I am super excited for this weekend, it is going to be a big one for fight fans. There is the uber-hyped (and rightly so) fight between the two best heavyweights in MMA which is sure to be a stonker, what absolutely should be a number one contender decider in Henderson and Guida and the conclusion of the Bellator Season 5 tournaments in the Middleweight and Welterweight divisions. Apparently there is some boxing as well, but presumably no-one would want to watch that.
Dos Santos vs Velasquez
This is a great match up for so many reasons. These two are the best two heavyweights in the world at the moment while at the same time their relative inexperience makes it doubly exciting; these guys are both evolving and we will most likely see even better fighters in both of them on Saturday night. At this time when Diaz and Sonnen (probably) are showing that getting a title shot is about being enough of a bad guy to force your way into a title shot, it is great to see two lovely guys with great talent pitted against each other. The hype is coming from their abilities and the fact that stylistically this fight will almost certainly be great, there is no need for smack talk.
Velasquez comes into this fight off the back of a heavy lay off due to injury, although he is adamant that has been healed for a long time and he has had a great camp. Given Velasquez's style and history I do not think that ring rust ought not to be a problem. When he entered the sport it did not take him long to get up to speed (see here and here, with two dominating performances, albeit over pretty low level competition. Since then he has dealt comfortably with all comers, using his supreme wrestling base and improving stand up to beat top flight competition with ease. Years competing at a high level as a wrestler and an MMA career where he has shown maturity and composure beyond his years demonstrate that Cain will not be fazed by whatever his return throws at him.
Do not take that to mean that Dos Santos is not a genuine contender in this fight. Velasquez will arrive at his best, but I believe both these men face the toughest opponent of their relatively short careers. Dos Santos is the more experienced fighter with wins over plenty of top guys. He is no slouch on the ground as BJJ brown belt but there is no question that he wants to stand and box Cain. The key to his chance of winning the fight will be his ability to stuff take downs or, preferrably avoid shots as much as possible by cutting angles and circling. If he allows Velasquez to back him up to or cut off at the fence of the cage it could be a short night, as the he has some serious ground and pound. On the feet, despite his opponent having a respectable ground game, Dos Santos should be expected to employ better head movement to avoid strikes and sharp, technical boxing with knockout power thrown in.
I cannot wait and, at a push I pick Velasquez to win by ground and pound TKO in round 2.
Henderson vs Guida
How this fight did not make to a properly televised card I do not know. I have moaned a bit before about MMA politics getting in the way of good fights and here it is again. This fight should be for the number one contendership for a shot at Frankie Edgar's Lightweight title. I sincerely hope it will be. However, given the way the UFC makes title match ups, the winner (especially if it is Henderson, relatively new to UFC fans) may not have the momentum in the eyes of casual fans to headline a main event that will pull big PPV buys against Edgar. Put the fight as a prelim before or recorded and after the Heavyweight bout and these two fighters would get massive exposure and the Lightweight title boutn would be much more sellable, with the right guy fighting the champ.
Anyway, it is still a very important fight for both Ben 'Smooth' Henderson and Clay ' The Carpenter' Guida. Guida seems to have turned a corner since back to back losses to Diego Sanchez and Kenny Florian and finds himself on a 4 fight win streak against the likes of Pettis and Gomi. He has always had a really cool style about him. He is a wrestler and does tend to take guys down and beat them up, in a way that some fans criticise of other fighters. However with Guida's crazy hair, intense tempo and generally twitching busy-ness it is great to watch. He has now added the ability to rigorously follow gameplans and an all round intelligence to his approach that is yielding results.
I was surprised when Ben Henderson was touted by some as destined to fail in the UFC. In the WEC it was easy to see that he had all the tools at his disposal to be a top guy and that he just needed time to put it together. He is 12 – 2 with two wins over Donald Cerrone and one impressive beat down of Jim Miller. His wrestling is great, especially the way it is suited to MMA. He has made himself enough of a handful on the feet that he can set up shots and when he gets hold of a leg or two he has massive power. Like Guida he has crazy hair and energy to burn, so should this fight go 3 rounds, do not expect the pace to slow down. I expect 3 rounds of everything. Both guys will get on top and rough each other up, both guys will look to use a bit of stand up to set things up and there will be some cool scarmbles. The winner will be the one who manages to do the more decisive damage when he achieves a cominant position.
I am going with a Henderson split decision, although it is a mighty tough call.
I am not going to write up the Bellator card, but please do not take this as a sign that anything outside of the UFC is forgettable. There will certainly be posts in the future focusing on Bellator cards, especially when Eddie Alvarez defends his title because I think he is one of the best in the world. It just so happens I have limited time and the two fights mentioned above are pretty untoppable.
Other bits and bobs
It is quite funny that Dana White is quoted here as saying
Not only does this mark our first event on FOX since we announced a multi-year broadcast agreement with the network this past summer, but it marks a return to the glory days for many sports fans. It signals a return to the days when sports' biggest prize - the world heavyweight title - is decided live and free on network television.
Firstly he spends half his time saying that it doesn't matter how big a guy is, it is how good the fight is that fans care about. Second, I am pretty sure the majority of future heavyweight title fights won't be aired live on free to air TV.
Forest Griffin tweeted some pretty stupid jokes about rape on Twitter and then got a bit uppity when people got upset. I am not sure the UFC needs to do anything about it, it is not a crime to make horrible jokes that will really upset victims of horrible crimes. However it does make you a bit of an arse. The fact that Forest didn't apologise has disappointed me a bit because I had thought he was a pretty nice guy.
Cheers folks, come back Sunday for a run down of what happened and I hope to include some analysis of Bellator 57!
Check out my MMA blog twice a week here at http://jim-ma.blogspot.com, updated twice a week!