Saturday, December 29, 2012

UFC 155: Dos Santos-Velazquez II preview

It's been a full year of awesome MMA, and fittingly, it ends with a rematch of one of the biggest fights in the sport's history.

UFC World Heavyweight Champion Junior Dos Santos defeated former champion Cain Velazquez last December in the UFC's debut on Fox. That fight barely made it out of the first minute before JDS landed a knockout punch on the then-undefeated champion.

This match probably would not be happening if Alistair Overeem was even moderately interested in not getting caught for performance enhancers, but that doesn't mean that the fight should be taken as an automatic title defense for JDS.

And yet that seems to be the course of action among bettors here in Las Vegas. The betting totals for JDS are into the -200 range while Cain seems to be at about +170.

I am not making the argument that JDS isn't deserving of the win. Heck, anyone who decimates an undefeated champion deserves nothing but the utmost admiration as "the baddest man on the planet."

Likewise, I'm not making excuses for Cain. Yes, it's pretty clear that he had messed up his knee and that caused him to drastically alter his game plan, as Josh Gross of ESPN explains. But at the same time, he put up almost no effort. If you were going to let JDS run wild, then don't bother taking the fight.

Well, whether this is a chance to energize the people who saw the non-competitive first fight or not, the fact is that this is a rematch people have wanted to see. With the exception of "Over-roid" there aren't many heavyweights who can claim to be in these guys' stratospheres.

As I compared these two fighters, I didn't even waste time looking at the first fight. Neither man was at their best, and honestly, it's not hard to recall 64 seconds in your own mind anyway.

I said it a year ago, and I'll say it now: This basically boils down to the old boxer vs. wrestler debate. JDS' boxing is unmatched in the heavyweight division. Heck, he believes he could take out a Klitschko brother with a full training camp.

(For the record, I don't agree, but it would be significantly more interesting than the previous 30 Klitschko fights.)

Cain is a top-level wrestler and his 240-pound frame is going to be tough to shake. I do believe JDS can handle himself on the ground, (he has a submission win to show it,) but he has spent less than a minute on his back in the UFC. His inexperience may prevent him from breaking free of Cain, which will kill him on points.

Both men have real knockout power, but JDS has proven to be a little more devastating with his. Cain will need to use his to set up takedowns. Most importantly, he will have to use his takedowns this time if he doesn't want JDS to bury him like last fight.

Personally, I think this is going to feel significantly different than the first fight. +170 is a big number for the casinos to just give away on Cain and -220 is really overstepping it for JDS.

To me, this is almost a tossup fight, just as it was a year ago. Only difference is that this time, there can be wrestling.

I firmly believe Cain can win on points and maybe even ground-and-pound a KO victory. At the same time, he HAS to get JDS down to win, and every second he doesn't makes him susceptible to JDS' KO punches.

Looking at it, I can't say that he can score a takedown all 5 rounds a-la Chael Sonnen in the first Silva fight. As such, I have to pick JDS by KO 3.

Co-main event
Lightweight bout: Jim Miller v. Joe Lauzon

Both men want to stay alive in the logjam that is the lightweight title picture. Both men have excellent ground games and both seem very well-rounded.

I think, much like the main event, that Lauzon is being severely undervalued here. He is more than capable of finishing  this fight quickly with his power. The issue for him is that Miller is far more proven late in fights.

This has been pretty much said by everyone, and although I'm never comfortable when everyone is expecting the same thing, I'd like to think that it's because the fighters are easy to scout.

I'll take Miller by decision.

Middleweight bout: Tim Boetsch v. Costa Phillippou

I'm picking this to be the fight of the night. Both men are on a four-fight tear and have stopped highly touted fighters (Boetsch beat Hector Lombard, Phillippou beat Court McGee).

Obviously, Boetsch has the more impressive wins and the wrestling game, but as big as Phillippou is, I don't think Boetsch can muscle his way to victory the way that he has in other fights.

I wouldn't bet this fight. It's really not an easy call and the line reflects that (Boetsch is -115).

I will say this fight stays standing and Phillipou will win by KO2.

Middleweight bout: Alan Belcher v. Yushin Okami

Okami is definitely one of the top middleweights in the world, and this will be a serious challenge for Belcher, who is continuing his one-man campaign tour for a shot at Anderson Silva.

These two have fought before and Okami picked up the decision in that fight. The difference is that Belcher is miles better than he was in '06, while I'm not sure I can say the same about Okami.

Honestly, I just think Belcher wants this more. I expect his winning ways to continue. Of all the fights, this is one I think you can make money on, as Belcher is the underdog by resume.

I am taking Belcher by decision.

Middleweight bout: Chris Leben v. Derek Brunson

I know what you're thinking: Who put three middleweight fights on the main card?

But nonetheless, we are committed, and this is not a very compelling fight.

Brunson lost two straight in Strikeforce before being called in on two weeks' notice to fight Leben. All I can think is how much this resembles a filler match to keep Leben fresh and justify Brunson's release.

I'm sure Brunson is going in full blast, and Leben is known for blowing sure things, but I'm not buying a blindside this wild.

Leben will pick up a decision win.

FX prelims

Bantamwights: Brad Pickett v. Eddie Wineland - UFC is starting to see the value of lower-weight fighters dominating the free prelim fights, apparently. Every fight here could wind up being more impressive than any main card fight.

Both of these fighters are strong, but Pickett has shown a more impressive skill set recently. I'll take him by decision in a slugfest.

Bantamweights: Erik Perez v. Brian Bloodworth - Can't say I'm the most knowlegeable about these two, but I do know Perez is on a tear recently and his marketablility in Mexico is invaluable. Bloodworth really has no major wins to speak of, and needs to prove himself here. I've got Perez by KO1.

Lightweights: Melvin Guillard v. Jamie Varner - How this fight didn't get moved to the main card is beyond me, but this does have implications in the lightweight division. This fight was supposed to take place two weeks ago, but Varner had a stomach virus and it was moved here, to Guillard's chagrin.

I do think that the double weight cut messed up Guillard, and he won't be at his best in a fight where skill difference is minimal. I'll take Varner by submission in round 3.

Lightweights: Michael Johnson v. Miles Jury - Michael Johnson is an excellent fighter, but Jury is an impressive prospect. he's got great kickboxing and BJJ, and has used both to finish every fight he's been in. I've got Jury showing off tonight by KO2.

Facebook card picks

Heavyweights: Todd Duffee v. Phil De Fries - Duffee by KO1

Flyweights: Chris Cariaso v. John Moraga - Moraga by decision

Featherweights: Max Halloway v. Leonard Garcia - Garcia by decision

My year in review blog will be coming up before 2013, so stay tuned for that. Enjoy the fights!

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