Topping the UFC 160 card, which is full of Heavyweight bouts, is a rematch between the current UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez (11-1) and former Strikeforce Heavyweight contender Antonio Silva (18-4).
Silva has already compiled an impressive resume with wins over former UFC Heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski and over MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko. Silva is fresh off his upset wins over Travis Browne and former Strikeforce Champion Alistair Overeem.
Cain Velasquez is now beginning his second reign as UFC Heavyweight champion after his five-round beating of Junior dos Santos. It appears that Velasquez is in even better form than when he claimed the title the first time against Brock Lesnar. Velasquez is immensely talented, and aside from the the 64-second knockout loss to Junior dos Santos back in 2011, Velasquez has yet to lose a round in the UFC.
What the challenger lacks in hand speed he makes up with power, as former kickboxing champion Overeem discovered in their match. Silva hails from American Top Team, which has a strong tradition of producing well-rounded fighters with good kickboxing skills to go with ground skills. Silva can mix in kicks, but those got him in trouble the last time he fought Velasquez, so expect Silva to stick to punches this time around. Silva uses his 6'4" height fairly well with straight punches and long hooks, but he leaves his chin up and drops his hands when throws, leaving him very open to counters.
The champion has impressive hand speed to go with very tight boxing and good power in his hands. Velasquez will be dealing with a reach disadvantage, but he has handled that problem nicely in the past. Silva cannot afford to get lazy with a jab against Velasquez because he will counter with vicious hooks and follow up with flurries of punches. The issue with the champion is that he does not employ much head movement and is hittable, and has been knocked out in the past.
Both fighters are very aggressive in the clinch, striking with knees, punches, elbows and even kicks. But Silva will likely wish to avoid the clinch at all costs. Both of these fighters are top position grapplers who thrive on ground striking, and Velasquez is the far superior wrestler. So if they are in the clinch it is more than likely that he will be able to get Silva to the mat.
In their first fight Velasquez brutalized Silva once on the ground, raining down strikes until a massive cut coated Silva's face in crimson and forced a stop to the fight. While Silva is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt, his large build has tradeoffs and one of those is he is not a particularly dynamic guard player. On his back he will be easy prey for the champion.
We don't really know what Velasquez looks like off his back because he has never been put there, and it seems highly unlikely that Silva has gained enough skill in wrestling between their fights to not just stop the champion's takedowns, but take Velasquez down.
The Match Up
There are a few key factors that will swing this fight. First is Silva's general fighting style. He physically overwhelms most opponents, wearing them down with his size in the clinch and then swarming them on the feet or on the ground. That will not work against Velasquez both because of his wrestling and because the champion's famous, otherworldly cardio.
The other key factor is speed. Velasquez is extremely fast for a heavyweight, and while Silva is quick for his frame, there is a big speed disparity here. The old saying 'speed kills' very much applies to Mixed Martial Arts and expect that speed to Velasquez the initiative for this match.
There was a reason the first match between these two was a one-sided beating, and while Silva might put up more of a fight this time around don't expect the outcome to be all that different.
Fight Prediction: Cain Velasquez by TKO, Round 1