If there is one word I would use to describe the main event between Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez, it is confidence. Leading up to the fight, I was like many odds makers, going back and forth giving a slight edge to the champ Dos Santos. Then the week of the fight my vision of who was going to win became narrow; the champ was going to retain his belt.
The reason for this is the confidence that he was exuding and the lack of it that Velasquez was. The challenger, all through out the week, looked like a haunted man. The first fight between the two in November of 2011 lasted just 64 seconds with Velasquez getting knocked unconscious for the first time in his career. Those 64 seconds were undoubtedly brought up time and time again by members of the media, and Velasquez looked like he couldn’t shake it.
Even when the cage doors closed and Bruce Buffer announced the two, many people were thinking that Velasquez looked like he knew his fate was sealed. The start of the first round he came out with a takedown attempt, and while successful, Dos Santos was able to stand back up almost immediately. A quick repeat of another takedown and stand up left Velasquez frustrated and telegraphing his takedown attempts. Dos Santos was able to land his jab and a couple times seemed ready to finish but just missed with the powerful punch. Dos Santos was in control of the fight, and he knew it.
Velasquez’s corner was shouting to set up the takedown with his punches and it seemed like Dos Santos was happy for that advice. But then Velasquez connected with a big punch and Dos Santos was falling to the canvas. He was in serious trouble, barely defending the punches that were coming in from his foe. With each punch landing, the confidence was leaving Dos Santos and Velasquez seemed to feed off of it. After the bell rang for the first round, Velasquez seemed to stand taller than his advisory, even though he is three inches shorter.
For the next four rounds, Velasquez was able to do whatever he wanted and Dos Santos could only defend. The scorecards were read, but one didn’t need to even hear them; all one needed to do was look at Dos Santos’s face and you could tell who was on the losing end of the fight.
Through out the UFC’s run as a promotion there have been some extremely memorable trilogies of fighters. And while it is unlikely that the next fight for both men is a rematch, the stones were laid down on a path that will likely reunite them for a third and epic battle.