Cain Velasquez has not fought since winning the heavyweight title more than a year ago. | Photo: J. Sherwood
Sherdog.com staff and contributors put their reputations on the line with bold predictions for five UFC on Fox 1 “Velasquez vs. Dos Santos” bouts on Saturday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
UFC Heavyweight Championship
Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos
Jordan Breen: It would surprise me on some level if this was the last time that Velasquez and dos Santos ever squared off, given how they seem to lord over the division right now. As for their first meeting, I have to side with the champion. Dos Santos is a great fighter but has tired while putting 10-8s of abuse on guys like Shane Carwin and Roy Nelson. Though Velasquez won’t be able to put him flat on the mat and dominate, the champion’s shockingly deep cardio, combined with his ability to dominate and pound in any position, will wear down dos Santos. The Brazilian should land some sturdy punches early, but look for the relentless grappling and pounding of Velasquez to crack his foe and lead to a stoppage in the late fourth or early fifth frame.
Tristen Critchfield: There aren’t two heavyweights more capable of putting on a show for the UFC’s debut on Fox. Dos Santos has the best standup of any big man today, and Velasquez’s gas tank and relentless wrestling is unparalleled. What determines the winner here is how they fare outside of their strengths. Dos Santos hasn’t had to fight off his back against the type of pressure he’ll face against Velasquez, but the Brazilian is a much more polished striker than anyone Velasquez has fought. Dos Santos will be able to get up enough times to force Velasquez to stand with him, where he’ll hold off the relentless American Kickboxing Academy product to take a decision.
Brian Knapp: I can see these two guys sitting 1-2 in the division for a long time, considering the lack of depth and quality that exists at heavyweight. Velasquez has more tools with which to play, and the fact that he can take a big punch cannot be underestimated, especially against someone like dos Santos, who relies so heavily on his hands. If this were a three-round fight, I might favor the challenger, as I expect dos Santos to score early while Velasquez pushes for clinches and takedowns. Eventually, I think Velasquez’s persistence will pay off, take a toll and allow him to keep dos Santos ground. When that happens, it is game over, as no one can withstand a Velasquez ground-and-pound assault for long. I foresee the champion retaining his title with a late stoppage.
Clay Guida vs. Ben Henderson
Todd Martin: This fight could be reminiscent of a lot of Guida fights. Henderson likely has the edge both in striking and on the ground, so Guida will attempt to stay on top and neutralize him for 15 minutes. Henderson isn’t known for his striking power, which will buy Guida more time for takedowns. However, Henderson is really slick on the ground and Guida will have to play it safe to avoid sweeps and submissions. I think Henderson’s greater offensive output will narrowly make the difference in a close decision fight.
Tomasz Marciniak: I think the ex-WEC champion stamps his title shot in this fight. Guida may be the most effective fighter given his skillset, but against elite competition he tends to squeak by with decisions rather than win the fights in a convincing fashion. Henderson, since coming to the Octagon, has looked better every time out. I favor him to be the better wrestler; he won’t get tapped by Guida and should win either a striking battle or pound Guida on the mat.
Freddie DeFreitas: If you would have asked me to pick this fight eight months ago, I would not have hesitated for a second and taken Guida. Henderson was virtually written off after being on the receiving end of the infamous “Showtime Kick,” but “Smooth” has more than asserted himself as a potential title threat after two consecutive wins since joining the UFC. Henderson’s stock skyrocketed after derailing Jim Miller, and I believe he gets it done in the same fashion against Guida; Henderson by decision.
Dustin Poirier vs. Pablo Garza
Rob King: Both guys have similar records, but Poirier’s level of competition is much more impressive. Garza has a slight edge in submissions, but everywhere else, Poirier is better than Garza. I don’t see Poirier being sloppy enough to get caught in a submission. Look for Poirier to continue to build momentum in his UFC career and score a second-round stoppage.
Lutfi Sariahmed: Breaking down this bout allows me the opportunity for a cheap plug. I saw “Fightville” in New York City this past weekend. It’s a great documentary highlighting Poirier’s rise through the ranks, from Louisiana to the UFC. There aren’t a lot of MMA docs out there so it’s a small sample size, but this is really well done. As for the fight, give me Poirier, as well. He’s quickly developed into a good featherweight. He can outstrike Garza and outwork him on the mat. He needs to show he can finish a bout, but he has enough to outhustle Garza to another decision win.
Tony Loiseleur: Poirier’s striking and pressure-heavy style make him look good here, and it promises to be a fun fight with a guy like Garza, who also has a lot of flash. I doubt Garza will have the wrestling to put Poirier in any trouble, and I do not think he’ll be able to catch Poirier in a submission like he did with Yves Jabouin in April; of course, it’s not outside the realm of possibility. Regardless, I’ll tentatively side with “The Diamond” for the decision here and a potential sleeper for “Fight of the Night” honors.
Cub Swanson vs. Ricardo Lamas
Critchfield: Swanson has had horrible luck of late, with injuries twice forcing him out of proposed bouts against Erick Koch. Now, fighting in front of friends and family in Anaheim, he’ll have the chance to take out a year’s frustration on Lamas. Lamas had a solid run in the WEC, but he wasn’t tested like Swanson was there. He’ll have the wrestling edge against the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts representative, but it won’t be significant enough, as Swanson is improved in that area. Swanson’s athleticism and striking will allow him to finish the contest with a TKO or submission by round two.
Martin: This is a good matchup for Lamas. He should be able to use his wrestling to avoid Swanson’s strikes and keep the fight on his terms. Injuries have kept Swanson out for a year, and Lamas will take over further as the fight goes on. Lamas gets his hand raised here.
Marciniak: Lamas’ losses came to a big puncher -- Yuri Alcantara -- and a better wrestler -- Danny Castillo. Swanson is neither. Instead, he’s a slick grappler, but I don’t think he has the wrestling to take Lamas down. The Californian can hold his own on the feet, but Lamas has been showing more power in his strikes recently. On top of all that, the amount of time Swanson spent injured has to give some pause when thinking about his chances. I like Lamas to take a competitive decision in this fight.
DaMarques Johnson vs. Clay Harvison
DeFreitas: I’d give a slight advantage on the feet to Harvison and expect him to try and turn this fight into a dirty slugfest by standing early against Johnson. Neither fighter has been known for having the best cardio in the division, but Johnson is a wily veteran with an ability to pull off wins from out of nowhere. It’ll probably get ugly on the feet, but once it hits the ground, anticipate Johnson finding a choke late in the fight for a not-so-pretty comeback win.
King: I can’t say that there is all that much about this fight that excites me. Both guys are coming off losses, and I expect this fight to be a pink-slip derby. Give Harvison a slight edge on the feet, Johnson the edge on the ground. And since more often than not the better ground fighters win out over the better standup guys, give me Johnson to take a decision.
Sariahmed: I’m torn. My one rule is not to pick a fighter from “The Ultimate Fighter” who did not win his season. Matching up these guys forces me to break that rule. Johnson doesn’t do any one thing particularly well, but he consistently beats the lower end of welterweights. He’ll do the same here and win a decision.
2011 Picking & Grinning Standings
Jordan Breen: 152-63
Tristen Critchfield: 149-66
Todd Martin: 148-67
Brian Knapp: 147-68
Tomasz Marciniak: 145-70
Freddie DeFreitas: 144-71
Rob King: 142-73
Guilherme Pinheiro: 142-73
Lutfi Sariahmed: 140-75
Tony Loiseleur: 138-77