After a year-long layoff coming into the UFC's debut on FOX, Cain Velasquez suffered the first loss of his career. Velasquez was 9-0 and defending his UFC Heavyweight Championship for the first time, but the hands of Junior dos Santos put an end to his title reign in just 64 seconds.
An emotional dos Santos revealed that he was scared and injured coming into the bout with Velasquez, but proved to be the better man that night. Still, one fight doesn't prove that Velasquez is the lesser fighter, nor does it prove that he will not be champion again.
Junior "Cigano" dos Santos is on one of the most impressive runs UFC fans have ever been exposed to. His debut was a huge upset, knocking out Fabricio Werdum in just 81 seconds—a kind of result viewers would get used to, as he finished his next four opponents, before dominating Roy Nelson, Shane Carwin and knocking out Cain Velasquez to win the title.
Despite the incredible streak, Velasquez was the favorite entering the bout, the general sentiment being that he was the more complete fighter. If Velasquez could just drag this fight into the later rounds or to the ground, he would hold a significant advantage and that still holds true. Velasquez has better stamina and a superior grappling ability, but he did the one thing no fighter should ever do—stand and trade with "Cigano."
Velasquez had finished his last three opponents before his first title defense, scoring knockout victories over Ben Rothwell, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Brock Lesnar. However, none of these fighters are known for their striking ability. The last and perhaps only man that Velasquez ever faced with quality striking is Cheick Kongo, whom he did struggle with.
The now former champion seemed too comfortable striking, likely because he was facing men who didn't really have the ability to knock him out. Dos Santos is a completely different animal that warranted an entirely new game plan. If Velasquez was adamant about getting the fight to the ground, it's very possible that would have happened.
Ultimately, Velasquez is an incredibly dangerous opponent for anyone in the heavyweight division. A poor decision to stand and trade with an incredible striker doesn't change that. Even though he was just handed his first career loss, Velasquez was confident in his ability to return, stating after the fight, "I will get that belt back."
A different night could hold a different result. It seems very likely that Velasquez will be challenging for the title again soon and perhaps this time, he'll remember that it was his wrestling ability that got him there.
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