Locked in the Guillotine MMA News Report 10.18.13 The Rubber Match
Posted by Robert Winfree on 10.18.2013
News and thoughts on Yushin Okami signing with WSOF and Fallon Fox's recent upset loss! Plus a preview of the upcoming UFC 166 card, including the main event fight between Can Velasquez and Junior dos Santos and more!
Greetings one and all, it's a lovely time of year, the air is cooling but not generally cold, leaves forsake their chlorophyll and reveal their true colors, I couldn't think of a better time to get Locked in the Guillotine. There's a big, I mean really big, event this Saturday as the UFC heavyweight title will be on the line as champion Cain Velasquez takes on former champion Junior dos Santos. I can't stress enough that I am really looking forward to that fight. So let's break it down guys and gals.
Before we get to the MMA stuff, check out the Radulich in Broadcasting network. Seriously, tons of great stuff there I can't encourage you enough to give the various shows a listen.
That's right everyone, The Walking Dead returned last Sunday to huge numbers. 16.1 million viewers watched the season premier, and I was one of them. I got a kick out of Rick farming while listening to something on a walkman to start off the episode. The sequence in the grocery store when the zombies started falling through the roof was pretty awesome as well. I loved the hints through the episode that the disease was changing, specifically the walker with the different eyes at the start of the episode, who was still there at the end, and the kid dying to the freshly mutated disease. It's an ominous way to get this season going, and I'm very happy to have the show back on television. Enough zombie stuff, onto the MMA!
Remind me what all the fuss was about: Everyone remember Fallon Fox, the transgender fighter who stirred up a ton of dialogue by competing against women? Well she lost her first MMA fight this week, was TKO'd in the third round in fact, and it seems no one cares. I'm not going to make a really big deal out of this, elements of it were a non-issue from the start, but since everyone took time to talk about her when she was winning I figured I'd at least make a note of her first professional loss.
Holly Holm is a bad woman: Holly Holm, former professional boxer and multiple time world champion, improved her MMA record last week as well going to 5-0 after stopping her opponent with a nasty side kick to the body and a flurry against the cage. Holm is a great fighter, and I understand the desire to build her career a little slower, it's purely for selfish reasons I want her to be with the UFC. Even if she isn't UFC bound in the immediate future, she needs a step up in competition from her last opponent.
Okami finds a home: Former UFC fighter, and one time title challenger, Yushin Okami looks to have found his new fighting home with World Series of Fighting. This was thought to be his destination following his release, and it's a good fit for the former challenger. If Okami is on the downside of his career it's better not to be facing the level of competition that the UFC can offer, and if he's going to demolish people left and right he could easily be back in the UFC. Best of luck to Thunder.
This Saturday sees the third fight between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos for the heavyweight title, and odds are there will be other meetings, just don't tell the UFC's marketing division because they swear this is the final chapter. Stupid phrasing aside, this is a really stacked card, even most of the undercard bouts are good and could easily be on the main card, and a couple could likely headline a Fight Night event. Let's get into the fights and see what I think will happen.
Jon Dodson vs. Darrell Montague: This is a good choice to kick off the PPV portion, two talented and fast paced fighters. Jon Dodson has been on the shelf for a while following his loss to flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, but he remains near the top of the division. Dodson has crazy power for the flyweight division, it's something he might be a tad over reliant on but his all around skills are very good. Darrell Montague has just two losses on his record, to Robert Peralta and Ian McCall, and is making his UFC debut here. Montague seems like a good fighter, I'm just not sure if he can beat someone with Dodson's skills. I think Dodson gets a stoppage late in the first or early in the second.
Shawn Jordan vs. Gabriel Gonzaga: I'm not looking forward to this one, neither guy has a reputation as being exactly watchable lately. Gonzaga has some serious grappling skills, but he's a bit of a head case and his chin is hardly the stuff of legends, or even the stuff of an average heavyweight. Jordan has some good power in his punches, but neither guy has any legitimate cardio right now. I think Jordan finishes Gonzaga in the first with punches, but if this goes beyond about three minutes it'll go the distance and we'll see tons of clinching against the fence and sucking wind.
Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez: This one could be a fun fight, assuming Gilbert Melendez is mentally and physically ready for it. The gameplan for Diego Sanchez is no secret, he comes forward, throws combinations, looks for takedowns, and tries to win decisions that way. Unfortunately for Sanchez, Melendez could be a horrible fight. When Gilbert Melendez is on he's a scary competitor, his second fight with Josh Thomson, his dominance of Shinya Aoki, demolition of Rodrigo Damm and Tatsuya Kawajiri, those were the performances that had people talking about him as the best lightweight fighter in the world. Of course he also had lackluster outings against Jorge Santiago, the third fight with Josh Thomson, and in many ways his fight with Benson Henderson. If Melendez is on and ready, this is his fight for the taking. He has better counter punching, and technical striking in general, than Sanchez and his defensive wrestling is quite good. It's just a question of execution on fight night, and I think the loss to Henderson may have rekindled the fire in El Nino. I don't think he'll finish Sanchez, but this time around the judges will have an easy decision to give after Melendez out strikes and out works Diego Sanchez.
Daniel Cormier vs. Roy Nelson: Daniel Cormier has announced his intention of dropping to light heavyweight following this fight, and all reports have him in great shape, weighing in around 220lbs for this fight. If so that's great, Cormier has had trouble with weight cutting in the past, in fact it's what kept him out of the 2008 Olympic wrestling event when his kidney's shut down due to cutting weight. Hopefully he's taking the proper precautions if his goal is to get down to 205 in the future. Roy Nelson has also been shedding some weight, he could be back down in the 240 range for this fight. Nelson has a chance to win here, he's just got absurd power in his punches. But I think that's also his only way to win, catching Cormier early and knocking him senseless. Cormier is more athletic, more diverse with his striking, better conditioned, he's just a better fighter. I think Cormier takes a decision here, but it shouldn't be a boring fight at least.
UFC Heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos: I said above I'm really looking forward to this fight, and I stand by that. So much so that I'm not just looking at it, we're all Going Deep!
Junior dos Santos has just one loss in his last twelve fights, that being the unanimous decision loss to champion Cain Velasquez that cost him the championship. Dos Santos has proven he can beat Velasquez before, he is actually the only man to beat Cain when he knocked him out in the first round to win the title in 2011, but his last couple of performances haven't been the awe inspiring beatings he's given out in the past. Junior has some of the best boxing in the division, his ability to put combinations together as well as his use of body work are incredible, and of course he also has incredible power in his punches. One of Junior's weapons is his power, power which he has in both hands and in more than once type of punch. Dos Santos made his UFC debut in grand fashion with an uppercut KO of Fabricio Werdum, knocked out Gilbert Yvel and Gabriel Gonzaga with left hooks, and ended the nights of Stefan Struve and Cain Velasquez with overhand rights. That diversity is a huge weapon as plenty of MMA fighters become over reliant on specific techniques, and that predictability hurts them over time. Junior doesn't have that problem. Junior also has dynamic hips, his takedown defense is good, but more impressive perhaps is his ability to regain his feet. Against Velasquez the second time he was able to regain his feet after almost every takedown, more impressively he was able to do so in the fourth and fifth rounds of a grueling fight he was on the losing end of. That isn't to say dos Santos doesn't have weaknesses, in particular defensive weaknesses that cost him in the second fight with now champion Cain Velasquez. Junior has a bad habit of keeping his hands low, especially when backing up. It was that weakness that got him dropped hard and nearly finished in the first round against Cain in their last outing, and it also let Mark Hunt of all people stay in their fight and land his trademark left hook more than once to the former champion. Dos Santos also moves backwards in straight lines, he tends to back up until he feels the cage against his back and then circle off to one side. Mark Hunt was unable to fully capitalize on that habit, but Velasquez will if dos Santos hasn't learned to keep his hands high and circle before reaching the fence. For as good as his striking is the former champion has a bad habit or two there as well, specifically throwing a long jab to the body without proper set up or proper hand position for defense. Junior has also gotten away from throwing combinations, he tends to look for the one shot knockout, he threw single punches more often than not against Mark Hunt who's about as stationary a target as you'll get. It also reduces the chance of getting a finish if you just throw one punch at a time, when dos Santos was at his best it was his combinations as much as his power that gave his opponents problems, and he cannot afford to throw lazy or sloppy punches that will allow Velasquez to easily counter or close distance after their thrown. For the former champion to regain his title he has to be mindful of his surroundings, letting the champion get him pressed against the cage would be a monumental tactical error. Dos Santos also needs to use combinations again, single punches against Velasquez are unlikely to be successful and throwing three or four punches at a time could easily surprise the champion and catch him in an awkward position. Perhaps most importantly dos Santos must throw his jab. Dos Santos has a very good jab, he used it effectively against Shane Carwin and Mark Hunt, and if used correctly he can keep the champion on the outside and discourage his double leg takedown attempts. If Junior can circle away from the cage before getting to it, keep his hands up, and throw smart combinations when Velasquez is out of position he could knock him out again.
