If the year abruptly ended today most of the top headline grabbing moments in the UFC would have come from the light-heavyweight, middle-weight, and most surprisingly from the female divisions (surprising in that a year ago there was no female division). Nevertheless when people tune in to see combat fighting (whether it's boxing, MMA, K1, etc… they want to see the heavyweights go at it. If for no other reason then it simplifies who the baddest man on the planet is, i.e. Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Fedor Emelianenko.
This Saturday night in Houston, Texas two of the biggest heavyweight fights of the year will take place. First up is the co-main event featuring Daniel Cormier going up against Roy 'Big Country' Nelson. Followed by the the third in a trilogy of battles between Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos.
The Cormier/Nelson fight should turn out to be a wild affair, with a possible run at 'Fight of the Night'.
At 37 years-old Roy Nelson may be fighting for his last chance at a heavyweight belt. The famously rotund athlete is a fan favorite who in a sport of svelte physical specimen's carries a Ruthian mystique. The popularity Nelson has with the fans combined with an unflinching ability to absorb ridiculous amounts of punishment may be enough for Dana White to keep him in the UFC. However, if he wants to make a run for the belt he may have to pull off a string of victories in order to get that chance.
Daniel Cormier on the other hand has many options open right now at the UFC negotiation table. A win Saturday night will only open up more possibilities for the undefeated Strikeforce champion. Win or lose Cormier is being pointed to a showdown with light-heavyweight champ Jon Jones. Of course that all depends of the outcome of the Jones vs Gustaffsson/Teixira scheduling mess. The move to light-heavyweight is because Cormier and Velasquez are training partners and good friends and would not fight each other. However if Dos Santos wins he can buy his time by fighting for the heavyweight belt.
Stylistically this fight may come down to who can control the ground game. Both fighters are extremely heavy handed and both have been known to stop opponents with one punch. Therefore it may stand to reason that strategically whoever can score takedowns and win the ground war may win the fight. On paper that looks to favor Cormier, who was the team captain of the 2008 U.S. Olympic wrestling team. However, 'Big Country' is sneaky good on the ground not only does he have a weight advantage but Nelson also holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, as well as Roi Kan Do
As for the main event, this should be one of the best fights in the heavyweight division in a long time. That is unless Junior Dos Santos is so preoccupied with his upcoming bout/s against the Klitchko brothers that he can't focus on the fight. Certainly it should be the best fight of the Dos Santos/Velasquez series, which for a three fight heavyweight trilogy, the first two leave a lot to be desired.
In the chronicles of history, the first fight will go down that as the first publicly televised live UFC event, unfortunately that may be the only thing worth remembering from that night. Dana White was left spinning a first round/ first minute KO by JDS on the then champion Cain Velazquez as a 'good thing'. The ridiculous logic was made by the UFC president right after the fight and the reasoning landed somewhere in the ballpark of, 'if the American public tuned in to see a five round blood bath, it would have been disastrous, for the sport.' Right, because people don't want to see two high level fighters beat themselves into near submission without either one blinking an eye, that's why the legend of 'Gotti/Ward' never really took off. At least that night fight fans took consolation that the third of the Pacquiao/Marquez series was coming up.
The second fight saw a sharper more aggressive Velasquez show up. Early on Cain moved in and controlled the tempo, staying inside of Dos Santos' reach. After his signature high level cardio softened Dos Santos up, Velasquez unloaded a nice combination that concluded with a straight right that dropped the champ. Junior Dos Santos survived that first round and to his credit finished the fight, however he pretty much spent the next four rounds fighting for second place. Most people watching the fight realized after JDS took that shot it was pretty much a question of when Cain would end the fight and how he would do it. Unfortunately UFC fans never got to see that, instead what they got was five rounds of Cain trying to put away a guy who looked like he accidentally confused NyQuill for Mountain Dew. By the end of the second fight it became apparent that the first fight was disappointing because the fight was stopped too early, and the second fight was disappointing because it wasn't stopped at all.
This fight expect Dos Santos to have worked heavily on a cardio foundation to counter the freakish lung capacity of Cain Velasquez. If Junior can stand up to that early pace then he may still have his legs under him for those championship 4th and 5th rounds and possibly catch Velasquez on the chin. If not, then expect more of the same of what the second fight was; a relentless, workmanlike, performance from Cain Velasquez who will use his cardio to fuel his complete arsenal of attack, and in doing so retain his belt.