Cain Velasquez would stand alone among heavyweights with another win. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
The two best heavyweights on the planet will converge in the center of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s Octagon for a third time, as champion Cain Velasquez battles Junior dos Santos in the UFC 166 main event on Saturday at the Toyota Center in Houston.
Dos Santos dethroned the American Kickboxing Academy ace with a 64-second knockout at UFC on Fox 1 in November 2011. Velasquez, however, reclaimed his title with a lopsided unanimous decision at UFC 155 a little more than a year later. Now, they meet again to settle the score.
Sherdog.com touched base with a number of professional fighters and trainers to gauge their opinions on the UFC 166 headliner:
Sherdog Fantasy MMA: UFC 166 Free Fan Pick’Em
Martin Kampmann: Man, this is going to be another great fight. I like watching both those guys because they are some of my favorites to watch. I can’t pick a winner; it’s a toss-up.
Jason Dent: I’m going with Cain on this one. Cain’s striking is just as good as JDS’s. However, his wrestling and intense pace will be too much for Junior in the rubber match. The first match ended too quickly, but their second meeting showed who the better fighter was, as Cain dominated from start to finish.
Michael Guymon: I see each of them hunting and pecking in the first round. Each of them is afraid of the other’s power: JDS’s striking power and Cain’s wrestling power. JDS will be more cautious about the takedown and distance, using good movement. Cain gets caught pressing for a takedown in an exchange on the feet in the second or third. Dos Santos wins by KO.
Benji Radach: I think we will all see the best of both men. I’m going to have to pull for Cain, though. I just think his ability to control the fight and taking the fight anywhere he wants for his own benefit, all while wearing down his opponents with solid wrestling, is such a huge advantage. I don’t believe JDS can hang with that unless it’s a one-hitter-quitter night again. Either way, it’s going to be a fun one.
Mike Ciesnolevicz: After watching both fights, I came to the conclusion that Cain is probably the better fighter of the two. The first fight can be considered lucky to a certain degree, as it was a one-punch KO. The second fight tells the real tale, as it was a five-round total domination. Cain treated JDS like a ragdoll. His striking was better, his wrestling was better and his conditioning was better. Unless JDS catches Cain early with a big shot, I think we will see a repeat of the second fight. Cain is just a different animal, with his well-rounded skills and off-the-charts conditioning. The only critique you can make on Cain is he doesn’t have great submission skills, or at least he hasn’t shown them in the UFC. Cain will control where this fight takes place. JDS will become fatigued trying to counter Cain’s wrestling attack. Velasquez takes a unanimous decision.
Vinny Magalhaes: First off, there is no such thing as a lucky punch. Sometimes you just get punched and you get knocked out. I still think Cain is a little more skilled than Junior. I would love to see Junior win because I am Brazilian, too, and I usually always cheer for fellow Brazilians unless I’m training a fighter who is training to beat a Brazilian. I would like to see Junior win, but I think Cain will win this the same way he did in their last fight.
Tarec Saffiedine: Cain wins via unanimous takedown decision.
Igor Araujo: Dos Santos wins by KO.
Brock Jardine: The third match between the two best heavyweights in UFC history, in my opinion, will come down to who lands the first big punch. JDS did in the first meeting, and the second went to Cain. I think this time JDS will land that first big punch on Cain as he is moving in. I predict JDS wins by first-round KO.
T.J. Waldburger: Tough pick. I’m not sure on this one, but I would bet to see the referee with his hand raised at the end.
Saad Awad: Cain wins.
Tom DeBlass: This is a tough one. JDS can end any fight at anytime. However, if Cain stays in his face, the fight should be similar to last. Cain has cardio for days. Cain wins by decision.
Cameron Diffley: I am going with Cain in this fight. I think dos Santos relies on being the quicker fighter, and a motivated Cain is faster than a motivated dos Santos. Cain also brings more tools standing, with being able to mix hands, feet and takedowns to dictate where the majority of the fight is.
Daniel Downes: With each fighter owning one-sided wins over the other, it’s hard to really gauge how this fight will go. JDS has the power to drop Cain with one punch, but that’s the only real weapon he has. I see Cain overwhelming dos Santos with his wrestling and pace. He’ll stay in tight to avoid the power shot and work his way to another unanimous decision win. It won’t be the last time these two will fight, but at least we know their trilogy will be better than “Blade: Trinity.”
J.J. Ambrose: Cain’s work ethic is legendary, and he moves like a lightweight with heavyweight power. JDS is an amazing fighter, but Cain wins via third-round TKO, with his superior wrestling and ground-and-pound.
Joe Duarte: JDS has to KO Cain early to avoid getting dragged into deep waters by Velasquez -- a heavyweight with the energy of a 4-year old kid on caffeine. If JDS cannot KO Cain early, it will be a lot like their second fight.
Andrew Craig: We’ve now seen two lopsided fights with these guys. I’m thinking the third is going to be much more competitive. I think that Junior will find his range and put his hands on Cain, unlike the second fight. I also think he’ll do a much better job defending the takedown and getting back up. However, I think that ultimately Cain will do what he does, turn this into one of those fights that makes you tired to watch and take the decision.
Travis Wiuff: Cain wins by the same domination he won in the second fight: easy takedowns and beats him up on the cage. This time, he finishes him in the fourth round.
Nam Phan: Brown Pride, all day everyday (laughs).
Johny Hendricks: Tough pick, but I think Cain wins because his wrestling was a huge part of him winning. I don’t think Junior can get that much better in that short of a time.
Robert Drysdale: Cain wins.
Kyle Kingsbury: Cain is going to dominate masterfully and prove he deserves to be in the pound-for-pound discussion. Can you believe dos Santos said he punches like a girl?
Eric Prindle: Velasquez wins by KO via ground-and-pound in round three.
Colton Smith: As we saw in their second meeting, the current champ utilized a pressure game plan to punish Junior. I do not see the third meeting going differently. Cain wins by third-round TKO.
Georgi Karakhanyan: I’m picking Cain to win by decision. He has the best wrestling in the heavyweight division, and his standup is very sharp and fast.
John Gunderson: I’m going with Cain. He will get the takedown, beat up on Junior and probably finish him.
Mark Bocek: Cain wins by decision.
Javier Vazquez: This one could realistically go either way. Dos Santos has the ability to finish Cain, and Cain can beat up dos Santos for five rounds again. I usually go with the guy who has the most explosive way to win, but it’s just hard to vote against Cain. I say Cain stops him in the fourth round in a great fight.
Travis Lutter: Well, the guys are 1-1, with two really different fights. With that being said, I think Cain is the better MMA fighter. Anything can happen, but I am going with Cain.
Mitch Clarke: I’m picking Cain by unanimous decision. I think it’ll play out pretty much the same as the second fight did.
Chris Clements: They are both well-rounded and tough as nails. I’ll go with Cain. No explanation why.
Ray Elbe: Cain is the best fighter in the world. Upsets happen in MMA, but the better fighter usually wins most the time. Cain will dominate the wrestling, while bouncing JDS’s head like an Allen Iverson crossover in Philly for a TKO victory late.
James Vick: I have JDS with the upset.
THE FINAL TALLY
Pros Picking Velasquez: 27
Pros Picking Dos Santos: 4
No Pick: 3
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