Tomorrow at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez will attempt to defend his belt against hungry challenger Junior dos Santos on a historic night for MMA: the UFC’s long-term debut on Fox.
Although it won’t be shown on Fox, top lightweights Clay Guida and Benson Henderson will be squaring off in the night’s co-main event to determine the next challenger to Frankie Edgar’s 155lbs. title.
Also, don’t forget to check back at FightLine.com Saturday afternoon for our live, ongoing coverage of UFC on Fox: Velasquez vs. Dos Santos.
Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos
The UFC pledged to bust out all the stops to kick off their seven-year broadcasting deal with Fox networks and by putting not just a heavyweight title fight, but a heavyweight title fight between the two best big men this young sport has yet seen, on free television, they’ve done just that.
Before he ascended to the top of the division and captured the UFC heavyweight title by thrashing Brock Lesnar, undefeated Cain Velasquez was heralded by his trainers at the American Kickboxing Academy as the future of heavyweight MMA. Described as the hardest worker in a gym represented by the likes of Jon Fitch, Josh Koscheck and Daniel Cormier, Velasquez has added dynamic and powerful kickboxing to his collegiate wrestling pedigree to become a proficient all-around mixed martial artist, with endless cardio reserves and seamless transitions to boot.
Brazilian contender Junior dos Santos boasts some of the best boxing in MMA and certainly the best in the heavyweight division. Though he has secured the majority of his victories solely by using his heavy, precise hands and hasn’t been forced to showcase many of his other skills, dos Santos proved in his fight against Shane Carwin that he is a capable wrestler who’s quick to fight to his feet when he does get taken down. Though questions exist as to how dos Santos’ conditioning will hold up in the championship rounds, he represents the stiffest challenge that Velasquez has yet faced in his career.
Velasquez returns from a major shoulder surgery and subsequent year-long layoff to take on dos Santos, who last appeared in action against Shane Carwin last June.
Mark: When the line first opened on this fight, right after dos Santos floored Shane Carwin, Cigano was listed as the betting favorite. Now, Velasquez is overwhelmingly being picked to win by oddsmakers, pundits and fighters alike. Fighting my urge to go against the grain, I think Velasquez’s relentlessness and ability to artfully transition from striking to grappling will overcome the very formidable challenger’s boxing-first style down the stretch. Velasquez via third round TKO
Dana: It might sound silly, but the virtual simulation of this fight is exactly how I see it going down. I think dos Santos will be able to set up a takedown or two with his excellent boxing skills, but I don’t believe his strikes will really have that much of an impact on Velasquez. After an opening round in which JDS claims the advantage, I think Velasquez comes out in the second, having shaken off the rust of not fighting for a year, and uses ground-and-pound to secure his first successful title defense. Velasquez via second round TKO (ground-and-pound)
Raj: The old expression of “a classic case of striker vs. grappler” has never been more true than with this fight. Cain Velasquez is arguably the top wrestler in the division, while Junior dos Santos is the best boxer. I don’t see Velasquez being out of action for over a year being a factor in this fight. Velasquez is probably the best conditioned heavyweight we have ever seen, and he will be more than ready this Saturday. If Cigano is able to keep his range and use his technical pinpoint striking like he has been able to thus far, then he takes this fight. However, I think Velasquez should be able to wear the challenger down in the first round before taking the fight to the ground in the second, where he can unleash his unrelenting ground and pound like he did with Brock Lesnar. Velasquez via second-round TKO to retain the title
Clay Guida vs. Benson Henderson
In the untelevised co-main event of the evening, top-flight lightweights Clay Guida and Benson Henderson will tangle for a chance to meet UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar this February in Japan.
Longtime UFC lightweight staple Clay “The Carpenter” Guida finally finds himself in the title hunt at 155lbs., courtesy a four-fight winning streak that includes victories over Anthony Pettis and Takanori Gomi. The UFC’s resident whirling dervish, Guida overwhelms his opponents with a frenetic pace and unpredictable, unorthodox wrestling-based attack.
Having lost the WEC lightweight title to Anthony Pettis prior to joining the UFC’s ranks, it looked like Benson Henderson was in for a long climb back to the top considering the talent-rich status of the UFC’s lightweight roster. After blowing through Mark Bocek though, Henderson was fed to the man who was then considered the number one contender, Jim Miller. Smooth blasted Miller for three rounds to take an emphatic unanimous decision and position himself squarely in the lightweight title picture.
Both men possess threatening all-around skills with a grappling base and have repeatedly demonstrated great heart and athleticism. Their battle for title contention promises to be one to remember.
Mark: Both of these guys do a lot of the same things well, and the fight may be determined by Guida’s experience, but I think that Henderson will be able to gain position on The Carpenter during scrambles and also possesses the better striking game of the two. Henderson via unanimous decision
Dana: Guida’s never-ending stamina against the athletic ability of Henderson. In this one, I think Henderson finds a way to get the best of Guida. “Smooth” has some of the best striking in the division, and he will find a way to get “The Carpenter” down and keep him there long enough to secure a decision victory. Henderson via unanimous decision
Raj: I am guessing the odds for this fight would be different if Henderson had not fought Jim Miller earlier this year. Henderson is walking into this bout a heavy favorite, and the former WEC champion has all the tools to beat Guida. However, Guida is unique in his ability to throw opponents off their game with his unorthodox style, and I see him doing that again. I see Guida staying away from Henderson’s strikes and scoring the take downs and delivering his ground and pound throughout the entire three rounds en route to taking a decision win. Guida via unanimous decision