The heavyweight division plans in the UFC went awry at Saturday night’s UFC 156 event out of Las Vegas. After a strong start, Alistair Overeem faded against Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva, who blitzed him and took him out 30 seconds into the final round. With a win, Overeem would have secured a title shot against UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez in his next fight. Silva, who was promised no such shot, was certainly happy to rain on the UFC and Overeem’s parade.
For this past weekend’s fight, Overeem closed as a -440 favorite, with the comeback on Silva sitting at +390, so this is a nice catch if you were betting the underdog. But Silva does not answer the question: What is going to be next for Velasquez?
Basically, I don’t see that the UFC has any choice but to close the Junior dos Santos versus Cain Velasquez trilogy out this spring or summer. Stefan Struve and Daniel Cormier are probably the two top guys coming off wins, but both are booked. Right now, Velasquez is healthy and if the UFC learned anything from the injury-plagued year of 2012, it should be to not sit your marquee names while they are healthy, so getting Velasquez back into the ring on schedule should be of paramount importance.
To sum up the first two bouts between Velasquez and dos Santos, both matches were completely different, and each man owns an extremely decisive victory over the other. Velasquez will surely come in the favorite for the fight when the books release a line, but good luck predicting how a third bout will go.
Dos Santos will still be dangerous in a third bout with Velasquez. Mindset is a huge part of the fight game, and dos Santos has made excuses around his divorce and personal life causing difficulties and leading to his loss in their last bout. The perks of being a UFC Champion led to overconfidence, and the sight of a beat up dos Santos after round one of their second bout said it all – he just wasn’t ready for Velasquez’ intensity.
I saw the Spanish language broadcast of the second fight from Mexico, and if you look for the sort of mindset ‘tells’ they were there. On the day of the fight, the production crew had access to the lockerooms, and the contrast was very interesting. Velasquez had two coaches with him, one who was ‘Crazy’ Bob Cook. The dos Santos entourage was at least a dozen people – models, photographers, I guess some coaches and training partners. It was a mini carnival.
Looking at Velasquez-dos Santos III, which will hopefully occur in the May or June timeframe, it will be interesting to see if dos Santos sheds some of his muscle weight and gets back to what got him to the top in the first place. If he is able to do this, it may be a very solid place to look for the underdog.
Velasquez is going to open a big favorite for this fight when the lines open at the sportsbooks, and based on their last outings the line is likely to become wider as people bet Cain and the fight gets closer
For his part, Cain is unlikely to fall into some of the same traps that plagued Junior, but the first bout between the two would suggest that dos Santos can be dangerous to Velasquez if his mind is right. If it opens at wider than 4-to-1 for Cain I met bet it off the bat, and then go in late again if the signs from the dos Santos camp are positive. The physical tools between the two men give both chances to win the fight, so this is a line to keep an eye on.