For Junior dos Santos, it was a chance to prove his 64-second knockout win over Cain Velasquez at UFC on FOX 1 was no fluke. For Cain, it was a shot at redemption and physical reiteration: I am the best heavyweight on the planet.
Former champion Junior dos Santos entered the Octagon last night in the main event of UFC 155 eager to put his respectful rivalry with Cain Velasquez to bed once and for all. But the former champion, and now two-time heavyweight champ, had a completely different design laid out. The Team AKA representative entered the cage and put the pressure on the champion from the opening bell. It was, as Joe Rogan declared, the Cain Velasquez most had expected to see when the two first met 13 months ago.
Cain completely shut down the offense of "Cigano," as he refused to give the Brazilian time to sit on his punches. Velasquez bull-rushed early and often, shooting takedowns behind powerful shots. The takedowns didn’t prove to be the true deciding factor in this fight, however; the beginning of a prolonged end came as Cain landed a huge straight right on the chin of dos Santos in the first round. The punch put the champion down and immediately defined the trajectory of the match. Junior never fully recovered from that bomb, which would have likely rendered nine of 10 heavyweights unconscious, might I add.
Had this collision been closely contested, I might be able to conceive of an immediate rubber match. But this one wasn’t close. It wasn’t remotely near competitive, for any moment of the fight. Junior was out-gunned and out-hustled for 25 minutes. The loss puts the now twice-beaten pugilist in a position he hasn’t seen since joining the ranks of the UFC: he’s dropped significantly in the rankings, and he’ll be forced to climb the ladder once more if he hopes to earn another shot at divisional supremacy.
Cain, on the other hand, has a few options staring him in the face, but with those options come specific requirements.
Cain will more than likely battle Alistair Overeem in his first defense of the title. But in order for that pairing to come to fruition, Overeem will have to overcome the oft-underrated Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva at UFC 156. Most pundits favor Overeem heavily, but it’s tough to count Silva out of the match before it happens. Remember that nearly two years ago, fans were all but certain Antonio would throttle Overeem in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix, given what “Bigfoot” managed to do to former heavyweight ace Fedor Emelianenko.
The only other option for Cain at this point would be a meeting with Fabricio Werdum. Werdum has put together two consecutive victories for the promotion, having humiliated Roy Nelson at UFC 143 before outclassing Mike Russow at UFC 147. However, if Werdum is the next to tangle with Velasquez, he’ll need to secure a major win over living legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira when they meet at a still-unannounced event on June 8th.
June is quite the wait and would leave Cain out of action for well over half a year, so I’m not banking on that match being made.
Logic says Overeem defeats Silva at UFC 156, which will in turn align a title fight for the massive Dutchman. If this is indeed the future title fight most anticipate, it means another massive marquee draw for the heavyweights and a chance to knock another extremely dangerous and recognizable name from contention.
As it is, the Californian has already put away some noteworthy opposition. Victories over Junior dos Santos, Antonio Silva and Brock Lesnar are nothing to dismiss. The man appears to possess all the tools, striking included, to hold that belt for a long, long time. With only six years and 12 fights banked as a professional fighter, Velasquez has already reached the top of the mountain. Maintaining that position won’t come without challenge, but it looks wholly possible.
Cain Velasquez might very well be the best heavyweight we’ve seen since a prime Fedor Emelianenko thrashed his way through the heavyweight ranks of Pride more than a half decade ago. Whether you love him, loathe him or stand completely indifferent, it’s hard to argue that point.
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