One takedown and 53 vicious strikes: the essential recipe for Cain Velasquez's complete obliteration of Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva at UFC 146. In a performance that even MMA purists regarded as borderline assault and battery, Velasquez used Bigfoot as a mere stepping stone to reclaiming his UFC heavyweight championship belt.
In the buildup to next week's UFC 160 main event, Bigfoot has done much to reassure the MMA masses that his rematch will tell a wholly different story. Don't believe the hype, though. Cain will demonstrate that the first time wasn't a fluke.
Both men were coming off of losses—Cain had just handed over the belt in an upset to Junior Dos Santos while Bigfoot Silva suffered a knockout loss to Daniel Cormier. All signs pointed to a competitive fight between these two heavyweights on the quest to regain title contention. Cage-side fans cheered as the opening bell ushered both men towards the center of the Octagon.
Ten seconds later, Bigfoot was on his back and enduring an onslaught destined to stop the fight at 3:36 of the opening round. Cain had opened a wide cut on Bigfoot's forehead with a superbly placed elbow. A veritable bloodbath ensued as Velasquez targeted the wound with an unforeseen ferocity. Covered in red, Velasquez walked away from that fight with a declaration to regain the championship.
The entire affair left a lingering question, though: Was Cain's victory merely the result of a fortuitous cut?
During the UFC 160 conference call, Silva addressed these concerns: “A lot of my preparation has been the same as from the first fight. Obviously in the first fight, I made a big mistake, but there were a lot of things that I did right going into that fight, that unfortunately you guys didn't get to see. Much of that has been maintained. Overall, my strategy is not to let his elbows get near my forehead; that would be a change.”
Unfortunately for Silva, the concern lies more with the vulnerabilities of his MMA game and less with his strengths. Bleacher Report's own Jack Slack addresses the details:
Silva also showed some good boxing sense in his match with Overeem, as he took note of Overeem's head movement and caught the Dutchman with a solid uppercut which served as the beginning of the end.
The second—and more important—factor is to actually work to get opponents underneath him. Bigfoot Silva could starch an elephant if he mounted it, but he lacks the wrestling or guard games to trouble 230-pound wrestlers.
Oh, and of course, he should steer clear of kicking altogether. His kicks are hard, but they aren't fight-changers—unless they're landing him underneath someone.
Of course, Silva could pull off the upset against Velasquez—he is a puncher's chance with a black belt attached—but he will not show any consistency against truly elite competition until he addresses these issues.
This is not to say that Bigfoot is undeserving of this title shot. On the contrary, he's demonstrated an impressive ability to deliver historic upsets—he nearly rearranged Fedor Emelianenko's face, became the first man to defeat the promising Travis Browne, and shocked the world by knocking out Alistair Overeem in what the UFC has officially come to regard as the "Biggest Upset of 2013" (via UFC.com).
When all is said and done, Bigfoot Silva is a formidable contender with heavy hands and wealth of experience to reassure him as he steps inside the Octagon at UFC 160—but standing across the cage will be anything but an ordinary heavyweight champion.
Bigfoot will be facing an enigma that had once managed to walk right through him. He'll need to summon every ounce of his composure to ensure that Cain doesn't repeat the attack unleashed a year ago.
Far easier said than done.
Cain's superior wrestling game will prevent Bigfoot from throwing too many kicks. Similarly, Cain should be able to ensure that the fight takes place in any position of his choosing. His relentless attack when in top control will likely overwhelm any planned submissions Silva may have from his guard.
Throw in the added variable of Cain's lauded gas tank and you have the formula for either a repeat of UFC 146 or—worse yet—a demonstration of what Cain can do with the added confidence of his second title run.
Could Antonio Silva continue his streak of stunning upsets by connecting his 4XL gloves with Cain Velasquez's chin at UFC 160? One would be foolish to argue otherwise. The potential is always there—the concern has to be present when facing a giant as large as Silva. The champion, along with his training camp, have likely prepared to avoid such a scenario at all costs.
When the cage door closes, Antonio Silva will have to fight inner demons reminding him of his last fight against Velasquez. He'll then have to step forward and battle the reality that—since their first confrontation—Cain has managed to reclaim the belt that Silva so eagerly desires.
Regardless of his composure in the pre-fight build up, Bigfoot has to know that Cain won't wilt under pressure. He'll have to stop the champion's rhythm before it even gets underway.
If he telegraphs a kick, Cain will capitalize. If he moves forward throwing flat-footed hooks, Cain will capitalize. If he so much as begins to tire, Cain will capitalize.
To strip Velasquez of the crown, Bigfoot Silva needs to stop takedowns, fluidly deliver combinations, and pace himself for the long haul.
I'm not saying he can’t—I’m just saying he won't.