Over the past year, former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos has twice stepped in the cage with current champ Cain Velasquez for championship fights. Ten rounds.
And I don't think I'm alone in this, but those rounds were among the most one-sided I can remember between any fighters who have competed against each other more than once. The fights were virtually identical, and dos Santos took horrendous amounts of extended punishment in both.
I was in attendance at both fights. I try to remain detached while watching events, because that's my job—to be a keen observer and to call things as I see them without silly things like emotions getting in the way.
But in each of these two fights, I couldn't help myself. I found myself hoping for a referee stoppage. I didn't want dos Santos, who is one of the nicer people in this entire industry, to take any more punishment. But the referee stoppage came far later than I wanted, and so, Velasquez went about the business of pummeling Dos Santos in and around his head.
Both wins were emphatic, but I guess they weren't emphatic enough for dos Santos. Here's what he told Brazilian outlet Tatame:
I still consider myself one of the main challengers to the title. He showed that he had an effective strategy to win the fight, looking to play it safe while not taking many chances to show he was the better fighter, blocking my punches in a way that is typical of wrestlers. He applied pressure, grabbing hold of me and avoiding the fight, making the fight boring, making the audience boo a lot. An effective strategy to win, but he didn't prove he was the better fighter.
|Total Strikes Landed by Cain Velasquez|
|UFC 166||273 of 378|
|UFC 155||210 of 339|
|TOTAL||483 of 717|
Yes, dos Santos is still one of the main challengers for the heavyweight championship. Until someone comes along who can knock him off that perch, he'll be the No. 2 or No. 3 heavyweight in the world. It'll be a long time before he earns another title shot—solely because of the dominance Velasquez displayed against him—but that doesn't mean he isn't one of the top contenders.
The next statement is where things get sketchy, at least for me.
He showed that he had an effective strategy to win the fight, looking to play it safe while not taking many chances to show he was the better fighter, blocking my punches in a way that is typical of wrestlers.
Now, I don't know what fight dos Santos remembers, but it most certainly was not the one he's supposed to be talking about. And I'm not sure what he means by "blocking punches in a way that is typical of wrestlers."
What I witnessed was Velasquez fighting a smart fight, one that played to his own strength's and dos Santos' weaknesses, while also punching dos Santos in the face so many times that dos Santos thought the fight was stopped in the second round and not the fifth.
"He applied pressure, grabbing hold of me and avoiding the fight, making the fight boring, making the audience boo a lot."
That also did not happen. Velasquez did not avoid the fight, and the audience—one that was heavily pro-Velasquez due to Houston's prominent Hispanic market—did not boo at all. They cheered even the most minuscule actions from Velasquez.
They were so heavily in his corner, in fact, that even Cain's game plan of keeping dos Santos against the fence and smothering him were roundly cheered, when the same type of action would be severely criticized in almost every other city.
"An effective strategy to win, but he didn't prove he was the better fighter."
Yes, it was an effective strategy to win. That much is certain. Velasquez, over the course of two fights, proved that he knows exactly how to beat dos Santos.
But here's the thing: He also proved he was a better fighter. Dos Santos has prodigious skills, but until he stops completely relying on the kind of big punch that served him so well against his previous opponents and against Velasquez in their first meeting, he'll never again come close to beating the champion.
You'd think dos Santos would've learned this lesson. After all, he's been the one in the cage with Velasquez, even if he doesn't remember most of it because of the beating he took.
But apparently that isn't the case. And if dos Santos does earn a fourth fight with Velasquez down the road, let's hope he's a little more cognizant of the fact that he needs to essentially be a far more complete fighter than he was in the last two fights.