Welcome back MMA fans, as promised I’m here to finish my recap of the UFC’s landmark event on FOX this weekend. I saved the biggest two fights for a separate piece so I could dive into a little bit more detail on these two. So let’s not waste any time, let’s get right into it.
Preliminary Card (Facebook or FOXSports.com): Lightweight Bout: Clay Guida vs. Benson Henderson
This bout is likely going to determine the number one contender to Frankie Edgar’s Lightweight title. Both fighters are entering this fight on a roll and both are coming off of career victories over highly rated competition. Guida enters the fight on the strength of a Unanimous Decision over the final WEC Lightweight Champion Anthony “Showtime” Pettis, while Henderson enters after a dominating win over formerly world-ranked Jim Miller.
Guida is most known for his long flowing locks and his unbelievable cardio. Affectionately known as the ‘Energizer Bunny on steroids’ by UFC commentator Joe Rogan, Guida uses his cardio as one of his biggest strengths, as he is constantly coming forward and forces his opponents to fight at a near breakneck pace. At 5’7”, Guida is not overly tall and is fairly short and stocky, so his reach is definitely not an advantage. Instead he uses his punches as basically flailing movements, before changing levels and shooting for takedowns. From there he is unrelenting constantly pressuring and passing guard and attacking with ground and pound. Guida has a career MMA record of 29-11.
Benson “Smooth” Henderson is a 27-year-old fighter from Colorado Springs, Colorado. Henderson is a former WEC Lightweight Champion. He is known for his extreme flexibility and his ability to escape from seemingly inescapable Submissions (just watch his fights against Donald Cerrone for evidence) as well as his aggressive wrestling based style. Henderson’s style is a hybrid of wrestling, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai Kickboxing. Henderson owns a brown belt in BJJ and was an NAIA Division 1 Wrestler in college, he also owns a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Henderson is a member of the MMA Lab, fighting out of Glendale, Arizona.
Henderson stands 5’9” tall and with a 70 inch reach, he will hold a slight reach advantage in the fight. Henderson like Guida has stellar cardio, has strong wrestling, will likely hold the edge in BJJ skills and will hold a fairly significant edge in the stand up department. Henderson constantly pressures his opponents, mixing strikes and takedown attempts very well. Once on the ground, Henderson is not content to sit in guard and roll around, instead he has some of most aggressive ground and pound in the Lightweight division. Henderson holds a career record of 14-2.
Analysis and Prediction: This is going to be a high-paced, high energy fight. Expect fireworks in this one and definitely expect a Fight of the Night performance from both fighters. Conditioning won’t be a factor in this one as both have extremely good cardio. Henderson will likely hold the stand up advantage and will look to keep the fight standing for as long as possible. Standing he will be able to exploit Guida and earn points on the scorecards. From there, expect a few late round takedowns and some nasty ground and pound to seal the deal as Henderson takes a Unanimous Decision victory. Benson Henderson via Unanimous Decision
Main Event (Live on FOX): Heavyweight Championship Bout: Junior dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez
Junior “Cigano” dos Santos is a Brazilian Heavyweight fighter from Cacador, Santa Catarina. JDS is a 27-year-old Brazilian Jiu Jitsu brown belt under Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Dos Santos is also an extremely solid boxer who like Nogueira has spent some time training with the Cuban and Brazilian national Boxing teams. At 6’4” and with a 77-inch reach, combined with his strong boxing and knockout power in both of his hands he is a serious threat to anyone who tries to stand with him. He has torn through the UFC’s Heavyweight rankings and has reeled off seven straight victories, including five via stoppages from strikes.
Junior is possibly best known to the casual fan from his time spent as a coach on the last season of The Ultimate Fighter where he coached opposite Brock Lesnar. However, Lesnar came down with a case of diverticulitis and JDS instead took on Shane Carwin. Dos Santos dominated Carwin throughout the fight, battering and bloodying Carwin with strikes and also showing off some improved wrestling skills by landing two takedowns in the third round of that fight. He is a member of the famed Black House camp, where he is training partners with Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida and the Nogueira brothers.
If there has been one criticism I’ve seen of dos Santos thus far in his octagon career is his overall lack of variety. It’s hard to argue with success, so perhaps it’s just that he’s never need ed to do so, but he rarely uses kicks or knees in his offensive arsenal, instead relying solely on his punches. He is also a muscular fighter, which can cause his body to use a lot of oxygen, however, it hasn’t proven to be a problem yet in his career. Dos Santos is able to use angles well and can often switch it up as needed. His uppercut is also one of his best weapons and possibly one of the best uppercuts in MMA today.
Cain “Brown Pride” Velasquez is the Mexican-American UFC Heavyweight Champion. He is a former NCAA Division 1 Wrestler from Arizona State University. Velasquez is a member of the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California. He is a brown belt in Guerrilla Jiu Jitsu, which he uses in addition to his already sterling wrestling skills. At 29-years-old Cain is still a relative newcomer to the MMA game, having under ten professional fights.
Despite his lack of experience, he is still the reigning and defending UFC Heavyweight Champion. He has also shown a very impressive ability to finish his opponents as he has won eight of his nine career victories by either KO or TKO. In fact, UFC Heavyweight Cheick Kongo is the only man to make it to a decision against the former Arizona State wrestler. At 240 pounds, Cain is nowhere near the gargantuan size that some former UFC Heavyweight champions are, but he has found success by using his size as an advantage. He is extremely agile and speedy for a Heavyweight and he has solid footwork, which he’s going to need all of if he wants to avoid the quick hands of dos Santos.
The thing that is likely to hurt Velasquez is his long layoff due to injuries. Some fighters (Chael Sonnen for example) show very little after effects from being off for over a year, others such as Paulo Filho do show lots of negative effects, including poor cardio, tentativeness and overall poor timing. It’s hard to say before fight night which one of these two athletes Cain will be, but if there is some sort of ring rust for the champion, he could be in for a long night.
Analysis and Prediction: This is going to be another tight battle. It stands to reason that the longer these two big men stay on their feet, the more it favors the Brazilian challenger. Although Velasquez may not admit it, it’s likely that JDS has the better boxing and the more power in his hands. Additionally, although many people credit it more to a poor performance from Velasquez than a stellar showing by Kongo, the champ was rocked a couple of times in that fight, getting tagged that many times against a finisher like dos Santos is sure to spell trouble.
So it comes down to who can impose their game plan on their opponent. If Velasquez wants to win, he’ll need to avoid lengthy exchanges, push the pace of the fight and constantly be searching for takedowns. If the challenger wants to win, he’ll need to avoid the ground game at all costs. He’ll want to force the champion to stay in the pocket and throw hands for as long as possible. With the improved wrestling that he showed in his last fight, I have some faith in JDS’ ability to keep this fight upright. Overall, I think the challenger has what it takes to win this fight. I think if he frustrates Cain by shrugging off a few of his opening takedowns he can exploit it later. Throwing knees and uppercuts as Velasquez shoots for a takedown is a surefire way to end the champion’s reign before it even really begins. I think JDS keeps it standing and earns enough rounds on the scorecards to take a close decision. Junior dos Santos via Unanimous Decision
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