As usual, the UFC will end the year with a bang as the two top heavyweights in the world get set to square off for the second time in a 13-month time span. In the first matchup, current champion, Junior Dos Santos, became the first man to defeat Cain Velasquez when he knocked out Velazquez with a right hook less just over one minute into the fight.
Since the two fought in November 2011, both men have fought only once with Dos Santos completely dominant in a second round TKO victory over Frank Mir, where he basically pummeled Mir into submission. Velasquez, on the other hand, scored a takedown early, opened one of the nastiest cuts of the year with an elbow and finished off heavyweight contender, Antonio Silva, by TKO in the first round.
Now, as the two men prepare to square off again, most expect the rematch to last longer, but no one expects it to go to decision.
Junior Dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez (Heavyweight Title) – Keys to the Fight
Junior Dos Santos (15-1-0)
Cain Velasquez (10-1-0)
- Striking: It played a huge role in the first fight, and expect it to be a vital part of this matchup as well. Dos Santos is arguably the top Heavyweight striker in the UFC having won six of his nine fights in the Octagon via KO/TKO. Velazquez is not as skilled or powerful on his feet as Dos Santos, but will need to land enough strikes to set Dos Santos up for his takedowns.
- Dos Santos’ takedown defense: Dos Santos is a modern version of Chuck Liddell, using successful takedown defense—he has avoided 88 percent of takedown attempts—to force his opponents to try and strike with him. On the other hand, Velazquez is one of the best wrestlers in the UFC, having successfully completed 67 percent of his takedowns and defeating many of his opponents with his powerful ground and pound after scoring his takedown. Velazquez did not even attempt a takedown in the first; that cannot be the case in this fight if he has any intention of taking Dos Santos’ belt.
- Pace of Fight: Velazquez prefers to push the pace of the fight and press his opponents into bad positions with his constant movement to set-up his offense. Dos Santos, meanwhile, prefers to lay back early in fights and counterstrike while also pacing himself for the potential of the fight going into the later rounds. Can Velazquez push Dos Santos into bad spots while avoiding a big counter-punch this time? And if the fight goes into the latter rounds can Velazquez, who has never fought more than three rounds, maintain his pace?
Velazquez was considered the top heavyweight in the world until he lost to Dos Santos in May of 2011 and is even more driven since his loss. This will be a hotly contested fight with less action than expected, as both men look to avoid making any major errors that could cost him the title. As the fight drags on, Velazquez’s versatility will play a major factor as he has above average striking to go with his world class wrestling, whereas Dos Santos has not shown any type of ground game to go with his striking. Velazquez by split decision.
Jim Miller vs. Joe Lauzon – Keys to the Fight
Jim Miller (21-4-0)
Joe Lauzon (22-7-0)
Striking: Both men are great grapplers, which means this fight will be all about the striking. Miller has not shown a lot of striking in his career and has struggled in matchups where he has been forced to fight on his feet. Lauzon, meanwhile, has had slightly more success on his feet with four victories by KO, but has also been knocked out a few times himself. The man who is able to establish himself as the superior striker will have a huge edge in controlling this fight and maybe more importantly in setting up his takedown opportunities.
With the lightweight division so stacked with top contenders, both men will come in looking to finish this fight an impressive fashion in order to get back into the title mix. The quick pace will not affect either man, but as the fight settles in Lauzon’s reach and superior striking will begin to control the fight. Miller will continue to press forward looking to score a takedown, but Lauzon’s superior defense will rule the day and Lauzon will eventually get a takedown of his own. The action will be constant, but both men will prove too tough to be finished. Joe Lauzon by decision.
Yushin Okami vs. Alan Belcher (17-5-0) – Keys to the Fight
Yushin Okami (28-7-0)
Alan Belcher (17-5-0)
Style of Fight: This fight features two men with different strengths. Belcher is one of the more powerful strikers in the middleweight division with the ability to unleash big right-hands and strong kicks. Okami, meanwhile, is probably the most powerful wrestler in the division and has scored on 48 percent of his takedown attempts. These two faced off in 2006 and Belcher was unable to avoid Okami’s takedowns. Has Belcher improved enough over the last six years to make sure he doesn’t end up on his back in this one?
Belcher will keep Okami on the outside and avoid the takedowns, but Okami’s constant pressure and strength will eventually overtake Belcher who struggles to avoid takedowns (52 percent of takedowns successfully defended). Belcher will be dangerous from his back, but that just means Okami won’t be aggressive with his ground and pound. Okami by decision.