Velasquez's knockout of dos Santos alters the heavyweight landscape
Three things that, in the wake of Cain Velasquez smashing Junior dos Santos on Saturday night to regain the UFC championship, might be true (but might not be) about the heavyweight division:
1. Cain will reign with his engine of high octane: The easiest conclusion we could reach upon watching Velasquez wreak havoc on dos Santos for 25 minutes is that Cain is the baddest man on the planet. The next-easiest conclusion to reach, after seeing such a dynamic performance, would be that Cain will retain that "baddest" honor for as long as he keeps fighting.
Let's not jump to conclusions.
Championships in any weight division are precarious, and the heavyweight belt is difficult to retain. Consider this: Had dos Santos won the other night, it would have been his second consecutive successful title defense, and that would have tied him for the most by a UFC heavyweight. The first time Velasquez captured the title, he surrendered it in his very first defense in 64 seconds. By comparison, Anderson Silva has defended his middleweight belt 10 times and welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre has had seven defenses in a row.
When big men with big fists get together, everything changes in a big hurry. We saw that in Cain vs. Junior I. And if Alistair Overeem wins in a month and ends up next in line, he would pose a huge threat to Velasquez. Skills aside, "The Reem" is 6 feet 5 inches and over 260 pounds.
But a size disadvantage didn't faze the 6-0, 240-pound Velasquez when he stepped into the cage with a man mountain in Brock Lesnar. His incredible cardiovascular endurance evens everything out — it even puts a bigger guy at a disadvantage by making him look like he's operating in slow motion. And as he showed on Saturday night, the former All-American collegiate wrestler also has a standup game that opponents should overlook at their own peril.
So while history tells us that Cain is in the wrong weight class if he has his heart set on a long reign, the makeup of this fighter tempts us to believe otherwise. The 30-year-old Velasquez might very well be the man who remains The Man.
2. We'll find out "Cigano" means "The Terror" in Portuguese: When watching mixed martial arts, we have a tendency to try to define what we've just seen by comparing it to what we've seen before. So in thinking about Saturday night's fight as well as the first meeting between Velasquez and dos Santos, what comes to mind?
In the initial meeting between Georges St-Pierre vs. Matt Serra , "The Terror" ended GSP's first reign as welterweight champion by scoring an early knockout predominantly because of one heavy punch. Then, in the rematch, St-Pierre utterly destroyed Serra. That's essentially what happened in the fight between Cain and Junior.
This comparison could be seen as a slight to dos Santos since Serra was a journeyman fighter who received his title shot after winning a season of The Ultimate Fighter. Many wrote off Serra's knockout of St-Pierre as the product of a lucky punch.
But Serra was a jiu-jitsu black belt, not some chump. And he looked no less overmatched in his return engagement with GSP than dos Santos did against on Saturday night. So what are we to think of "Cigano"? Did the vicious right hand that knocked him down in the first round also knock the fight out of him? Will he have more to offer in Velasquez vs. Dos Santos III, whenever that happens? Or will it be more of the same?
3. There is one big minus to the title changing hands: At the same time the heavyweight division gained a new champion, it may have lost one of its top contenders. The ascension of Velasquez to the top of the ladder likely means that his friend and training partner, Daniel Cormier, will be jumping off.
Cormier and Velasquez fight three days a week in the San Jose, Calif., gym of the American Kickboxing Academy. They're not interested in taking their tussle into the octagon. So now that Cain is the man with the big-boy belt, Daniel must look elsewhere to find one. He might be looking toward the light heavyweight division.
And Dana White would be right there welcoming him. In the past, the UFC president has taken issue with training partners declining to fight each other. But he's fine with whatever Velasquez and Cormier want to do. "I have so much respect for both of those guys," White said late Saturday night. "They can go wherever they want. If they want to fight each other at heavy, I'm cool with that. If [Cormier] wants to go to 205, I'm cool with that."
White is so cool with Cormier, in fact, that if the two-time Olympic wrestler wins his final Strikeforce bout on Jan. 12, he might very well waltz right into a UFC title shot. "He is going to bring a lot of excitement to the heavyweight or light heavyweight division," said White. "And he could be next in line to fight [Jon] Jones."
That says two things: first, that White doesn't have much confidence in Chael Sonnen dethroning Jones in April, and second, that Dana is taking his watering down of UFC championship belts to a whole new level. If Cormier gets a shot at the belt, that means White is willing to hand a title shot to a fighter who's never fought in the weight division and has never even fought in UFC.
All of this speculation is moot if Cormier, who typically weighs in at just under 240 pounds for heavyweight bouts, can't trim down to 205. Daniel's 5-11 frame is roundish and he wrestled in the Olympics at 96 kg, which is 211½ pounds. One would think he could make weight at light heavy. If he needs motivation to stay on his diet, he should consider this: He doesn't have another option if he wants to go for a UFC belt without risking his friendship and work relationship with Velasquez.
But Cormier is playing it close to the vest. Shortly after White had spoke so highly of him on Saturday night, Daniel walked over to shake the boss's hand and thank him for being open to the possibilities. Cormier then was asked by a reporter asked what he intends to do, and as he walked away he replied, "It's always good to leave, like, a cliffhanger."
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