It was the same story but different venue for Junior Dos Santos, who took another lopsided beating at the hands of Cain Velasquez.
“Heart” was the reoccurring theme throughout the night at UFC 166. Diego Sanchez had displayed tons of it in his epic, lightweight scrap with Gilbert Melendez. Roy Nelson demonstrated his fair share against Daniel Cormier.
But it wasn’t until the main event heavyweight bout between Dos Santos and Velasquez where fans got to see the ultimate example of heart.
For nearly 25 minutes, MMA fans around the world watched as Velasquez bullied and battered Dos Santos. The Brazilian’s face was hardly recognizable beneath all of the blood and swelling.
Still, Dos Santos never backed down or wavered in the face of adversity. He continued to stand in the pocket and exchange strikes with the heavyweight champ before finally being stopped by TKO at 3:09 of the fifth round.
“I was okay, very okay for this fight. He’s very, what can I say? He beat me up. That’s what I have to say,” Dos Santos told UFC commentator Joe Rogan after the fight. “He did a great job. Congratulations for him. I’m going to go back home, train harder to come back and face him again.”
What went wrong for Dos Santos in the rubber match?
In the last two fights, Velasquez’s game plan has been relatively simple when dealing with Dos Santos. He wanted to make the fight as short as possible, which typically means closing the distance and keeping his opponent’s back to the cage.
Dos Santos is the more talented boxer in the open, but Velasquez’s aggressive approach took away his range and negated a pure boxing match. In close quarters, Velasquez also minimized his chances of getting caught with a big punch. Dos Santos rarely got an opportunity to fully extend on his punches, and he was always battling on his heels in tight space.
One good note to take away from the bout was Dos Santos’ continued improvement in his takedown defense. He was able to remain upright for a good portion of the bout. Unfortunately, it appeared like he put all of his marbles in defensive grappling.
Dos Santos’ corner screamed over and over again for him to get his back off the cage, but he seemed completely lost grappling in the clinch with Velasquez. He was never able to reverse the position. Velasquez was basically able to lean on him, create quick separation, fire off some heavy punches and return to the starting position.
It has been a wash, rinse and repeat game plan that has proved flawless in Velasquez’s last two fights with Dos Santos.
Defensive wrestling is a must when dealing with someone like Velasquez, but if Dos Santos ever hopes to be UFC champ again, he’ll have to make huge strides in his offensive grappling, specifically in his use of leverage in the clinch. He should also focus his training more on short strikes like uppercuts, hooks and elbows.
There is plenty of time for him to get it right. Unless someone else defeats Velasquez, it could be years before Dos Santos ever gets another UFC title shot.