When the two best heavyweights in the UFC meet on Saturday at UFC 166, the man who can control the identity of the fight will win. Junior "Cigano"dos Santos has seemingly worked on his all-around game. Cain Velasquez may want to prove that he can stand and trade with dos Santos.
While there may be a temptation to dabble in the other man's specialty, the winner will be the man who accentuates their best quality.
Cain's Keys to Victory and Most Important Weapon
After being flattened in the first fight, Velasquez did well standing and punching with Junior dos Santos in their second meeting. However, in their third fight, he'll need to go back to what he's best at. Velasquez may have the best ground-and-pound game in the sport, and if he wins the rubber match with dos Santos at UFC 166, he'll need to show those skills.
In their second meeting, Velasquez scored 11 takedowns against dos Santos after staggering him in the first round. He couldn't finish Cigano, but he used top position and control to dominate the fight.
Though Velasquez gained an edge in the stand-up game, he rode his abilities on the ground to victory. He may have to earn his respect again as a striker at the outset of Saturday night’s battle, but if he wins, the victory will again be powered by his ground work.
Cigano's Keys to Victory and Most Important Weapon
If Cigano is going to have a chance to regain his title, he needs to diversify his attack. Coming into the second fight with Velasquez, he was almost exclusively a boxer. In today’s MMA, that type of one-dimensional approach will get you in trouble. It is a testament to dos Santos’ strength and athleticism—as well as the weakness of the division—that he was able to be so successful fighting this way.
In dos Santos’ last fight against Mark Hunt at UFC 160, he showcased a spinning kick that led to the KO win over the Super Samoan. Hunt and Velasquez are two very different fighters, though. Hunt didn't attempt one takedown in his bout with dos Santos, thus allowing Cigano to stay in his comfort zone.
Obviously, Velasquez won’t do that.
After facing Velasquez twice, dos Santos should be fully prepared for his rival. After tasting defeat, he understands the need to diversify his skill set. His takedown defense is already fairly solid at 74 percent, but changing up his striking techniques could be the biggest difference against Velasquez.
As strictly a puncher, dos Santos can be predictable. That may have allowed Velasquez an opportunity to dominate him the way he did in their second meeting. With dos Santos becoming more comfortable with kicks and working to strengthen his takedown defense even more, he'll create more opportunities to land the type of blow that could lead to victory.
Statistics per FightMetric.com
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