SI.com analysts Ben Fowlkes, Steven Marrocco, Jeff Wagenheim and Jon Wertheim provide their predictions for Saturday’s UFC heavyweight championship fight between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos in Anaheim, Calif.
If Velasquez is just as quick and as sharp now as he was before his long layoff following shoulder surgery, he has all the necessary tools to beat Dos Santos. The Brazilian excels when he can stand on the outside and box, but if Velasquez succeeds at getting in his face and pushing him at a higher pace than he likes, it’s going to be very difficult for him to get comfortable. That is, of course, if Velasquez fights smart and resists the urge to get away from his strengths just so he can put on a show for the network audience. I think he’ll avoid that particular pitfall, and I think dos Santos will find out that it’s a different fight when a guy like Velasquez is right on top of you for every minute of every round. Velasquez by TKO.
Whatever disadvantage Cain brings into the fight with a year-plus layoff, he makes up in the ability to take Dos Santos down and gradually grind him down over 25 minutes. If he takes a punch, that’s just going to speed Dos Santos’ trip to the mat. If Dos Santos goes for the surprise and puts Cain on his back, it’s doubtful he’ll be able to keep the position. In all but one area of the fight, Velasquez has the advantage. Velasquez by TKO.
Curious to see what the UFC and Fox, having committed to airing just this one fight, would do with the rest of the hour-long time slot, I’m almost rooting for a 10-second knockout. Almost. This clash is just too appealing to not want more and more — and I do expect to see more than a flash knockout. I foresee a little circling and stalking, then a few dangerously exhilarating exchanges, then a Velasquez takedown into ground control. Will Junior get up? If so, we’ll have a fight on our hands. Either way, I think Cain can do too much in too many positions for dos Santos to handle. Velasquez by TKO.
This has the potential to be a smashing network debut — a lively, multidemensional fight. Or a technical, stall-and-sprawl ground game special — “Wait, who’s doing what to who?” — that could confuse and turn off the casual fan. Obviously, if you root for the sport, you root for the former scenario. One of the best boxers in the UFC, JDS could score an early KO. But assuming Velasquez can avert danger and take the fight to the ground where his wrestling kicks in, I like him especially the longer the fight goes. Velasquez by decision.