Read on for our predictions for tomorrow night’s UFC on FOX 1 event in Anaheim, California, focusing on the only televised fight of the night between Velasquez and Dos Santos, and the Facebook co-main event with title implications between Henderson and Guida.
Cain Velasquez vs. Junior Dos Santos
So, this heavyweight title fight is finally upon us and there’s no doubt that as far as heavyweight MMA fighters go, Velasquez and Dos Santos both have the skills and refined technique to provide a fitting MMA showcase to the millions who’ll be watching on FOX.
All fights start on the feet, and both men here are well equipped to trouble the other. Velasquez is a wrestler first and foremost, but unusually even early in his career his striking has been technically very good. It’s improved markedly over time as well to the extent that he’s now demonstrating genuine power along with slick combinations of punches and kicks.
Dos Santos striking is rooted more in boxing, and he’s arguably the best in the division in that regard. He’s got excellent power, good accuracy, can fire of punches in bunches, and what’s also commendable is that he does all this while still maintaining a solid defensive guard, resisting the urge to get careless and leave opening’s for his opponent’s to exploit.
Both men like to press forward so a stand-up battle between them would be something to behold. If it does come down to a fire-fight the two men are very durable. Velasquez for instance showed great determination and recovery powers to overcome being rocked on more than one occasion against Cheick Kongo, while JDS has emerged unscathed against heavy hitters like Shane Carwin.
During fight week Dos Santos has indicated he’d be happy for the fight to remain standing, but Velasquez believes it’ll be fought everywhere, and certainly it makes sense for him to want to go to the mat as he has a clear wrestling advantage here.
He’s got terrific takedowns, stifling top control and he’s one of the busiest fighters in the game when it comes to ground and pound, never giving his opponents time to settle or plan an escape. He doesn’t throw knockout bombs like Mark Munoz, but neither is he unleashing pitter-patter strikes like Chael Sonnen – instead he feeds his opponents a steady diet of solid shots that efficiently take their toll.
For Dos Santos, who’s worked hard on his wrestling but realistically won’t be able to bridge the gap in technique and natural ability in this department, the key will be too use his takedown defense, and he’s athletic enough and has good enough reactions to make life difficult for the champion. Even so he will need to be on his toes and get out of harm’s way ASAP every time as Velasquez is relentless and when he sets his mind on a takedown he’ll chain together attempts until he succeeds.
If the Brazilian does get taken down he does have BJJ skills to call upon, but he’s been to the ground so infrequently that his level of ability there is still something of a mystery. Based on what I have seen I expect him to use his jiu-jitsu more as a means to get back standing rather than go fishing for a submission finish.
The final key factor in the fight is cardio. In general Velasquez is one of the more well conditioned athletes in the sport, but he is coming off a year on the sidelines rehabbing after shoulder surgery so he’s likely to be a little rusty and in a hard fought five-round fight even his stamina levels could be tested. Dos Santos is also a well conditioned athlete, but he’s more used to his fights finishing early, and in the past his KO power and output levels have diminished in the later rounds. Given that he’s never fought five rounds before he may be looking to fight at a more measured pace on Saturday night.
So, with all that said and done it’s still hard to separate these two fighters, but despite concerns over his long-term absence I’m leaning towards Velasquez. For me it’s his wrestling that’s key here. Other’s have tried and failed to get JDS down, but none have Cain’s tenacity or technique so i think over the course of 25 minutes he’s going to have him on his back a few times. Dos Santos won’t be used to this and I think it’ll sap some of his strength and he’ll be roughed up a little with Velasquez constant pressure.
Meanwhile on the feet, though I think Dos Santos is more dangerous I think Velasquez can be competitive and durable enough to stay in the fight and set up his takedowns. If there’s a KO tomorrow night I think it’s more likely to come courtesy of Dos Santos, but overall I’m going for Velasquez to win on the judges scorecards.
Cain Velasquez to win by decision
Ben Henderson vs. Clay Guida
The other big fight on the card between Henderson and Guida, which will establish the lightweight division’s next No.1 contender could be a cracker, and as such it’s a shame it won’t get airtime on the FOX broadcast.
In a number of respects Henderson and Guida are similar fighters. Both have tremendous gas tanks, work at a high tempo, are extremely resilient and can hang on the feet, but are most dangerous roughing opponents up on the ground.
On closer inspection they do have their differences though. While striking has never been either’s forte Henderson’s has evolved more than Guida’s and he’s more dynamic and refined with his output, whereas Guida’s never looks totally at ease and bounces around needlessly at times before engaging in frantic flurries. Given that neither is a particularly hard-hitter and both have solid chins it’s unlikely this is going to be a fight that ends by KO.
On the ground both are extremely active, but have differing approaches to getting the job done. Henderson for instance likes to posture up and rain down blows and also has creative flair to his work, while Guida is more predictable, aiming to stifle, smother and maul his opponents.
Henderson can leave himself exposed to submission attempts at times on top, and Guida does have some submissions in his tool-belt, but what often saves ‘Smooth’ is his remarkable ability to fight off being tapped out, partly thanks to his flexibility and partly down to sheer faith and will power.
Both have exceptional stamina and an unbreakable spirit so I don’t see conditioning being a factor here, though it will be fun to watch them try to outdo each other in this regard.
Another well matched fight, but my money’s on Henderson coming out on top here. I believe he’s the more talented, creative and well-rounded fighter and can use that to his advantage wherever the fight goes. As long as he doesn’t spend three rounds underneath Guida he should come out on top. Guida is a tank though so I think he’ll struggle to finish him inside the distance.
Ben Henderson to win by decision.
Other Fights: (Predicted winners higlighted in bold)
Pablo Garza vs. Dustin Poirier
Ricardo Lamas vs. Cub Swanson
Norifumi “KID” Yamamoto vs. Darren Uyenoyama
Robert Peralta vs. Mackens Semerzier
Paul Bradley vs. Mike Pierce
Matt Lucas vs. Aaron Rosa