The UFC did not disappoint with its first-ever championship fight on FOX. In the November 2011 bout, then-champion Cain Velasquez fell victim to a knockout punch and suffered his first career mixed martial arts loss to the heavyweight challenger, Junior dos Santos.
This holiday season, the pair is being re-gifted on pay-per-view live from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. UFC 155 will be headlined by the heavyweight pair, as dos Santos will try to successfully defend his title for the second time while Velasquez looks to rebound against the only opponent that has ever taken him out.
Elsewhere on the main card, a clash of lightweight contenders and a trifecta of middleweight matchups will help take us into the the new year.
Heavy-hitter Chris Leben is set to lead off the card following a one-year drug suspension, while 185-pound contenders Alan Belcher and Tim Boestch will also enter the Octagon in separate bouts. Veteran 155-pounder Jim Miller will be in action as well, looking to reverse his fortunes coming off a loss to former No. 1 contender Nate Diaz.
It's set to be a great Saturday night in Vegas, but then again, there aren't many boring nights spent in the Sin City.
When: Saturday, Dec. 29
Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas
Watch: PPV starting at 10 p.m. ET through your local provider. FX and Facebook preliminary fights starting at 6:30 p.m. ET.
Main Card (PPV at 10 p.m. ET)
Heavyweight Championship: Junior dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez
Lightweight: Joe Lauzon vs. Jim Miller
Middleweight: Tim Boetsch vs. Costa Philippou
Middleweight: Yushin Okami vs. Alan Belcher
Middleweight: Chris Leben vs. Derek Brunson
Preliminary Card (FX at 8 p.m. ET)
Bantamweight: Brad Pickett vs. Eddie Wineland
Bantamweight: Erik Perez vs. Byron Bloodworth
Lightweight: Melvin Guillard vs. Jamie Varner
Lightweight: Michael Johnson vs. Myles Jury
Preliminary Card (Facebook at 6:30 p.m. ET)
Heavyweight: Phil De Fries vs. Todd Duffee
Featherweight: Chris Cariaso vs. John Moraga
Flyweight: Max Holloway vs. Leonard Garcia
Dos Santos' Keys to Victory
Dos Santos executed an intelligent game plan when he won the title back in November of 2011—attack quickly before Velasquez can get on his game.
Just a minute and four seconds into the title fight, dos Santos dropped Velasquez for the first time in the former champion's career. Sticking to that trend, only four of his sixteen career fights have lasted past the first round.
JDS needs to press Velasquez early, but he should be worried about the counterpunch as well. I don't think this fight gets out of the second round, and it could even be decided in the first if things match up the way they did in their first go-around.
Dos Santos must avoid the takedowns and ground-and-pound of Velasquez while also making an early statement. The longer the fight goes, the more it favors the Mexican-American challenger.
Velasquez's Keys to Victory
Pride will certainly be a big factor in Velasquez's attempt to reclaim a title he never successfully defended.
Reportedly fighting with a torn ACL, Cain still took his first fight against dos Santos and looked uncharacteristically timid before getting knocked out. One could also speculate that the former champion underestimated the up-and-coming Brazilian, but if that was indeed the case, that mistake won't be made again.
There's a lot on the line for Velasquez, especially with a rematch coming so quickly and a handful of other top heavyweights waiting in the wings.
JDS has the advantage in reach, but don't underestimate the striking ability of Velasquez. He doesn't lead the UFC in significant strikes per minute for nothing. Cain will likely need to withstand a first-round barrage from dos Santos to claim the title yet again.
What They Are Saying
MMAJunkie.com informed us that fan-favorite referee Herb Dean will grace the Octagon with his presence for the title fight—good news for fans of the long-time fight overseer.
Herb Dean draws reffing assignment for Dos Santos-Velasquez UFC 155 main event mmajunkie.com/news/2012/12/h…— MMAjunkie.com MMA (@MMAjunkie) December 20, 2012
Rumors of Velasquez's ACL injury were no joke—even before the UFC on FOX bout between the two champions. Now, more videos have surfaced to legitimize the claim that Velasquez was well below 100 percent at the time, and that he could be a completely different fighter come Saturday night.
ESPN's Ryan Grace and Andrew Davis examined this marquee matchup by the numbers, and one of the big ones is 7.5—Velasquez's significant punches landed per minute in his time with the company.
Cain Velasquez ranks 1st all-time in UFC history in significant strikes landed per minute at 7.5. In their first matchup last November, Velasquez landed seven significant strikes in 14 attempts over the span of their 64 second contest. Velasquez is 2nd all-time in significant strike accuracy (60.2 percent) behind UFC Middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
But while Velasquez is the company's highest-volume striker, dos Santos is no slouch.
“Cigano” is 2nd all-time in significant strikes per minute with 6.9, topping that average by three significant strikes in his victories against Velasquez and first title defense against Frank Mir at UFC 146.
The fireworks that these two can produce makes this championship bout a virtual toss-up.
Undercard Fight to Watch: Yushin Okami vs. Alan Belcher
Due in large part to a serious eye injury that left him sidelined for over a year, Alan Belcher has flown under the radar as a top-10 middleweight. Going up against former No. 1 contender Yushin Okami, a win help would give Belcher the recognition he needs to ascend the 185-pound ladder.
These fighters' differing styles will make for an interesting stylistic matchup. Okami typically grinds his opponents out in 15-minute decisions, while Belcher likes to end fights with strikes or submissions.
Belcher is on a four-fight win streak, while Okami rebounded with a win in his last bout after suffering consecutive losses to Anderson Silva and Tim Boetsch. Throw in their history at UFC 62, where these two men fought to an Okami unanimous decision, and this matchup has undeniable intrigue.
Main Event Prediction
Fight fans love sequels. After Saturday night, they will also love trilogies.
Since we aren't used to seeing either of these men exit the first round, it will be odd seeing this fight head to Round 2. But when it does, look for Velasquez to land one solid right before finishing this fight on the ground.
A healthy Velasquez rebounds from his loss to dos Santos to re-claim the championship and set up a third match in 2013.
Velasquez wins by second-round TKO