trilogy with Junior dos Santos and set himself far and away from the contenders in his division. The dust has pretty much settled.
UFC heavyweight champion, Cain Velasquez proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the once parallel career that he shared with Junior dos Santos is anything but. Velasquez stood in front of dos Santos at the start of each round, picked (and landed) his shots, and held dos Santos in place against the cage for the majority of the fight.
Velasquez showed that the second fight wasn’t just a strong, impressive performance, ignited by vengeance coupled with an early drop of dos Santos to the mat in the first round. No, Velasquez showed that he can do that no matter what the circumstance.
Regardless of the odd stoppage which saw dos Santos hitting his head on a clumsy takedown by a tired Velasquez, the outcome of that fight was decided by Velasquez in the first round of their October 19th bout.
Dos Santos did show improved takedown defense, but that’s about the only positive thing you can pull from that performance. What was truly impressive was the always indomitable cardio and pressure put forth by Velasquez which was mixed with striking skills that were always good, but which really highlighted the flaws in dos Santos’ boxing game, one that the latter claimed can grant him a victory over either Klitschko brother.
Velasquez will now be facing off against Fabricio Werdum sometime next year and its easy to see a scenario where the title doesn’t change hands, adding another victim to Velasquez’s reign and expanding the moat he is building around that heavyweight belt.
A Velasquez-Werdum matchup leaves much to be desired, however as Werdum has struggled with superior strikers in the past. Recently he has bested Roy Nelson and past wins over Antonio Silva, Brandon Vera and Alistair Overeem in a Pride FC bout show that he has the ability to beat dangerous strikers, although none of those men mix the striking with groundwork like Velasquez does.
A submission over former consensus best heavyweight, Fedor Emelianenko made headlines for months but made headlines for a declining Fedor finally losing legitimately. That fight did showcase his recuperative abilities though as the fight went to the ground after Werdum was caught on the feet.
Wins over Nelson, Russow, and Nogueira don’t exactly place you in the upper echelon of a division either, although they act as precious stepping-stones in a division where the adage of ‘everything can change with one punch’ is the most prevalent.
Werdum has faced several top-ten fighters but has yet to prove himself among the modern elite of the division. His final Strikeforce fight and his last career loss to Alistair Overeem saw an apprehensive Werdum trying to bait Overeem in to a ground battle.
Werdum showed much improved stand-up in his return to the UFC and given Overeem’s recent knockout losses, perhaps he would have been able to stand toe-to-toe with Overeem and emerge victorious over him again potentially notching a second finish over Overeem with in his career.
If he were to do so, Werdum would be 7-0 since 2009. Instead he sits with a none to paltry 6-1 with his career losses coming from mostly former MMA champions like dos Santos, Arlovski and Nogueira.
Still, on paper, Velasquez holds several advantages on the feet and with his brand new black belt and outstanding wrestling, makes for a tough, if not impossible fighter to submit, although this fact hasn’t truly been tested by an elite grappler. Two prominent Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners in Antonio Silva and perhaps the best practitioner in the division’s history, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira weren’t able to get to advantageous ground positions against Velasquez.
For dos Santos, however, where will his next step be placed? Perhaps his next opponent will come from the outcome of the upcoming Travis Browne vs. Josh Barnett battle, maybe Alistair Overeem if he can get past Frank Mir in February.
How far will that bring him back to the top? Before this weekend’s one-sided thrashing, the clip of dos Santos promising a return against Velasquez following his title losing fight at UFC 155 was played ad nauseam. That threat seems much less serious when reiterated following the conclusion of their trilogy as a battered dos Santos stood in the shadow of Velasquez once more.
In fact, dos Santos now finds him self in the heap at heavyweight. He is still an elite level fighter without a doubt, but a loss to someone other than Velasquez won’t be nearly as surprising now, having seen him drop two fights in the UFC, both emphasizing the flaws that he possesses in what is a machine of natural talent.
It will still carry a certain ‘shock value’ if he was to lose to someone other than the heavyweight champion, but having dropped two to Velasquez, what does a loss really mean? He will still swim around the top of the division until the UFC has run out of feasible contenders to send at Velasquez.
If no one, can beat dos Santos, though, then who can defeat Velasquez? The only two men seen as viable threats to the heavyweight championship have been removed from contention as Alistair Overeem dropped two straight fights, both of which he stood on the precipice of winning, and Velasquez training partner, Daniel Cormier who has set his sights on the light-heavyweight strap.
This isn’t an article to look at the contenders for Velasquez, though.
Instead, the time has come (barring all Velasquez-Era titles) to watch the heavyweight champion transcend his competition on a grand scale and bring hype and anticipation back to the scariest, at least aesthetically, division in combat sports. If you know someone who possesses the ability to dethrone the champion then feel free to leave your rant in the comment section but until then, I won’t hold my breath in waiting for a contender who can give Velasquez problems.
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