After his second drubbing of Junior dos Santos, there can be no question that Cain Velasquez is the best Heavyweight in the history of the UFC. It isn’t the most impressive list of champions the UFC boasts, but it is still quite an achievement. The belt has been held by legends and game changers like Mark Coleman, Maurice Smith, and Bas Rutten, and by transcendent stars who helped push the UFC into the mainstream like Randy Couture and Brock Lesnar.
Velasquez has eclipsed them all – not because of his star power, or his ability on the mic, or to draw fans, but because of his raw skills and fighting ability. This fight has made it plain to see that Velasquez is still improving as a fighter as he was able to just batter dos Santos on the feet, while dos Santos looked awful and so similar to the fighter whom Velasquez tore the belt from in December of last year that at times it almost looked like a replay.
Velasquez has clearly separated himself from dos Santos, who has clearly separated himself from the rest of the Heavyweight division. He has dispatched other greats like Nogueira and Lesnar, and has beaten contemporaries in dos Santos and Antonio Silva. The division is far from cleaned out, but there is no question that Velasquez is far and away the best fighter.
On to other thoughts on the evening’s fights:
- Junior dos Santos might be squandering his chance at UFC glory as it appears he was horribly coached heading into this fight. He appeared to have no plan, other than possibly landing that one power punch. He made all the same mistakes of walking himself into the fence, not using his footwork at all, and not working any sort of jab. A change of coaching and camps might benefit dos Santos greatly moving forward.
- While a (T)KO win is always exciting, even one as odd as that, the fight should been stopped before the start of that final round. It was crystal clear that dos Santos’ left eye was shut and when the doctor was called in, he ignored the left eye and simply focused on the cut over the right. And in several cases the doctors looked at severe cuts and signed off on fights continuing after simply smearing a bit of blood around. I would be hard pressed to level legitimate critiques as I am not a medical professional, but it appeared to this layman that the doctors were simply asking the fighters were okay and then rubber stamping the matches as okay to continue.
- Daniel Cormier looked as good as one can against Roy Nelson, rendering the former TUF champion a non-factor in the fight. Nelson’s chin remains intact, but it has been pretty consistently shown that Nelson has a pretty hard ceiling when it comes to facing Top 10 Heavyweights. Cormier’s striking looked very good as he was able to easily avoid the right hand of Nelson.
- Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez put on a highly entertaining fight. It was a fantastic fight, but it is not to be confused with a close fight. Melendez picked Sanchez apart in just about every exchange, as Sanchez missed on his hooks while Melendez was on target with his straight punches. Watching Melendez play matador to Sanchez’s charging bull was fun, but when Sanchez dropped Melendez with that sneaky uppercut he very well might have claimed the best round of the year as he forced Melendez to hold on to his win with both hands.
- Gabriel Gonzaga is a skilled Heavyweight fighter, and that can get someone quite far into MMA. He is a powerful striker and one of the killers on the mat at Heavyweight. Those things make Gonzaga the Heavyweight gatekeeper, as anyone who can beat him can swim with the sharks.
- John Dodson’s striking continues to improve and looks to be very be powerful and fast. He made quick work of a pretty good, young fighter in Darrell Montague. It was impressive showing for Dodson, who was very close to claiming a Flyweight title in his first title shot, and at this point to see what he does with a second one.
- Tim Boetsch benefited from some questionable judging with the win over C.B. Dollaway. It seemed like Dollaway did enough to earn the first two rounds and with the point deduction it seemed like a draw was coming. But Boetsch walked away with the win and it is hard to feel for Dollaway after those eye pokes.
- Said it before, but the only way to reduce eye pokes in MMA is to make it a flat point deduction penalty for a confirmed eye poke. New gloves will not fix this problem. It will require fighters making an effort to make sure their hands are closed when they extend their arms.
- Hector Lombard put on a vintage performance from his Bellator championship days with his 1st round knockout. Marquardt looked good early on, but then engaged in clinch fighting with the Olympic Judoka and paid the price. Lombard got to work his fast hands, but still looked flat footed and will likely struggle at range against better fighters.
- Jessica Eye scored a significant upset with a split decision win over Sarah Kaufman. It was an interesting decision due to the fact that the striking was fairly close, and Kaufmann was on the one on the attack for most of the fight, which is normally a deciding factor for most MMA judges. Throw in that much of the damage Eye did was with sneaky, lower profile strikes like elbows in the clinch, as opposed to Kaufman’s more obvious right crosses at range, and it really seemed like Kaufmann was going to get her hand raised easily. All in all it was a very close fight and the fact that judges leaned Eye’s way could mean MMA judging is showing signs of progress. Or it could mean Texas judging has an extra dose of terribland and doesn’t understand MMA or what just happened to be odd in a razor close fight. It is MMA judging, so it is hard to tell.
- K.J. Noons and George Sotiropoulos had a plodding boxing match with moments of excitement. Both are firmly on the downsides of their careers as this is Sotiropoulos’ fourth straight loss, and in the last three years Noons is 2-5 between the UFC and his time in Strikeforce. Neither one is a serious player at Lightweight right now.
- The Facebook prelims featured some great action as all four fights didn’t reach the third round. Kyoji Horiguchi is the best prospect to come out of Japan in some time and as fans saw, he can handle wrestlers fairly well and is a finisher. Andre Fili may have missed weight due to taking the fight on short notice, but the Team Alpha Male youth looked very impressive.
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