Current Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight division ruler, Cain Velasquez, will look to defend his throne against perpetual underdog, Antonio Silva, this Saturday (May 25, 2013) at UFC 160, a pay-per-view (PPV) event that takes place at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
UFC 155 was a night of redemption for Velasquez, who proved he was the best in the world, beating Junior dos Santos from pillar to post for five rounds. In addition to seizing his belt, the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) product clearly trounced the only man to ever defeat him in his professional mixed martial arts (MMA) career.
Now, Velasquez will look to notch his first-ever title defense against "Bigfoot" Antonio Silva. This will not be Velasquez's first time scrapping with the Brazilian, with "Brown Pride" brutalizing the Brazilian at UFC 146.
This Saturday night, which is just one day short of a full year later from that initial encounter, Velasquez will attempt to do it again.
Does he have the ability to do so?
Let's find out:
Velasquez has become a dangerous striker faster than most transitioning wrestlers. By utilizing basic techniques, combined with aggression, speed and volume, Velasquez has become an intimidating striker.
Velasquez likes to begin his fights by circling around his opponent and looking for opportunities to land kicks. He generally throws these kicks to the leg, occasionally mixing in a body or head kick. Velasquez throws these kicks with quite a bit of power, and they help him find his range. Additionally, heavyweight is full of lopsided fighters, against whom leg kicks are especially damaging.
A majority of the time Velasquez spends standing, he spends boxing. Often leading with the jab, Velasquez will pressure his opponent until he finds an opening or pins them against the cage. To follow up his jab, Velasquez throws a stiff right hand. Once Velasquez feels comfortable, he'll start to extend his combinations. Depending on how his opponent defends, Velasquez will either throw hooks to cut off his escape or, if he ducks down, send an uppercut into his grill.
Most of Velasquez's opponents can't handle the pace he sets. Some attempted to negate his cardio advantage by clasping onto a clinch and hoping to contain Velasquez. They quickly realized this wasn't a good idea, as Velasquez is a powerhouse from the clinch. Velasquez likes to rip apart his opponents body before stepping away and landing big punches, or looking for knee strikes.
Velasquez is not an extremely technical counter puncher, rather a fighter who is determined to hit his opponent as frequently as possible. Velasquez is constantly seeking to overwhelm his opponent, so he never allows them to land shots with at least attempting to retaliate.
The best example of Velasqez's counter punching is his violent knockout of the legendary Antonio "Minotauro" Rodrigo Nogueira. Nogueira was pressing Velasquez and threw a jab, but was met with a hard three punch combination from the Californian.
One of the best aspects of Velasquez's wrestling game is the fact that it forces his opponents to think. Rather than focusing on dealing with Velasquez's formidable striking, they have to worry about being put on their back.
This was never more important than in his fight against dos Santos. Dos Santos is a superior striker, but Velasquez forced him to keep his hands by his waist after an onslaught of early takedown attempts. Then, he capitalized by landing a potent right hand that floored "Cigano."
While Velasquez is a dangerous striker, his defense leaves a lot to be desired. The same aggression that allows him to counter strike and overwhelm his opponent also leaves him in detrimental positions.
Velasquez does move his head and feint while on the outside. However, once he starts throwing punches, he neglects his head movement. This is when Velasquez is vulnerable, as dos Santos' knockout proved. Additionally, Cheick Kongo was able to drop Velasquez twice in the middle of Velasquez's assault.
Velasquez, a two-time Division I NCAA All-American wrestler and two-time Pac-10 conference champion at Arizona State University, is arguably the best wrestler in the world at heavyweight. Since the only person who can argue that accolade is his training partner Daniel Cormier, it's unlikely that we'll ever find out for sure.
What is certain is that Velasquez possesses excellent takedowns. For his double leg, Velasquez gets in deep on his opponent's hips before yanking them out from under him.
Velasquez's most effective takedown is likely his single leg. He'll either finish it with the same technique as his double, kick out the remaining leg, or run the pipe. Additionally, Velasquez is excellent at chaining his takedown attempts together and suddenly turning a corner in the midst of a takedown.
Velasquez is one of the most devastating ground strikers in MMA. He's able to do serious damage, contain his opponent, and advance position.
