Velasquez dominates to reclaim heavyweight title
LAS VEGAS _ Cain Velasquez stood and delivered on Saturday in the main event of UFC 155.
Velasquez dominated Junior Dos Santos for 25 minutes to reclaim the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s heavyweight title, fulfilling a promise he’d made in the weeks leading up to the card.
The 30-year-old Velasquez pushed the pace from the opening bell, rushing forward with an aggressive mix of punches and takedowns. In fact, it looked as if he might knock out his open in the first round after scoring a devastating right hand. He followed Dos Santos to the floor and unleashed a flurry of punches, but Velasquez could not finish before the bell sounded.
Still, he set the tone for the remaining 20 minutes.
Dos Santos displayed incredible heart throughout the fight, even as Velasquez landed some 210 punches according to a FightMetric report. He even gained a second wind in the fourth and fifth rounds as he looked to pull off an improbable comeback victory.
However, it was not to be as Velasquez’ impressive pace never slowed, and he never gave the Brazilian slugger room to operate. Judges awarded him the win and the UFC heavyweight belt with scores of 50-45, 50-43 and 50-44.
``I knew that Junior was a tough striker and he was able to end our last fight that way, so I was prepared for him this time,’’ Velasquez said. ``I was able to effectively use my striking and my grappling to control him throughout the fight and get the title back.’’
Following the loss, Dos Santos was transported to a local hospital for observation but did not sustain any substantial injuries and was quickly released. UFC president Dana White said he expects the pair to have a third meeting at some point in the future, but former Strikeforce champion Alistair Overeem will likely earn the next crack at Velasquez should he prove victorious over Antonio Silva in February.
``I think Junior Dos Santos is going to have to take some time now and relax and heal up,’’ White said. ``Cain will probably fight again before he sees Junior if we do that rematch.’’
In the night’s co-feature, lightweights Jim Miller (22-4 MMA, 11-3 UFC) and Joe Lauzon combined (22-8 MMA, 9-5 UFC) for an epic 15-minute affair that may very well prove a late entry in many ``Fight of the Year’’ lists.
Miller was the sharper fighter in the early going with crisp punching combinations and stinging low kicks that buckled his opponent’s legs. A short elbow opened a huge gash over Lauzon’s right eye, and the fight immediately shifted in a plasma-filled affair. Despite the early damage, Lauzon pushed courageously forward and tried to reverse the momentum. He would do so briefly in the second.
With the crowd on its feet, Miller scored an early takedown to open the second frame, but Lauzon somehow reversed to top position, where he spent much of the frame. The nasty cut continued to pour blood, but Lauzon dominated the position and threatened with a leglock in the final seconds of the round.
With the fight hanging in the balance to open the final round, both competitors were understandably fatigued.
Bloodied and battered, Lauzon continued to press forward, but it was Miller’s counterattacks that proved the most effective blow. Lauzon looked for a miracle again in the closing seconds, but he came up short on another leglock. The crowd erupted at the final bell, and both fighters embraced after the entertaining scrap. Still, it was Miller’s hand who was raised for a unanimous-decision victory with three scores of 29-28.
``Joe Lauzon is a tough kid,’’ Miller said. ``I knew I was going to have to bring my best effort to put him away, and I was never able to. That’s how good he is on the ground. And even in the last minute, look what he was trying to do to win the fight.
``I’m pleased with this win, and I’m looking forward to getting back in the gym again.’’
In a 185-pound match Costa Philippou (12-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) earned his fifth straight fight with an odd but convincing victory over former light heavyweight Tim ``The Barbarian’’ Boetsch.
Boetsch looked to avoid his opponent’s impressive boxing skills by taking the fight to the floor, which he did successfully in the opening round. However, he appeared to break his hand during the round, and things quickly went downhill.
In the second, an accidental head butt opened a cut on Boetsch’s forehead, and an eye poke left him squinting with his right eye. Philippou capitalized on his ailing opponent by pushing forward and opening up in the pocket. A game Boetsch refused to back down, but he was forced to settle for pulling guard and hoping to win the fight off his back. Philippou pounced on his wounded prey and finally finished it in the third after a failed takedown left a bloody Boetsch defenceless on his back. Philippou swarmed with punches, and referee Kim Winslow mercifully called the fight at the 2:11 mark of the final round.
``I expected to win this fight, but not like this,’’ Philippou said. ``I made a few rookie mistakes in letting him take me down, but once we started trading blows back and forth later in the fight I had him. I was eventually able to get the better of him in the striking game and have the fight stopped.’’
In a key rematch between middleweight contenders, Yushin ``Thunder’’ Okami (29-7 MMA, 12-4 UFC) earned a unanimous-decision victory over Alan ``The Talent’’ Belcher (17-6 MMA, 9-5 UFC).
Belcher looked intent on striking throughout the fight, as he pumped jabs and launched a few high kicks. But Okami countered with effective wrestling and brought the fight to the floor multiple times in the three-round affair. Belcher compounded his problems by unsuccessfully looking for guillotine chokes in all three rounds, allowing Okami to settle into top position each time he worked his neck free from the holds.
The crowd often booed Okami’s strategy, but it proved just as effective as it did in the pair’s 2006 meeting, and the Japanese fighter cruised to a unanimous-decision win with scores of 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28.
``The wrestling, striking and the clinch game were all successfully implemented in this fight to defeat Belcher,’’ Okami said through an interpreter. ``Belcher is a very tough opponent, and I feel that a win over Belcher should allow me to keep challenging more of the top guys in the middleweight division.’’
In the night’s first main-card contest, Strikeforce import Derek Brunson (10-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) earned a unanimous-decision win over longtime veteran middleweight Chris Leben (22-9 MMA, 12-8 UFC). In what proved a rather lacklustre affair, late-replacement Brunson used well-timed takedowns and avoided Leben’s left hand to take the fight 29-28 on all three judges’ cards in a slow-pace 15-minute contest.
Brunson, who took the fight on less than two-weeks’ notice, admitted he faded as the fight wore on, but he was still excited to win in his UFC debut.
``I wanted to go at it with him but maintain my gameplan and fight my fight,’’ Brunson said. ``I started slowing down in the second round, and I feel that’s just a matter of taking the fight and training for it on such short notice.
``Overall, I feel like I’m getting better, but I know I have a long way to go to compete in the UFC’s middleweight division.’’
According to UFC officials, UFC 155 drew 12,423 fans for a US$3.286 million live gate.