In the co-main event of the evening, Velasquez looked like the terminator that won the UFC heavyweight title against Brock Lesnar way back at UFC 121, completely outclassing an overwhelmed Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva with his wrestling and ground-and-pound skills en route to a first-round stoppage victory.
Not to be outdone, “Cigano” also showed up in a big way in his heavyweight title defense against Frank Mir in the main event. After stuffing a takedown attempt in the opening minute, Dos Santos put on a boxing clinic against the former two-time UFC champ and eventually put him away with punches in the second round.
With other top contenders Alistair Overeem and Daniel Cormier unable to compete for the UFC title in the next few months, the rematch between Dos Santos and Velasquez is practically set in stone, and fans who felt a bit shorted by their first fight at UFC on FOX last November will get a chance to see the two best heavyweights in the world square off for a second time.
Velasquez may have the most underrated standup game in the UFC, but he is still outmatched on the feet against Dos Santos’ unbelievable boxing.
The technical boxing skills Dos Santos has shown over the course of his UFC career have cemented his status as the best pure boxer in MMA, and he will need to use every bit of those skills to get past Velasquez in the rematch.
Velasquez has good kicks and power in his hands, but it is practically career suicide to attempt to stand and trade on the feet with “Cigano” and it’s doubtful Velasquez makes the same mistake he did when they first fought.
Dos Santos showed how easily he can knockout anyone in the division when these two first fought, and if he can keep it on the feet once again, it will only be a matter of time before he leaves Velasquez unconscious on the mat for the second time.
Edge: Dos Santos
If Velasquez wants to defeat Dos Santos and win his belt back, he is going to have to use his wrestling far better than anyone else has against JDS.
The champion has spent less than a minute total on his back in his UFC career, and while his takedown defense has been unbelievable, Velasquez has a better shot than anyone at dragging him to the mat.
As important as it is for Velasquez to avoid getting hit with a big shot on the feet, his wrestling will be the deciding factor in the bout. If he is unable to get Dos Santos onto his back, he will be fighting on borrowed time and eventually be knocked out by “Cigano.”
Once the fight goes to the mat, Dos Santos has been completely untested in that area, but he does own a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu under Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, so he will likely have a lot of skill off of his back.
As good as Dos Santos’ takedown defense has been, Velasquez has the skills to get him to the ground and put a beating on him, making him the biggest current threat to JDS and his title.
Despite his current UFC title reign, the one question fans still have about Dos Santos is his cardio.
We haven’t seen it tested in his two UFC title fights, but prior to those he had back-to-back decision wins over Roy Nelson and Shane Carwin where he slowed down a bit in the later rounds.
He won’t have the luxury of slowing down against Velasquez, who may have the best cardio in the heavyweight division and would have no problem going the entire 25-minute distance if needed.
Usually cardio is a moot point in heavyweight bouts due to the raw finishing ability that the majority of the division owns, but with two premier fighters like Dos Santos and Velasquez, it wouldn’t be surprising for this one to go to the later rounds and if that happens Velasquez has the clear advantage.
For the first fight on FOX, both fighters were injured and nowhere near 100 percent for the bout and it showed, especially in the case of Velasquez.
It seems extremely unlikely that “Cigano” will be able to finish off Velasquez in the first round in their rematch, and expect the sequel to be the groundbreaking title fight that the original was advertised as.
This one will go at least three rounds, and with Dos Santos likely winning some exchanges on the feet before having to deal with Velasquez’s wicked ground game, this could end up being the most closely contested heavyweight title fight in years.
As good as Velasquez looked against Silva last weekend, he still can’t be the pick here. Dos Santos looked almost equally impressive against a much tougher opponent in Mir, and when the fight is as close as this one, it only makes sense to pick the champion.
I see this one going almost the full five rounds, with both fighters winning two apiece going into the final frame, but eventually the heavy, precise hands of Dos Santos will find their mark and put Velasquez away in the final frame.
Prediction: Dos Santos by fifth-round TKO.