Dos Santos vs Velasquez 2: 8 Key Takeaways from UFC 155
UFC 155 provided fans with much insight regarding the future of the heavyweight division.
But despite Cain Velasquez's absolutely dominating performance opposite the man who knocked him out on FOX 13 months ago, 2012's last pay-per-view answered many other questions.
Can Jim Miller stop Joe Lauzon and recapture his right as a top contender?
Will Tim Boetsch be able to stop a superior boxer?
How will Chris Leben fare in his return to the Octagon?
Here're eight key things to take away from UFC 155 and its rather bloody turnout.
Chris Leben Definitely Has Cage Rust
Chris Leben entered the Octagon Saturday having not fought in over a year due to suspension for a failed drug test.
His absence over the past 12 months showed, to say the least.
Leben was unable to land any significant strikes on a willing opponent in Derek Brunson, consequently allowing the UFC newcomer to secure takedowns and to score valuable points in a rather boring three-round slap fest.
It was a performance that Leben and his vast following of fans who love heavy-handed KO artists would like to forget.
The unanimous decision defeat was more or less a product of ring rust, but that's something "The Crippler" can fix heading into 2013. Why this bout was featured on the main card, I have no idea.
Todd Duffee Is a Man on a Mission
Similar to Chris Leben, heavyweight prospect Todd Duffee was making his long-awaited return to the Octagon Saturday night at UFC 155.
Duffee's last fight in the UFC came way back in May of 2010, when he lost to Mike Russow via third-round KO.
Now more mature, vastly improved, and hungry to show his potential within a growing heavyweight division, the 27-year-old re-entered the division with a bang when he ended Phil De Fries by punches in the first round.
The victory is not only a testament to Duffee's drive as an athletic specimen fighting to recapture the hype he once possessed, but it showcased his overall ability to implement his game plan and to knock off a respected grappler.
It's safe to say that Duffee's return is legit and that the young up -and-comer should bolster the next group of talented heavyweights prying for a spot in the division's top 10.
Tim Boetsch Was Exposed
Partially due to an injured hand, an unexpected headbutt, and an eye poke, Tim Boetsch looked pedestrian in his fight opposite the hard-hitting Costa Philippou, who was filling in for injured teammate and top middleweight contender Chris Weidman.
Injuries aside, "The Barbarian" was unable to inflict any damage against the tough Philippou, who utilized raw strength and crisp boxing to keep Boetsch's takedowns in check.
The outcome, which came by way of TKO in the third frame, was one that nobody truly expected. Boetsch was supposed to do what he does best. Take down his opponent and grind out a win.
But what fans saw Saturday night was a presumed elite middleweight fighter looking for answers against a guy outside of the division's top 10.
At this point, Boetsch needs to get healthy, regroup, fix his striking, tweak his takedowns, and come back strong in 2013.
Erik Perez Is the Real Deal
Momentum is everything in the sport of mixed martial arts. It's the key to prolonging winning streaks and to receiving the top-notch matchups that that streak deserves.
Well, Mexican bantamweight, Erik Perez has that type of momentum and showcased it opposite Byron Bloodworth at UFC 155.
Perez's first-round TKO marked his third-straight finish inside the Octagon in just as many fights—something that is rarely seen in the UFC today, especially in a division that doesn't necessarily feature dominating finishes.
Bloodworth is far from the division's best, but Perez's consistent dominance should launch him near the division's top 10 entering 2013.
As long as the 23-year-old continues to push the pace and land leather, as well as wearing his luchador mask for weigh-ins and post-fight interviews, he should be able to prolong his winning ways.
Yushin Okami Is Boring, but Very Effective
Sometimes winning isn't everything. Sometimes you need to dazzle the crowd just a little bit.
In Yushin Okami's case, who ended the very talented and very hyped Alan Belcher by unanimous decision Saturday night, dazzling the crowd is just something he doesn't do.
Time and time again, Okami brutalizes his opponents by clinching with them, throwing them to the ground, and suffocating them with his big frame and formidable ground skills.
However, this technique of grinding out victories for three stale rounds doesn't bode well for Okami's chances of covering ground in the title department. Just look at Jon Fitch and his inability to get big fights over the past few years.
So while the victory stopped Belcher in his tracks and showcased the outstanding effectiveness of utilizing a penetrating ground game, Okami's performance was anything but entertaining.
Eddie Wineland Can Stand with Anyone in the Division
The UFC bantamweight division offers some of the most well-rounded strikers in the game today, such as Dominick Cruz, Renan Barao, and Michael McDonald.
After Saturday's impressive display of range, speed, power, and elusiveness, 28-year-old Eddie Wineland deserves to be added to this elite group.
Wineland looked downright unstoppable on his feet opposite the very formidable and always ready to bang Brad Pickett through three-straight rounds, despite keeping his hands at his side and relying on footwork and head movement for defense.
The victory now gives Wineland a two-fight win streak, having lost his first two UFC fights to top-notch opponents Urijah Faber and Joseph Benavidez.
But what surfaced even quicker Saturday night was Wineland's complete turnaround in the conditioning department. He literally kept the same torrid pace from the first bell to the last, landing a career high 90 total strikes.
As long as Wineland does what he did against Pickett, he'll be a tough out for any top bantamweight in the world.
Jim Miller Deserves a Title Shot
Has Jim Miller finally done enough to warrant him a shot at the UFC lightweight title?
Has he finally showcased the striking skills for people to take him seriously against the best in the division?
Yes and yes.
Despite getting caught in a few sticky situations opposite the gritty Joe Lauzon, only to escape the submission expert's tight squeeze, Miller looked unstoppable in the cage at UFC 155.
It was by far the best that Jim Miller fans have ever seen before. He was striking with power and consistency, landing lunging elbows and sharp uppercuts in the process. He was focused, he stuck to his gameplan, and he stuffed nearly every offensive attack Lauzon put forth.
At this point in his career, this is a win that should launch Miller into a No. 1 contender's bout, with a chance to take on Benson Henderson for the lightweight championship.
The winner of Donald Cerrone vs. Anthony Pettis should stand opposite Miller in such a fight.
Cain Velasquez May Be the Best Heavyweight in UFC History
After dismantling the presumably unstoppable force in Junior dos Santos, Cain Velasquez has reclaimed his throne atop the UFC heavyweight division.
Velasquez forcefully dominated dos Santos in every facet of their rematch Saturday night. From landing more straight shots standing to throwing the Brazilian around like a wrestling dummy, Velasquez never seemed to let up in proving that he's the best heavyweight in the world.
For dos Santos, it was more humiliating than disappointing. The guy that never gets taken down got whipped to the ground 11 times. The quintessential best pound-for-pound boxer in MMA was unable to land a shot against a guy he knocked out the first time around.
Now while this speaks levels to the underlying notion that dos Santos may not be as good as people thought, it speaks even more highly on how good Velasquez is, and ultimately can be.
As long as he can remain healthy, improve his submission game, and continue to mature as a striker, there's no reason why Velasquez can't rack off title defense after title defense.
Not for nothing, but we've never seen a guy with a motor as high as Velasquez's and the dominate persona he taps into every time he takes center stage. He may be the best heavyweight in UFC history.
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