Whenever a heavyweight gets gravity on his side, his punches are going to hurt. What makes Velasquez unique is his ability to attack while transitioning between positions. Whether he's moving from mount to back mount or from turtle to side control, Velasquez is constantly landing shots. Additionally, Velasquez doesn't allow his opponent to settle once he takes them down. He goes to work immediately.
For a fighter as aggressive with strikes as Velasquez, his ability to control his opponent is quite oppressive. Most fighters are able to escape to their feet when their opponent gets over zealous with his ground and pound, but Velasquez is able to control and damage. While his size helps -- its harder to move a two hundred and forty pound heavyweight than a welterweight -- it's mostly due to the fact that he doesn't let his opponent establish a position. It cannot be understated how important this is; it's truly what makes Velasquez's ground striking special.
The most brutal example of Velasquez's ground and pound is his beatdown of "Bigfoot." Silva is a skilled black belt, quite comfortable on his back, and Velasquez was able to dominate him. This fight was a clear demonstration of elite ground striking ability and showed everything that makes Velasquez dangerous. He demonstrated his ability to constantly work, control a much larger man, and, most importantly, never allow Silva to get into the fight. "Bigfoot" was eating shots before he knew he was on the ground
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ)
Velasquez earned his brown belt in Guerilla Jiu-Jitsu, a form of jiu-jitsu modified for MMA, under Dave Camarillo. While Velasquez has never attempted a submission or been seriously threatened by one, his time mauling opponents on the ground has given us a fair understanding of just how good his grappling is.
Velasquez has demonstrated an excellent positional game. He quickly transitions between side control, mount, and turtle. Additionally, his guard passing is quite good. Aside from "Bigfoot," Velasquez has passed the guard of every fighter he's took to the mat. This is mostly due to his smothering ground and pound, but it still shows solid fundamentals.
In his entire UFC career, Velasquez has wound up on his back once. Against Lesnar, an NCAA champion who had proven he was excellent from the top position, Velasquez used the butterfly guard to escape to his feet. Using both hooks to create space, Velasquez pushed Lesnar's face down to the mat and placed his other hand on the mat, before standing up. This is a technique every jiu-jitsu white belt has practiced, commonly known as standing up in base.
Up until his most recent fight with dos Santos, I had no complaints about Velasquez's jiu-jitsu game. However, his complete lack of initiative when it came to taking the back was rather disappointing.
After the first round, dos Santos was seriously hurt, half conscious, and running on will power alone. His punches were coming at half speed, and he couldn't do anything to threaten Velasquez. During this time, "Cigano" repeatedly turtled up and essentially gave Velasquez his back. The fact that Velasquez never even attempted to take his back is a bad sign, because it means he never saw the opportunity or wasn't confident enough in his skill to put himself in the best possible position for a finish.
Velasquez is one of the most unique heavyweights ever. Most heavyweights, including top contenders and past champions, fade after the first round and are barely moving by the third. On the other hand, Velasquez has proven he can push the pace for five hard rounds.
This advantage means that Velasquez doesn't have to hold back. He can throw twice as many punches as his opponent and still be the fresher fighter. This is what allows him to be so aggressive; he can flow around his opponents and throw a constant stream of punches without having to worry about fatiguing.
Best chance for success
Velasquez already knows what he has to do, since he did it perfectly a year ago. There's no evidence that suggests "Bigfoot" has evolved fast enough to perfectly counter Velasquez's offense.
Once again, if Silva is foolish enough to attempt a leg kick, Velasquez should capitalize on it. If Silva doesn't give him an easy takedown, then Velasquez should attempt to pressure Silva against the cage. Focusing heavily on head movement and forward pressure would be beneficial, as it would help protect him from a knockout punch, which is basically Silva's best chance for success.
From the top position, Velasquez just has to do his thing. Don't allow Silva to settle and pound him out from his half guard or, if Velasquez can pass, a more dominant position.
Will Velasquez once again dominate Silva and defend his title for the first time, or will "Bigfoot" once again shock the world?
For a closer look and "Complete Fighter Breakdown" of "Bigfoot" be sure to click here.