Before the UFC hype machine gets kicked into high gear on this fight and starts to cloud my better judgement, I'm going to take an early stab at how this matchup is going to go down.
Sportsbooks have already posted futures lines on the fight, and to no one's surprise, it's been handicapped very closely. The champ Velasquez is a slight minus-130 favorite to retain his title while the Dos Santos upset will pay as much as plus-135.
I can't argue with those lines, because I also think the fight will be close.
I expect these two guys to have immense respect for each others' skills inside the Octagon. We won't see either fighter laying it all out on the line—instead, this fight will be a technical battle that should go deep into the championship rounds.
If that proves true, then we need to look at how they're going to match up stylistically.
Hype would have us believe that Dos Santos holds an edge in the standup category. If he does, I don't think that it's much of and edge, especially if he discovers it to be difficult to fight while backing up.
Velasquez is the best in the division at slipping punches and countering with power. Dos Santos will not be given the usual room to operate, and if he's not very careful, a Velasquez left hook could make it an early night.
If Velasquez can't counter-punch with success, he still has the option of trying to take down the challenger. That may prove difficult in the first two rounds, but by the third, this fight will likely consist of Velasquez winning rounds with ground-and-pound from outside of Dos Santos' guard.
Barring a jiu-jitsu surprise from Dos Santos off his back, Velasquez should be able to wear down Cigano enough from the top to earn either a UD or late-round stoppage.
I can see the Dos Santos vs. Velasquez fight looking a lot like Kongo vs. Velasquez, only not so one-sided. Cigano will be better than Kongo was on his back, but the results will be the same in the end.
As long as he steps into the Octagon healthy, the champ is just too well-rounded and tough to lose right now, even by a fighter as skilled as Junior dos Santos.