Cain Velasquez dominated Junior Dos Santos at UFC 155. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Hunger can drive a man to terrible heights. Case in point: Cain Velasquez.
The 30-year-old American Kickboxing Academy ace blitzed, battered and bludgeoned a bewildered Junior dos Santos for five rounds in the UFC 155 main event on Saturday, as he recaptured the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight crown with a one-sided unanimous decision at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. So thorough was the beating that Velasquez elicited three 10-8 rounds from the judges: 50-45, 50-43 and 50-44.
The victory came a little less than 14 months after Velasquez surrendered the championship to dos Santos in a 64-second knockout loss at UFC on Fox 1. He cited a knee injury as a potential source for his poor performance, even as doubters scoffed. Perhaps he had a point.
Heavy on aggression and light on caution, Velasquez answered the bell with conviction and beat the champion at his own game. A crushing overhand right drove dos Santos to the mat in the first round and left him damaged for the remainder of the 25-minute battle. He weathered a subsequent onslaught from Velasquez but only delayed the inevitable: his first defeat since November 2007. Rounds two through five -- which featured soul-sapping clinches, dirty boxing and a steady diet of takedowns from the challenger -- just prolonged the Brazilian’s plight.
According to FightMetric data, Velasquez was successful on 11 of his 33 takedown attempts, all while outlanding dos Santos 210-66 in total strikes and 111-57 in significant strikes. Moreover, he became the first man in UFC history to deliver at least 100 significant strikes and secure at least 10 takedowns in the same fight.
Entrenched atop the heavyweight division for a second time, Velasquez will likely defend his championship against Alistair Overeem, should the hulking Dutchman deny Antonio Silva at UFC 156 on Feb. 2. One of MMA’s most controversial figures, the “Demolition Man” has finished seven of his last eight foes inside one round.
In the wake of UFC 155 “Dos Santos vs. Velasquez 2,” here are seven other matchups that need to be made:
Junior dos Santos vs. Alistair Overeem-Antonio Silva loser: Dos Santos will not fall far from the tree of contenders in what remains a shallow heavyweight division. Just 28 and in the heart of his competitive prime, his run through the UFC, which started with nine consecutive victories, will not be overshadowed by one defeat. Overeem and Silva will toe the line against one another at UFC 156 on Feb. 2 in Las Vegas. “Bigfoot” Silva righted his ship and recorded his first win inside the Octagon in October, when he stopped Travis Browne on first-round punches at UFC on FX 5.
Jim Miller vs. Rafael dos Anjos: It could be argued that Miller has never looked better. The 29-year-old AMA Fight Club export ripped Joe Lauzon open with a series of standing elbows, resulting in one of the bloodiest battles in recent memory. The unanimous decision gives Miller nine wins in his last 11 appearances, though losses to Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz loom large in such a rich weight class. Dos Anjos has quietly pieced together a three-fight winning streak and now clamors to play with some of the big dogs at 155 pounds.
Joe Lauzon vs. Nate Diaz: Lauzon received 40 stitches and $65,000 in “Fight of the Night” bonus money for his troubles in dropping a unanimous verdict to Miller. In the process, the 28-year-old Brockton, Mass., native only enhanced his reputation as one of MMA’s most exciting fighters. Diaz, who was one of Lauzon’s castmates on Season 5 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” finds himself back at the drawing board after his failed lightweight title bid against Henderson on Dec. 8 in Seattle.
Yushin Okami vs. Hector Lombard: Despite a few notable hiccups, Okami remains a fixture at 185 pounds and does not appear willing to cede his position anytime soon. The 31-year-old Japanese judoka ran circles around Alan Belcher in the clinch and on the ground, cruising to a unanimous decision in their rematch. Lombard, a one-time Olympian, put his considerable capabilities on full display at UFC on FX 6, as he wiped out Brazilian leg lock guru Rousimar Palhares in 3:38 on Dec. 15 in Australia. He has won 21 of his last 22 fights.
Constantinos Philippou vs. Cung Le: Philippou is no longer on the fringe. The Serra-Longo Fight Team representative stopped the world-ranked Tim Boetsch on third-round punches in what was easily the most significant victory of his career. The 33-year-old former Ring of Combat champion has now won five fights in a row, forcing himself into the conversation at 185 pounds. Le dazzled in his last outing, as the onetime Strikeforce titleholder knocked out Rich Franklin with one punch at UFC on Fuel TV 6 in November.
Alan Belcher vs. Tim Boetsch: Belcher and Boetsch stubbed their respective toes minutes apart in high-exposure defeats to Okami and Philippou. The 28-year-old Belcher entered the cage on a four-fight tear but had no answer for Okami in the clinch or on the ground. The 31-year-old Boetsch also waltzed into the Octagon on the strength of four consecutive wins, only to leave it injured and bloodied at Philippou’s hands.
Eddie Wineland vs. Raphael Assuncao: Wineland has a case as the No. 1 contender at 135 pounds following his win over American Top Team’s Brad Pickett and would seem a prime candidate to meet the winner of the forthcoming matchup between interim champion Renan “Barao” Pegado and Michael McDonald at UFC on Fuel TV 7 in February. Should that opportunity not materialize, plenty of other options exist. Assuncao staked his Top 10 claim at 135 pounds with a unanimous decision over Mike Easton at UFC on Fox 5 on Dec. 8.