UFC 155: Keys to Victory for Each Main-Card Fighter
Saturday's UFC 155 will not only ring in the new year, but it will mark yet another showdown between heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos and former-title holder Cain Velasquez.
Many people remember this duo from their historic bout back in November of 2011 that jump started the UFC's groundbreaking contract with FOX, in which dos Santos stopped Velasquez early in the first round with one punch.
Now while the aftermath of a rematch may not produce similar results, nothing is impossible. Not to mention the other fascinating matchups set to take place this coming weekend in Las Vegas.
Here are the keys to victory for each main card fighter scheduled to compete at UFC 155.
Key to victory: Keep his composure
Not only will Derek Brunson be making his Octagon debut at UFC 155 this Saturday, but he'll be trying to stop the heavy-handed, hard-nosed Chris Leben in the process.
The 28-year-old brings a 3-1 Strikeforce record with him into the UFC's expanding middleweight division, but that doesn't mean "Wrecking Ball" has what it takes to withstand Leben's power.
If Brunson wants to impress Dana White and UFC fans around the world he'll have to keep his composure, pick his shots, circle away from Leben and try to score points.
Nobody is expecting a finish on behalf of Brunson, but if he could ruin Leben's long-awaited comeback, he'll certainly raise eyebrows.
Keep to victory: Do what he does best
Chris Leben is one of the toughest middleweights in the world.
He can withstand an unbelievable amount of damage and possesses the innate ability to knockout anyone who opposes him inside the cage.
Taking that into consideration, along with the fact that "The Crippler" will be making his return to the Octagon this Saturday after nearly a 14-month break, all he has to do to beat Brunson is do what he does best.
If the tattooed barbarian can land power punches early, making Brunson question his decision to come to the UFC, he should have no problem earning a Knockout of the Night bonus in his comeback.
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Key to victory: Stay away from submissions
Alan Belcher is as well-rounded as they come.
He can strike, utilize his kickboxing, avoid takedowns, transition on the ground and secure punishing submissions.
All of these abilities have helped Belcher secure a four-fight win streak and an underrated claim to the middleweight throne, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's superior over a guy like Yushin Okami in each and every facet of MMA.
Okami, who challenged Anderson Silva's title reign no more than 16 months ago, is the unofficial gatekeeper of the UFC middleweight division. He, too, is one of the most well-rounded fighters the UFC currently employs.
In order for Belcher to do as much damage as possible, he should look to implement rangy strikes, powerful kicks, a strong base to avoid takedowns and an ironclad guard.
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Key to victory: Clinch early and often
Taking Alan Belcher's abilities on his feet into consideration, Yushin Okami should be looking to close the distance Saturday night at UFC 155.
Okami is no slouch in the striking department, but he's much better in the clinch when he's utilizing his natural strength.
Once Okami gets inside on opponents and imposes his will in close range, he usually finds a way to bring the fight to the ground.
From there he can pound his way to a victory. That may be easier said than done against a relentless talent like Belcher, but that's Okami best shot in stopping the 28-year-old's momentum.
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Key to victory: Stay off his back
It's no secret that Costa Philippou is a solid striker.
He has good speed, an evolving technique and serious power packed into both hands. However, in the past, these abilities seem to be the only skills that the 33-year-old possesses.
Assuming he hasn't transformed his game over the past five months, Philippou will be looking to keep the fight standing when he tries to end the always formidable Tim Boetsch at UFC 155.
Boetsch is an outstanding power wrestler who can take down any fighter in the middleweight division. Staying away from his grasp and covertly moving around the cage will ultimately prolong Philippou's chances of either grinding out a decision or securing a dazzling one-punch finish.
It's going to be very tough to do that.
Key to victory: Impose his will
Despite possessing dynamite power in each one of his hands, Tim "The Barbarian" Boetsch should look to take Costa Philippou to the ground when the two meet this Saturday in Las Vegas.
Boetsch had demonstrated in the past the natural ability to overpower nearly every opponent he encounters, including his upset victory over Hector Lombard back at UFC 149.
So even though he has what it takes to beat Philippou standing, Boestch should play it safe, pick his shots and look to end the fight on the ground.
Key to victory: Utilize striking early
Everybody knows how dangerous Joe Lauzon's submission game is whenever he enters the cage. He can end a fight at literally any time, earning a nightly bonus in the process.
However, despite his knack for finishing fights by choking necks and bending bones, Lauzon's stand-up game has surely evolved over the years.
He possesses a very nice jab, solid power and great technique in inflicting damage on an opponent when backing up.
Jim Miller isn't the best of lightweight strikers so Lauzon may want to test the waters on the feet before falling back on his grappling game opposite an effective wrestler.
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Key to victory: Get inside
Jim Miller has been simply an average contender at best over his past few fights.
Going 1-2 in the process, although those loses came opposite Nate Diaz and Benson Henderson, the 29-year-old has looked ineffective inside the Octagon.
That's not something Miller wants to take into the cage with him Saturday night when he faces one of the best submission finishers in UFC history in Joe Lauzon.
In order for Miller to securely stay away from Lauzon's longer reach and clutch submissions, he'll have to close the distance on the feet, impose his will, maintain a strong base and take one round at a time.
The second he gets carried away and tries to end the fight, Lauzon could catch him with ease. Miller really needs to be on his A game to stop "J-Lau" and avoid becoming the next victim in his diabolical Submission of the Night reign.
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Key to victory: Ground and pound
As it is for any heavyweight trying to dethrone Junior dos Santos, who may be the best pound-for-pound boxer ever in MMA history, Cain Velasquez needs to take the champion down to win. It's as simple as that.
Dos Santos' stand-up is as flawless as they come. Trying to catch him off guard or beat him at his own stronghold would be absolutely moronic.
Fortunately for a guy like Velasquez, he makes a living out of taking dudes down, throwing his fists in their face and finishing fights with blood on his gloves.
It didn't go his way the first time around, but if Velasquez gets dos Santos down once, we'll finally find out if a Nogueira black belt can withstand the sheer will of a ground and pound tactician.
Junior Dos Santos
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Key to victory: Fight smart
It may sound generic, but Junior dos Santos needs to fight smart Saturday night to retain his UFC heavyweight championship.
Making harsh decisions on his feet is not going to help his chances in keeping the fight standing against Cain Velasquez.
Luckily, the Brazilian is as intelligent as they come
We still don't know what kind of guard dos Santos has up his sleeve, so it should be interesting if he's finally taken down. In any case, the 28-year-old should be prepared to sling leather from the get go.
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