Photo of Junior dos Santos by Donald Miralle via Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
If you happened to catch the ending of UFC on FOX, you were witness to scathing analysis from the fight promotion's president, Dana White. He wondered aloud why the now upended heavyweight champion, Cain Velasquez, didn't utilize the All-American wrestling abilities he had at his disposal with more vigor than he actually did.
If you visited MMAmania.com during the past two days, you read both pundits and fans alike criticize the Mexican-American for failing to control the distance in the striking exchanges, a mistake that ultimately led to the end of the 64-second fight.
A lot of attention the past 48 hours or so has been focused on what Velasquez did wrong and the bad choices he made once he stepped inside the Octagon against his opponent. As the champion walking into the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., on Saturday night (Nov. 12, 2011), that much can be expected. There is more pressure at the top than anywhere else after all, especially in a division as tumultuous as heavyweight has been, is, and will likely continue to be.
"Heavy is the head that wears the crown" and all that jazz.
But, when all is said and done, when the dust settled and the smoke cleared, there stood a single man who had accomplished only what a scant few have been able to do. Junior dos Santos became only the sixteenth man to hold the UFC heavyweight title. And he achieved it in the most important fight in the company's history.
Velasquez is a supremely talented young man and will no doubt find himself in another five-round title bout, but following the outcome of Saturday's fight, the focus shouldn't be on his shortcomings, but rather what dos Santos did right and what it means for him and the UFC at large.
Here are just a few examples:
- Avoiding the takedown
"Cigano" went face-to-face with Velasquez's wrestling, eyeballed it up and down, and threw it away like a gum wrapper. The truth is the former champion did try to take the fight to the ground, but failed to put the Brazilian on his back for more than one or two seconds. The only time dos Santos was horizontal, he immediately sprang back up to his feet. In less than a minute, Velasquez tried twice to get dos Santos down -- once from a straight takedown attempt and a second from a kick that was caught. Now, I'm just a lowly mixed martial arts (MMA) blogger, I'm no mathematician, but that roughly averages out to an attempt every 30 seconds. Velasquez didn't fail to impose his wrestling. He tried, but Dos Santos was just not having any of it.
- Won the most viewed UFC fight
The ratings are beginning to trickle in from Saturday night. And while it's not the grand slam that many were predicting -- somewhat foolishly, in my opinion -- the number is high enough to warrant popping the top off an exorbitantly-priced bottle of wine at Zuffa headquarters. It was just enough to knock everyone's favorite YouTube brawler Kimbo Slice from his perch, with nearly 6 million people tuning into see dos Santos do what he does best: knock fools out.
- Controlling the stand up
I suppose it goes without saying that the fighter who got the knockout one minute into the fight did better in the striking department. But, dos Santos did more than that. He used his far superior boxing skills -- crafted and honed by the legendary Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira -- to control the striking exchanges to ensure he never put himself in immediate danger. He was able to crack Velasquez a couple of times before that big, looping hook drilled itself into the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) fighter's skull. It only took a minute but "Cigano" looked great while it lasted.
- King of the mountain
With the victory -- his eighth inside the Octagon -- dos Santos becomes not only the heavyweight champion of the promotion, he also becomes the number one heavyweight in the sport. The two main event fighters from Saturday occupied the top two slots in the SB Nation Consensus Rankings going into their bout with the next three being Alistair Overeem, Brock Lesnar and Fabricio Werdum. The latter two are coming off losses while the former needs to win next month to get a crack at the title. Should Overeem defeat Lesnar at UFC 141, he has a case for being the top heavyweight in the world, but will to get past dos Santos to prove it.
- But it's lonely at the top
It's not all rainbows and puppy dogs for the big boys in the UFC. Now that dos Santos has the title, he's got a big bullseye on his back. Or at least, he should. MMA Nation opines that the heavyweight division could begin to falter and it's hard to disagree. The Brazilian will face the winner of UFC 141's main event while Velasquez might end up taking on the loser. When looking at the roster, there are only two to three fights that can be counted on for the new champ: a rematch with the man he beat on Saturday, a match up with former champion Lesnar, and a bout with recent signee Overeem. Whoever wins the Strikeforce grand prix would also be a great addition to that list but we're still a few months off from knowing who that will be, either Josh Barnett or Daniel Cormier.
UFC on FOX 1 didn't tell the story of a man who failed to achieve his goals. It spun the yarn of a young man who came from poverty to become the only Brazilian to hold the undisputed heavyweight crown in the UFC.
The event wasn't about what didn't happen. It was all about what did.
History happened, folks. We saw history unfold.