Top MMA News Breaks Down UFC 155: Dos Santos vs. Velasquez II
On November 12th, 2011, the UFC’s heavily promoted debut on Fox aired. It was a Heavyweight clash of the undisputed best Heavyweights in the world. Through the years, the fall of Fedor Emelianenko, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mirko Filipovic, Frank Mir and Brock Lesnar had paved the way for then champion, Cain Velasquez to defend his UFC Heavyweight title against Junior Dos Santos. The title fight was the only main card bout as the organization was hoping such a fight was all that was needed to impress during their network television debut. A minute and four seconds later, the bout ended. Dos Santos became the new Heavyweight champion in quick and typical Dos Santos fashion. A little over a year later, Velasquez has earned the right to rematch the Brazilian slugger.
On December 29th, the organization will hold their annual end of the year show at the MGM Grand Garden Arena for UFC 155. The main card will be headlined by UFC Heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos as he goes up against former title holder Cain Velasquez for a second time. The card is stacked with quite a few relevant bouts including the co-main event between Lightweights Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon and a Middleweight rematch between Yushin Okami and Alan Belcher. The five main card bouts will be aired live on Pay-Per-View. There will be five preliminary bouts airing live on Sportsnet in Canada and FX in the U.S. The two remaining preliminary bouts will be airing live on Facebook.
UFC Heavyweight Title Fight
Champion Junior Dos Santos (15-1) vs. Cain Velasquez (10-1)
That November 2011 bout on Fox only proved one thing, Junior Dos Santos is for real. It has been said that both fighters went into their first fight with injuries but refused to pull out as it would severely hurt the organization. Cain Velasquez bounced back shortly after that quick knockout loss with an unbelievable performance against the massive Antonio ‘Big Foot’ Silva. He was able to get the fight to the ground immediately and dominate from top position, scoring a fairly easy TKO victory. On that very same card in May, Dos Santos defended his Heavyweight title for the first time against Frank Mir. As many expected, Dos Santos showed amazing footwork and was able to avoid Mir’s takedown attempts and get the knockout win.
There is not too much to say that has not been said before about both Dos Santos and Velasquez. Both fighters are very talented on the feet but as he has proven time and time again, Dos Santos is arguably the best striker in the division. Velasquez will not want to stand with him again as the only game plan for the proud Mexican American is to get the fight to the ground early and often. His wrestling is quick and aggressive with one of the most powerful shots in all of MMA. The question is ‘ Will he be able to get Dos Santos to the ground?’ We have yet to see the Brazilian’s ground game outside of his few efforts to score points against an exhausted Shane Carwin. He recently became a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but that likely will not mean much when Velasquez is on top of you. The fight should look nothing like the last fight until the end, where Dos Santos’ hands prove to be too powerful. Hopefully the fans finally get the opportunity to see what Dos Santos looks like off of his back. Regardless, the man has some of the best movement you will find from a 240 pounder.
Prediction: Dos Santos KO Round 2
Jim Miller (21-4) vs. Joe Lauzon (22-7)
Well, let’s face the facts. If there is one fight on the main card that will likely get the nod for Fight of the Night, it is Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon. This bout was originally supposed to be between Lauzon and Gray Maynard, which would have surely been a fun tilt but Jim Miller brings something to the table that Maynard doesn’t. He brings a style so similar to Lauzon that it should create guaranteed fireworks. Miller has been on a cold streak as of late. After inching ever so close to a title shot, Miller was dominated twice in his last three fights and was getting beat up before pulling off an excellent comeback submission victory over Melvin Guillard.
Lazuon, on the other hand, has looked great in his last few fights (without counting his knockout loss to Anthony Pettis). He had a Fight of the Year contender against Jamie Varner in August and is looking to put together a nice streak. Beating Jim Miller would certainly help his case to move up the rankings. Both guys are similar in the sense that they have great BJJ and underrated striking. They are both extremely active no matter where the fight is. Lauzon is one of those fighters that starts off hot and looks for an early finish. He will give Miller trouble during the first half of the bout. However, when Miller gets into his comfort zone, he should be able to get back into the win column.
Prediction: Miller via Unanimous Decision
Tim Boetsch (16-4) vs. Costa Philippou (11-2)
After an unfortunate injury to Chris Weidman, his teammate, Costa Philippou, gladly stepped in and is taking a major step up in competition. Tim Boetsch has had a very impressive run in the Middleweight division, dominating Kendall Grove and Nick Ring, knocking out former title challenger, Yushin Okami, in spectacular fashion and coming out on top (in a forgettable bout) against Hector Lombard. Costa is on a four fight win streak of his own and has looked worthy of an upgrade in opponents and, finally, he is getting what he deserves. Costa was a boxer before getting into MMA and it shows in his footwork and hand movement. His grappling has improved drastically and he mostly uses it for takedown defense. Boetsch has solid judo and if he is able to do some dirty work on the cage, he could very well over power Costa and get the takedown. Boetsch has looked good in his tenure in the Middleweight division but Costa may be too agile and smart to get beat up by Boetsch. It will be an interesting bout and both fighters will certainly have their moments but Costa will be the one that performs on the feet which should lead to a close decision victory.
Prediction: Philippou via Unanimous Decision
Yushin Okami (27-7) vs. Alan Belcher (18-6)
Another step up in competition for Alan Belcher means another opportunity to prove he is deserving of a shot at the title. Not many people are taking Belcher too seriously in the division despite his very impressive victory over leg lock specialist, Rousimar Palhares. In his UFC debut, he lost to Yushin Okami, but he is getting another opportunity at the Japanese grappler. Okami is an excellent fighter and does not seem to get enough appreciation for his ability. He utilizes his jab very well which he will need to keep his distance from a striker as fierce as Belcher. Belcher will need to explode forward and rock Okami like others have in the past. Both guys have very solid ground games but Belcher is more willing to fight off his back than Okami.
If Okami gets the fight to the ground, he will be getting into a very active guard. If Belcher is unable to do anything on the ground or look as impressive as he did against Palhares, he may be in for a long night, hoping for a Hail Mary knockout like Boetsch when he fought Okami. If the fight stays on the feet, Belcher will certainly have the advantage considering his ability to use a wide variety of strikes effectively. It is a tough fight to call and they are both so different from when they fought back in 2006. Belcher has just been on such an impressive streak as of late that he is hard to bet against right now. It should shock nobody if Okami comes out and dominates Belcher with a smart game plan while outmuscling the American.
Prediction: Belcher via TKO Round 3
Chris Leben (22-8) vs. Derek Brunson (9-2)
After a year long hiatus due to a suspension, Chris Leben returns to take on former Strikeforce Middleweight, Derek Brunson. Leben looked weak in his bout prior to his suspension against Mark Munoz. He looked virtually disinterested in stopping the takedown, something he will certainly need to worry about against a guy like Brunson who will constantly try to get the fight to the ground. Brunson has lost his last two fights. He was knocked out by Ronaldo Souza in his last bout but prior to that, lost a very questionable decision to former Ultimate Fighter winner, Kendall Grove. Leben will likely go into berserker mode when he finds an opportunity to do so which means Brunson must be hesitant to engage with such a brawler. If Leben lands some shots on Brunson, he will have a great opportunity at finishing the fight and returning to the organization on a positive note; however, Brunson is a high level grappler and should be dominant enough from top position to avoid Leben’s active bottom game. It certainly will be an interesting fight to see where both these fighters rank in the UFC Middleweight division.
Prediction: Brunson via Unanimous Decision