Junior dos Santos will take on Cain Velasquez in the third match of their epic trilogy, headlining what should be a fantastic UFC 166 on Saturday night.
The dos Santos/Velasquez rivalry is the best in MMA and one of the best in all of sports. Dos Santos dominated the first match, winning in knockout fashion in just 64 seconds. His overhand right was simply overpowering.
Velasquez took the second bout a year ago, winning a one-sided five-round decision.
Now they face for possibly the last time, a win establishing the victor as the ultimate champ.
What are the keys for this heavyweight bout?
The first thing to watch for are the strikes landed. According to FightMetric, dos Santos lands 5.46 strikes per minute and only has a 49 percent striking accuracy. On the other hand, Velasquez lands 6.33 strikes per minute and has a 58 percent striking accuracy.
Adding to that is the fact that dos Santos absorbs a gaudy 2.68 strikes per minute, while Velasquez absorbs just 1.56.
Obviously, Velasquez has the upper hand. In order to win, Velasquez will need to sustain that advantage. We know that dos Santos can land a powerful knockout blow, but odds are that Velasquez will be able to get off a barrage of punches.
The strategy for Velasquez is pretty simple. He has to get off as many punches as possible before Cigano gets a knockout blow.
Dos Santos does have an advantage in height. He's 6'4", while Velasquez is just 6'1". They have the same reach, according to FightMetric, but dos Santos could try to use the extra three inches to get Velasquez to the ground. Cigano has a takedown accuracy of 67 percent, and while he doesn't do it much—averaging just .61 takedowns per 15 minutes—it may be a way for him to win. If dos Santos can't land the knockout blow in, say, the first two rounds, then the strategy might be to get Velasquez on the mat.
A final thing to look out for is injury. Dos Santos, according to MMA Junkie, suffered a facial laceration three weeks ago. "It was in the training (camp), and it was accidental," dos Santos said. "I'm OK already. … I'm 100 percent already."
While dos Santos is confident that his injury won't be an issue, a relatively new facial laceration could open up during the fight. Blood could spew everywhere, as Velasquez did to Antonio Silva. If that happens, the fight will be all but over.
On paper, Velasquez looks to be the favorite. He has better numbers in almost every significant stat category, and the difference is typically wide. While dos Santos is capable of landing a knockout blow—like he did in their first bout—he's going to need to do that early in the match. The longer this goes on, the harder it will be for dos Santos.
That said, the fight should live up to the considerable hype. These are two of the best fighters in the world right now. There is a long and storied history, and the winner will be able to settle, once and for all, who the better fighter is.
It's a bit of a mismatch on paper, but that doesn't mean it's not going to be a big fight. It was the same mismatch headed into the first fight, and dos Santos shocked the world.
I do think Velasquez will win. But it won't be a one-round knockout. This will be a technically sound, enjoyable fight to watch that will captivate viewers everywhere.