Many fans, including myself, who had picked Junior Dos Santos to defeat Cain Velasquez at UFC 166, were not shocked or surprised at Velasquez’s victory Saturday night, but were, however, shocked and surprised at the manner of it.
A good number of fans had written Junior’s previous loss to Cain off, as an anomaly. That JDS was over trained for the fight and that his head wasn’t in the bout; that given another kick at the can, “Cigano” would rule the day with his superior boxing. However, that proved not to be the case.
So what happened?
First, let’s consider what went right.
Junior’s cardio looked considerably better than it did in his previous outing with the champ and he at least caught Velasquez with some heavy shots; true enough.
Cigano and regardless of the punishment he had taken, was still in the fight and still delivering powerful blows to Cain deep into the bout; reasonable enough.
Further, Junior once again proved himself to be an unbelievably tough opponent and one that will take all the punishment that Velasquez can hand him, and had he not bounced his head off the mat in the fifth with less than two minutes to go, he might well have survived to lose by decision rather than by TKO; fair enough.
Beyond that, there’s not much else in the way of positives to focus on.
Regarding what went wrong, it boils down to a few things.
First, although Junior’s cardio was better, it still wasn’t enough; not even close. Cigano was visibly tired by the second round and although still maintaining power in his shots, they were slower, more cumbersome and all reactive. Simply put, by the end of the second Dos Santos didn’t have it in him to take the fight to Cain, even if he could have.
On this point, Velasquez was able to outwork, outpace, push around and generally exhaust Cigano. If there is ever to be a fourth fight between the two, then Junior must solve this problem. Whether or not he can beat every other fighter in division matters not, if his cardio can’t keep up with Cain’s for more than a round or two.
As Cain will not tire, any opponent that wants to challenge him for the belt will either have to have a similar gas tank or find a way to negate Cain’s. It’s that cut and dried. If a fighter can’t do that, then they’ll only have a puncher’s chance of beating the champ.
As to Cigano’s much vaunted boxing, it didn’t show up. The whole night, Junior stood in front of Cain and presented no angles. The only time he moved off was to evade Cain and in doing so, he offered no counters. As such, he was simply chased down, clinched and beaten up.
All night long, Cigano was a sitting duck for Velasquez’s come forward style. Either standing there or backing up in a straight line, Junior demonstrated no foot work. It was simply non-existent. If JDS had one chance in that fight, it was that he had to work angles on Cain, keep him at range and deliver big bombs. He failed, miserably, in that effort.
On this issue and again, if there is to be a fourth fight between the two, Junior will need to solve this problem. Cigano has proven that no man in the heavyweight division is going to simply stand in front of Cain Velasquez and throw down, with him. It’s just not going to happen. The champ will simply plow through any fighter that attempts such a game plan. As such, Junior needs to go back to the drawing board on his boxing and become more mobile, elusive and effective in his counters.
To the point, Junior the boxer was out struck by Velasquez the wrestler, 143 to 46.
Finally, Junior’s wrestling.
Junior is a big, strong, powerful man and even looks to be more physically intimidating than does Velasquez. However, he was shoved around and controlled by the champ at will and for the second time in a row. The champ dictated every aspect of the fight and most importantly, that it would happen up against the cage. And on that point, not once in the bout did Cigano reverse Cain while pressed up against it; simply put, he was owned. Further still, although the champ only scored two takedowns in the fight it would be safe to assume that he could have easily scored more, had he wished.
Further, at no time in the fight was Cigano ever the “general”. He fought on his heels all night, in reverse and rarely at the Octagon’s center. All of this, primarily, because he couldn’t deal with Cain’s wrestling.
In a nutshell, Junior’s grappling is not where it needs to be to defeat Velasquez, and that if he ever hopes to have a serious shot of beating him, then he’ll need to solve this problem, as well.
In conclusion, Cigano needs a major league upgrade in his cardio, boxing and wrestling in order to deal with Cain Velasquez, and if the second best fighter in the division needs it, then it’s a reasonable assumption that every other fighter in the division needs it, too; word to the wise for Fabricio Werdum and his upcoming bout with the heavyweight champ.
Outside / Inside picture courtesy of Junior Dos Santos