Cain Velasquez in an absolute phenom in the sport of MMA. He's the heavyweight champion for a reason, there's just one loss on his record and he's demolished every opponent put before him. Velasquez has demonstrated an almost uncanny ability to pick up every discipline in MMA, to use them in a fight, and to make his opponents fight how he wants them to fight. The most obvious advantage Velasquez has over virtually every other heavyweight is his conditioning, in a division known for fighters losing their wind in the first round Velasquez has continuously displayed his ability to keep a near frantic pace from bell to bell. In fact the only time Velasquez has appeared even winded was the second fight with then champion Junior dos Santos, and that was in the fifth round of a grueling and sometimes grappling intensive fight. Cain also knows how to use his conditioning, many of his early fights were won because his opponents, like Dennis Stojnic and Ben Rothwell, just couldn't keep up with his pressure and fell apart under the barrage of strikes and wrestling dominance that Velasquez brings to the table. The type of pace that he forces you to fight at is simply exhausting, and would be at any weight class much less the land of the heavyweights. Velasquez also has some of the most well rounded skills in MMA, his striking is very good and he mixes punches with kicks well. His leg kicks in particular have improved recently and his clinch fighting is exceptional. His ability to work dirty boxing, land blows when entering or exiting the clinch, transition to takedowns, the clinch is where Velasquez excels more than in any other position. Cain has superb wrestling credentials, and has transitioned those into MMA almost flawlessly as he's taken down everyone he's every tried to takedown. On top Velasquez has some of the most accurate, brutal, and continuous ground and pound in the history of MMA, the man absolutely demolished Antonio Silva from top position, and did plenty of work against Junior dos Santos from top position in their second fight. That isn't to say that the champion is the perfect fighter, in particular his striking defense is a little shaky, specifically his head movement. Despite beating Cheick Kongo via dominant unanimous decision, he was hit flush on the chin and stunned by the Frenchman in every round. When Velasquez lost his title to Junior dos Santos in 2011 he was hit with a windmill overhand right that dropped him and led to the finish, had me bothered to move his head off of the line of attack the punch would have missed completely, one of the huge problems with that particular punch in general. Cain also has some problems fighting off of the back foot, he makes up for that with his overwhelming offense but whenever he's been forced to back up or put in a defensive position he's clearly uncomfortable and not at his best. For the champion to retain his title he needs to put pressure on Junior dos Santos, but he can't replicate what he did in their last fight. In the second fight between the two Velasquez came out and shot for takedowns from the outside over and over again, all of which dos Santos avoided or recovered from very quickly. It wasn't until he got dos Santos against the cage and threw a straight right cross that he hurt the then champion and was able to begin his dominance. Shooting from the outside like that wont work against dos Santos a second time, a well timed uppercut could easily end his night. Instead Velasquez should focus on intelligently closing the distance, head movement properly timed gap closing should easily result in the challenger being clinched against the cage which is precisely where the champion wants this fight. Cain also has good leg kicks, which he should use when on the outside. If Cain can fight in the clinch, or get JDS down and keep him there, he could wear down the challenger and possibly stop him late in the fight if dos Santos gets sloppy.
So what do I think will happen? Emotionally I'm pulling for Junior dos Santos, he's been one of my favorite fighters since I saw him knockout Fabricio Werdum to debut in the UFC. That said, Junior's defensive issues were present in his last fight against Mark Hunt, and if he was getting tagged by Hunt and still back straight up with his hands down, Cain Velasquez will have a field day with him. I think we'll get a more competitive fight this time than either fight that came before, but picking against Cain Velasquez seems a tad foolish. I think Cain retains his title via unanimous decision, but we'll see these two fight again, probably about this time next year or early 2015, they're just too good to not fight each other.
On that note you've escaped the Guillotine, I'll be on the 411 Ground and Pound radio show on Sunday talking about the fallout from UFC 166, and of course next Friday come back here to get my thoughts on the card in more detail. I'll see you back here then.