Junior "Cigano" dos Santos needed to keep his back off the mat to have a chance to beat Cain Velasquez at UFC 166. For the most part he did that. Cigano stopped 11-of-13 takedown attempts from the champion. He also absorbed some big punches before finally succumbing in the fifth round.
For the record, it wasn't a punch that technically led to dos Santos being stopped in the final round. He banged the top of his head on the mat in an attempt to lock on a submission. Nonetheless, the event didn't change the bottom line.
Velasquez was going to win the fight in any case. His amazing cardio was the biggest reason for his performance. After dos Santos appeared to gas out in their second meeting, he seemed intent upon keeping something in reserve for this bout.
Cigano clearly had a little more steam in his punches late in the fight, but he simply couldn't keep Velasquez off of him. If the game plan was to outlast Velasquez and take advantage of him late, it was a seemingly impossible mission.
Velasquez used his weight and lower center of gravity to power dos Santos into the cage for much of the fight.
To get inside, Velasquez threw hard and accurate power punches. He floored dos Santos with one of those shots in the third round. It seemed the fight might have been over at that point. However, to dos Santos' credit, he had an iron chin and will.
In all, according to figures from FightMetric, Velasquez threw a total of 378 strikes; he landed 274 of them. That is an average of 75.6 per round. These attacks weren't light blows. Velasquez threw 201 significant strikes and landed 123 of them.
When you factor in the takedown attempts, the constant pressure and leaning against the cage and the constant strike attempts, Velasquez's work rate was phenomenal.
The combination of Velasquez's skill and stamina makes him perhaps the toughest out in the sport.
Follow me for musings on MMA, boxing, the WWE, the NBA and sports video games.