Saturday night the UFC will hold it’s last event of 2012 as they present UFC 155: Dos Santos vs. Velasquez 2. The organizations top two heavyweights will meet for the second time in 13 months. Their first fight took place last November in Anaheim, CA as part of the first ever UFC card on the Fox network. The buildup was huge, but the fight itself was a let down, lasting just 64 seconds as Dos Santos handed Velasquez his first career loss via knockout and also captured the UFC Heavyweight Championship in the process.
There are four other bouts that occupy the main card and each one of them should be highly entertaining. Three of the fights have been hit with the dreaded injury bug, but as usual the UFC has come up with some very viable replacements. Let’s take a look at each fight and I will attempt to predict the outcome. Let’s hope I do better than I did on the UFC on Fox 5 card where I was wrong on all four match-ups.
Chris Leben vs. Derek Brunson- Middleweights:
It’s been almost 14 months since we have seen Leben compete inside the Octagon and if what he has been saying is true then we may see the best version of Chris Leben we have seen yet. He was suspended for a year after losing to Mark Munoz at UFC 138 due to a positive test for various painkillers. During the time off he has sought out help not only for the addiction, but for the personal problems that led him on the destructive path that has caused him to be suspended twice. Leben brings a ferocious style to the cage and can take as much punishment as he can dish out. If “The Crippler” connects with one of his patented left hands he can end anyone’s night early.
Brunson is a NCAA Division II wrestler who has spent time training with Renzo Gracie and now makes his home at Jackson’s MMA. He was supposed to compete on the upcoming 17th season of The Ultimate Fighter, but Showtime never released him from his contract and he lost his spot. He began his career 9-0 finishing all but two of those fights. Brunson lost a split decision to Kendall Grove at ShoFight 20, but the majority of those whosaw the fight believe he was robbed. At the last Strikeforce event in August he was knocked out in just 41 seconds by Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. Brunson may be in over his head here and I believe Leben will look to make his return a grand one. Winner by 1st Round KO- Chris Leben
Yushin Okami vs. Alan Belcher- Middleweights:
These two have met before at UFC 62 in 2006. The fight was both of their promotional debuts and Okami walked away with a unanimous decision victory. Since then both men have fared pretty well and have become staples of the UFC middleweight division. Belcher has won four in a row including a very impressive first round TKO victory over Rousimar Palhares at UFC on Fox 3. He is well rounded, but his biggest obstacle has been staying healthy. After fighting three times in 2009 Belcher fought once in 2010, once in 2011 and this fight with Okami will be just his second this year.
Okami is a very tactical fighter and the majority of his bouts go the distance which probably won’t change here. After winning three straight against Lucio Linhares, Mark Munoz and Nate Marquardt, the UFC rewarded him with a title shot against Anderson Silva at UFC 134 last August. It took “The Spider” a round and a half to dispatch Okami. At UFC 144 Okami controlled the first two rounds of his fight with Tim Boetsch before being knocked out early in the third round. That was the first time he had suffered back to back losses in his 10 year career. Belcher is a very good fighter when he is healthy and this fight is his to lose. Winner by Unanimous Decision- Alan Belcher
Tim Boetsch vs. Costa Philippou- Middleweights:
Up until a few weeks ago Boetsch was set to face the undefeated Chris Weidman in what very well may have been a de facto number one contenders match, but Weidman got injured and in stepped his teammate Philippou. Having lost his opponent, Nick Ring the morning of UFC 154, Philippou should be in great shape and primed to face Boetsch. Philippou has won four in a row, but if he wants to make it five he will have to stay upright and avoid Boetsch’s takedowns at all costs. He has very good hands and is improving with each and every fight, this as a huge opportunity for him and a win should put him in the top 10.
Boetsch is undefeated since dropping down to 185 in May of 2011. In his last two fights he has defeated a former UFC title contender in Okami and former Bellator Middleweight Champion Hector Lombard. His performance and the win against Lombard have been called into question by many, but in the record books you will just see a W next to his name. Boetsch will have a huge advantage in the wrestling department and should be the stronger of the two. I believe he is tenacious enough to tire Philippou out and grind out a decision. Winner by Unanimous Decision- Tim Boetsch
Jim Miller vs. Joe Lauzon- Lightweights:
This is the third bout on the main card that was hit by an injury. Lauzon was scheduled to face former two-time lightweight title challenger Gray Maynard, but will now face New Jersey native Jim Miller. In either bout Lauzon faces a stronger man with solid wrestling credentials, but Miller doesn’t possess the power that Maynard does. Lauzon is coming off of a thrilling third round submission victory over Jamie Varner in August on UFC on Fox 4. The two men battled back and forth before Lauzon caught Varner in a fight ending triangle choke that earned him both the Submission of the Night and the Fight of the Night bonuses. Lauzon has a solid all-around game and has won 18 of his 22 bouts by submission, he is very tricky and very tough.
Miller was on a seven fight win streak before losing to current lightweight champ Benson Henderson in August of 2011. He bounced back with a first round submission victory over Melvin Guillard five months later and set himself up in a main event bout opposite Nate Diaz in front of his hometown fans in New Jersey. A win over Diaz could’ve put Miller another win or two away from a title shot, but Diaz made short work of Miller becoming the first man to ever finish the AMA Fight Club lightweight in 25 career fights. The 29-year-old Miller has a solid submission game of his own and a very good top game. Lauzon will more than likely find himself on his back most of the night and I don’t think he has it in him to become the second man to submit Miller, but the fight will be close. Winner by Split Decision- Jim Miller
Cain Velasquez (Challenger) vs. Junior Dos Santos (Champion)- UFC Heavyweight Championship:
The first time these two met it was damn near impossible for the fight to live up to the hype. Velasquez came into the bout undefeated having thoroughly destroyed Brock Lesnar at UFC 121 in October 2010, but he suffered a torn rotator cuff that required surgery and kept him out for over a year. Velasquez is a beast with powerful hands, great wrestling and ridiculous cardio, especially for a heavyweight. If he had any intentions of taking Dos Santos down in their first fight he wasn’t given much of a chance as Dos Santos landed a crushing right hand behind his ear that sent him crashing to the canvas. Reports surfaced that he had injured his knee and this past week it was reported that he had torn his ACL, but Dos Santos wasn’t 100% going into their first fight either.
Dos Santos has spent hardly any time on the canvas in his 9 fights inside the Octagon. He was taken down very briefly by both Gabriel Gonzaga and Shane Carwin, but found his way back to his feet before suffering any damage. A Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Blackbelt under the tutelage of the Nogueira brothers, Dos Santos has claimed that he has no problem going to the ground and submitting his opponents. Who needs submissions when you are knocking guys out as often as he does? He has seven knockouts during his run in the UFC with five of them coming in the first round. If both men are healthy we can expect a much more exciting fight. Velasquez unleashed holy hell on Antonio Silva at UFC 146, taking the giant down immediately and busting him open. This one will go to Velasquez and will not be the last time these two men face one another. Winner by 3rd round TKO and new UFC Heavyweight Champion- Cain Velasquez
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