Former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez isn’t about to mince words about his performance against Junior (Cigano) dos Santos.
The hard-hitting Brazilian dethroned Velasquez via first-round knockout at UFC on FOX 1 almost a year ago. After a brief feeling-out process, dos Santos connected with an overhand right that forced referee John McCarthy to step in at the 64-second mark.
Following the bout, critics questioned why the former NCAA Division I wrestler didn’t show much urgency in taking the bout to the mat, opting instead to engage dos Santos in the striking department.
As far as Velasquez is concerned, the only thing wrong with his game plan was that he didn’t implement it.
“It was kind of a brain fart,” Velasquez said bluntly while visiting Toronto for UFC 152 last week. “I decided to stand on the outside too long with him and wasn’t doing what I was training to do.
“This fight game, it’s a game of inches and seconds. You make one little mistake and the fight’s over.”
Velasquez gets the chance to even the score when he challenges dos Santos for the heavyweight strap in the main event of UFC 155 in Las Vegas on Dec. 29. The card features a middleweight contender bout between Tim Boetsch and Chris Weidman. Also, Chael Sonnen is expected to make his light-heavyweight return against Forrest Griffin.
Velasquez admitted his approach to the rematch won’t change much. He just needs to take dos Santos out of his comfort zone.
“I would go with the same (game plan) as last time, but just (stick to it),” Velasquez said. “Last time, I got caught on the outside too long.
“This time, (the key is) attacking him. Not staying on the outside, waiting around. Just my normal style of fighting — and that’s going forward, attacking him and being in his face. If the takedown is there, for sure I’ll go for it, but he has good takedown defence. So if I’m planning to do that, I have to set up my takedowns.”
Though Velasquez has put his loss to dos Santos behind him, he has been itching for the opportunity to redeem himself.
“I’ve been looking for this fight for a while — since I lost the title,” Velasquez said. “It’s my only loss and it’s just eating at me. So I can’t wait to get back in there. I can’t wait to fight against Junior again. (My performance) will be much better than last time, for sure.”
It’s not uncommon for fighters’ to take a conservative approach following their first KO loss. If Velasquez had any mental blocks stemming from his defeat against dos Santos, he didn’t show them in his subsequent bout against Antonio (Big Foot) Silva. The American Kickboxing Academy heavyweight dished out one of the most brutal beatings of the year en route to stopping the Brazilian with strikes at UFC 146 in May.
That same night, dos Santos picked up a second-round TKO victory over Frank Mir to notch his first successful title defence. However, the Brazilian striker was originally set to lock horns with Alistair Overeem.
The former Strikeforce heavyweight titleholder and 2010 K-1 world grand prix champion was removed from the card after failing a random pre-fight drug test in March. He is currently serving a nine month suspension and will be able to reapply for a fighter’s licence on Dec. 27. Since he could receive the green light two days prior to UFC 155, Overeem began publicly challenging dos Santos. The two have been exchanging barbs since, taking the spotlight off Velasquez’s rematch.
The former heavyweight champion admitted to feeling slighted at first, but that his focus is solely on regaining the title.
“I had issues a little bit with being pushed aside,” Velasquez said. “I felt like there was more (attention) on the fight between Overeem and dos Santos.
“I (have something to prove) from the last fight (with dos Santos), not because of anything Overeem has said.
“Dos Santos, he’s definitely one of the best heavyweights out there. His boxing is so great and his takedown defence is good. So just getting that belt around your waist and being the No. 1 guy — that’s what I want.”
ARLOVSKI TO HEADLINE WSOF
World Series of Fighting’s inaugural show now has a main event.
The card, which takes place in Las Vegas on Nov. 3 and will be broadcast on NBC Sports, is set to be headlined by a heavyweight tilt between Andrei Arlovski and Devin Cole.
Following a disastrous run in Strikeforce that saw the former UFC heavyweight champion go 0-3 with two knockout losses, Arlovski picked up a pair of victories before his no contest with Tim Sylvia last month.
A Strikeforce, WEC and IFL veteran, Cole is currently riding a two-fight win streak. Over the course of his nine-year career, he has competed against notable fighters like Daniel Cormier, Shawn Jordan, Krzysztof Soszynski, Jeff Monson and Ben Rothwell.
A slew of UFC and Strikeforce vets have also signed on for WSOF 1 — Miguel Torres, Josh Burkman, Gerald Harris, Ronys Torres, Gesias Cavalcante, John Gunderson, Bobby Lashley, Rolles Gracie and James McSweeney.
Canadian fans looking for a lazy afternoon filled with fights are in luck.
UFC on FUEL TV 5 takes place Saturday in Nottingham, England, and will be headlined by a heavyweight scrap between Stipe Miocic and Stefan Struve. The co-main event sees hometown welterweight Dan Hardy take on Amir Sadollah.
Due to the time difference, the Facebook prelims kick off at 1 p.m. E.T., with the main card airing at 4 p.m. on Sportsnet.
Stipe Miocic vs. Stefan Struve
Dan Hardy vs. Amir Sadollah
Yves Jabouin vs. Brad Pickett
Paul Sass vs. Matt Wiman
John Hathaway vs. John Maguire
Duane Ludwig vs. Che Mills
Kyle Kingsbury vs. Jimi Manuwa
Akira Corassani vs. Andy Ogle
Brad Tavares vs. Tom Watson
DaMarques Johnson vs. Gunnar Nelson
Robert Peralta vs. Jason Young
STRIKEFORCE CARD CANCELLED
For the second time in a month, the UFC and Strikeforce parent company, Zuffa, LLC, has been forced to cancel a card.
Strikeforce: Melendez vs. Healy was set to take place in Sacramento, Calif., on Saturday. The event was to be headlined by a lightweight-championship bout between Gilbert Melendez and Pat Healy.
After Melendez suffered an undisclosed injury during training, Showtime opted out of the broadcast. Without television support in place, Zuffa scrapped the entire card.
“Strikeforce informed us that lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez had sustained an injury and would not be able to compete in their Saturday, Sept. 29 card,” a statement from Showtime Sports read. “Without our headline fighter and main event or a marquee undercard, we reluctantly informed Strikeforce that we could not continue with plans for the telecast.”
MMA Junkie is reporting all 19 fighters left without bouts will receive their show purse.
WANT TO SEE GSP?
MMA fans can scoop up tickets for UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre’s return this week.
UFC 154 takes place Nov. 17 at Montreal’s Bell Centre and will be headlined by a welterweight title unification bout between St. Pierre and interim champ Carlos Condit. The co-main event features 170-pound contenders Johny Hendricks and Martin Kampmann.
A host of Canadian fighters will also compete on the card — Mark Hominick, Patrick Cote, Mark Bocek, Sam Stout, John Makdessi, Ivan Menjivar and Antonio Carvalho.
Tickets can be purchased at evenko.ca. Prices range from $90.50 CAD to $625.50
UFC Fight Club members get first dibs Thursday starting at 10 a.m. ET. UFC newsletter subscribers can snag seats Friday at 10 a.m. and tickets go on sale to the general public Saturday at 10 a.m.
UFC 154 FULL CARD
Georges St-Pierre vs. Carlos Condit
Johny Hendricks vs. Martin Kampmann
Tom Lawlor vs. Francis Carmont
Cyrille Diabate vs. Chad Griggs
Mark Hominick vs. Pablo Garza
Mark Bocek vs. Rafael dos Anjos
Patrick Cote vs. Alessio Sakara
John Makdessi vs. Sam Stout
Antonio Carvalho vs. Rodrigo Damm
Azamat Gashimov vs. Ivan Menjivar
Stephen Thompson vs. Besam Yousef
JOSE RODRIGUEZ’S RANT
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but respect for Stephan Bonnar.
He’s a gamer. He fights with his heart as much as his limbs.
But pitting him against Anderson (Spider) Silva as a last-minute scramble to shore up a crumbling UFC 153 card in Brazil is a bit of a headscratcher.
With injuries to main event fighter Jose Aldo and co-main eventer Quinton (Rampage) Jackson, the UFC was forced into triage-mode for the umpteenth time this year.
Silva stepped up to take the marquee bill. The middleweight champ is a draw wherever he fights — especially when he fights at home.
He’s jumping up a weight class to take on Bonnar. That said, the Brazilian is no stranger to the 205-pound class having fought there twice before. Once against James Irvin, stopping the slugger in one minute. The second against Forrest Griffin — in which he took three-and-a-half minutes to get the knockout.
What makes this matchup most puzzling is that Griffin has already beaten Bonnar twice.
Ergo, if Silva can beat the guy who beat Bonnar so handily, why bother fighting Bonnar?
The non-title three-rounder is nothing more than a placeholder for a card that needed a bit of cement.
With so little on the line and the obvious statistical mismatch, this fight is more a favour to Silva than something the fans want to see.
Unless, of course, there’s an upset.