With the first title defense under his belt, Junior Dos Santos looked every bit the world beater in dispatching Frank Mir as he did in taking the heavyweight title against Cain Velasquez.
Using potent striking and laser-like accuracy, Dos Santos' mixed martial arts (MMA) game is seemingly at its apex. Facing a revenge-minded Velasquez, who dismantled Antonio Silva in his last outing, Dos Santos may well have his hands full in the UFC 155 main event this evening (Dec. 29, 2012) from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
That's because "Brown Pride" is the most dangerous kind of opponent: a guy he beat far more convincingly than their relative skill sets would suggest who is bent on payback.
Check out a complete breakdown of the UFC 155 main event rematch between Junior dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez below:
In nine fights, dos Santos has yet to be planted on his back. His ability to dictate range and terms of engagement -- along with an incredibly spry physique for a man his size -- are a nasty assignment that are reminiscent of a prime Fedor Emelianenko. And his penchant for explosive, fight-changing punches in the blink of an eye are yet another cause of concern for opponents. One mistake and it's over.
Velasquez, however, figures to have better stamina in a long, gut-check type of fight, if he can force one.
Dos Santos started fast in blowout decision wins over Shane Carwin and Roy Nelson, pretty much coasting over the final two rounds once it was clear his opponents couldn't challenge him on the feet, much less convert anything into a takedown. Grappling cardio, however, figures to favor Velasquez if he's in top position.
Given the disaster that their first encounter was for the former champ, you have to wonder how he'll hold up if drilled repeatedly and if scoring a takedown means attempting desperate, low-percentage shots.
If there's a real X-factor in this fight, it's dos Santos' guard. He's won several grappling competitions in Brazil, and I think his takedowns are an overlooked weapon in his arsenal because he never seems to need them. But his top-notch training partners (the Nogueira brothers and Anderson Silva, among others) figure to have helped him develop as much of a guard as he or anyone else will need in the Heavyweight division.
Velasquez has to stay away from dos Santos' massive right hand, which means circling to his right to take away some of its power, yet he still has to strike enough to buy respect. Much as Randy Couture did in his first fight with Chuck Liddell, there's a blueprint for Velasquez: use disruptive jabs and good timing to upset the striker's rhythm, then close the gap to force cardio-sapping clinches and grappling.
Even if Velasquez can't make a takedown attempt stick, it's still enough to make dos Santos use stamina, wearing him down for the second half of the fight.
If Velasquez does get it to the ground, he should be content to stay in guard and hammer away. Dos Santos has the best hips of any heavyweight I've seen since Emelianenko, and even a half-guard position could give him enough room to squirm and scramble out. Dos Santos is also excellent when pressed against the cage, manipulating the other guy's weight and head to slip off the fence. Velasquez, meanwhile, if he can force clinches there, should be sure to get a solid body lock to keep "Cigano" from wrestling free because he's not going to win this fight in the middle of the cage.
He's got to make it a down-and-dirty gut check, while avoiding huge damage early.
On paper, these two could make for one of the great rivalries of the sport. But, there's a big problem for Velasquez, and it's getting to the point where he can apply his advantages appropriately, which is pretty much a problem for anyone not named Alistair Overeem in the present state of the heavyweight division.
Dos Santos has many skills that he barely uses such as good kicks, takedowns and grappling, because they're overshadowed by his numbing striking, which dominates fights.
Look for Velasquez to open the fight cautious and circling, hoping to scout dos Santos a bit before opening up, which was his fatal mistake last time. However, it's hard to see where Velasquez doesn't get caught again, as he is wont to do, especially when trying to close the gap.
It would be a revealing moment for dos Santos as champion to have to deal with the thundering guns of Velasquez's ground and pound. And I wouldn't be surprised to see that happen for a moment or two. But, dos Santos' athleticism and toughness should be enough to carry him through any time he spends on his back. And on the feet, he'll just have too many chances to exploit Velasquez' standing deficits, as he rocks him several times in the first and second round, prior to pouncing in the third round for a finishing salvo en route to a knockout win.
Dos Santos via knockout
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the UFC 155 main card action later this evening (Sat., Dec. 29, 2012), which is slated to begin at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view (PPV). The latest quick updates of the live action will begin to flow earlier than that around 6:30 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook and FX Channel.
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst