The first time Dos Santos and Velasquez met in the octagon, Dos Santos finished the fight by knockout in just over three minutes in the way he probably imagined he would. Dos Santos took the UFC Heavyweight Title and his dream came true.
If the first time they fought was a dream come true for Dos Santos though, then you can say the second time was a nightmare. Dos Santos was beaten and battered to a bloody pulp, literally, for five rounds. To the surprise of many, Velasquez out-punched the Brazilian heavyweight champion, who many favored would have the edge if the fight stayed on the feet. Come this Saturday, Dos Santos will get his shot at revenge, and Velasquez will have the chance yet again, to prove to the world why he is the best heavyweight fighter in the UFC.
Going into this third bout, we are certain of two things: 1) Dos Santos has the ability to knock Cain Velasquez out with his punches. 2) If Cain brings his A-game, he can outbox, outwrestle and overwhelm Dos Santos for five rounds in a dominant fashion.
The first fight was picture perfect for Dos Santos and the second fight was picture perfect for Velasquez. That makes the third fight very interesting.
For Velasquez to win, he needs to do the same thing he did in there second fight: constantly pressure forward, throw punching combinations and follow up with takedown attempts.
The first time they fought, Dos Santos caught Velasquez with a crushing overhand right. The second bout, we saw Velasquez out-jab Dos Santos by constantly putting pressure on him and not letting him set up his big power punches that he is so famously known for. Dos Santos simply didn’t know what to do. He was constantly moving backwards, being pushed up against the cage, or trying to avoid a takedown attempt by the challenger.
Velasquez did a fantastic job by following up his punches with takedown attempts and it evidently paid off. His persistence is what exhausted Dos Santos and shut down his offense; jab, jab, moving forward, jab, cross, and shooting for a high-crotch. This, combined with his unparalleled cardio, allowed him to absolutely dominate Dos Santos and neutralize the Brazilian’s deadly stand up game. He also beat Dos Santos against the fence, constantly bullying him into a corner and pushing his back up against the cage, effectively using dirty boxing to do more damage to the already exhausted fighter. Not only did Dos Santos lose the stand-up battle, but he was manhandled on the mat.
If Dos Santos wants to win this fight (which I’m sure he does), he needs to avoid engaging with Cain head on by using good footwork to stay on the outside.
Velasquez’s freakish cardio allows him to fight at a very intense pace for long periods of time. If he shoots a takedown and his opponent defends it, that’s not a problem for him, he will keep shooting over and over again until he gets a takedown. Dos Santos rarely ever tries to take the fight to the ground. He is more comfortable on his feet throwing punches and an occasional kick here and there (like the one he threw out of no where to KO Mark Hunt).
In order to avoid being outwrestled by Velasquez, Dos Santos needs to utilize strategic footwork to circle on the outside while peppering him with his jab. He needs to constantly be one step ahead of Velasquez and avoid being directly in front of him. Dos Santos is safer on the outside, where he can jab Velasquez and circle away from his takedown attempts. A sound strategy for Dos-Santos is to circle Cain’s perimeter and jab him all day until he finds a rhythm to throw some power shots.
Each fighter needs to impose his game on the other in order to win. The biggest challenge for Dos Santos will be how to impose his game plan on an opponent who has arguably the best cardio in the sport.