Posts Tagged ‘UFC heavyweight championship’

Who Can Beat Junior Dos Santos?

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

By Matt Larkin

Guest Writer

All that hype for the UFC’s big heavyweight title fight on FOX – and the landmark MMA moment was over almost as quickly as it started. Challenger Junior Dos Santos floored champion Cain Velasquez with a right hand a little more than a minute into their bout. Now that “Cigano” reigns supreme as the world’s undisputed top heavyweight, it’s time to ask: can anyone beat him?

The winner of Brock Lesnar and Alistair Overeem will get the next shot but I don’t think either has the goods to beat the champ. Lesnar is just too uncomfortable being punched. His wrestling won’t matter because Dos Santos’ boxing is too quick and powerful. I think he would hurt Lesnar before Lesnar could score a takedown. Overeem is arguably the closest to JDS’ equal in the striking game but he’s slower and has faced highly inferior competition during his hot streak.

Who does that leave? Josh Barnett would be an interesting challenger if he came over from Strikeforce. But, again, if big guys like Velasquez and Shane Carwin couldn’t take Dos Santos down, can Barnett do it? Though he has power, he also wouldn’t hold a candle to Dos Santos’ boxing in the standup game. Same goes for promising Strikeforce wrestler Daniel Cormier.

The winner of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Frank Mir’s fight on December 10 will rise significantly in the heavyweight rankings. We can forget about a Big Nog/Dos Santos fight. They train together and the Black House guys are adamant about never fighting each other. Mir’s skill set makes him an intriguing contender. His boxing has improved significantly in recent years and he’s obviously a master submission artist. But, again, can he get Dos Santos to the ground?

A sleeper pick could be Cheick Kongo. He has the size, chin and striking accuracy to go toe-to-toe with champ. We can forget Fabricio Werdum, Shane Carwin and Roy Nelson for now, as Dos Santos destroyed all three already.

To me, the best – and perhaps the only – bet to beat Dos Santos is the man who just lost to him. Cain Velasquez didn’t even attempt a takedown on Dos Santos and got knocked out before he could get a feel for the big Brazilian. I chalk it up to ring rust. Velasquez hadn’t fought for more than a year after having shoulder surgery. If he can work his way back to No. 1 contendership, he should be better prepared next time to use his outstanding wrestling and give Dos Santos a proper test.

But if Velasquez can’t return to beat Dos Santos one day, I’m not sure anyone can.

Will the UFC’s first FOX venture change MMA?

Monday, November 7th, 2011

By Matt Larkin

Guest Writer

With the UFC’s first major network-TV event arriving this Saturday night, it’s worth revisiting the ramifications of such a venture. Does Saturday mark the dawn of a new era in mixed martial arts or is the significance overhyped? Will Velasquez vs. Dos Santos enthral millions of viewers or fall on its face?

To get sense of what Saturday means, let’s look at two factors: media exposure and fight quality.

At this point, it would be a shock if Saturday’s heavyweight title bout didn’t end up as the highest-rated free-TV MMA event ever. It may not feel like FOX has gone overboard with promotion, opting for plugs during NFL telecasts, ads sprinkled throughout primetime and the odd studio interview  But we can’t underestimate how many more eyeballs watch FOX than watch Spike TV – or pay-per-view, for that matter. Even the UFC Primetime preview show, which first aired on a lazy Sunday afternoon, drew record ratings for the UFC.

So it’s safe to say that, at least in terms of exposure, Saturday’s card is extremely significant for MMA. However, that doesn’t mean the first UFC on Fox telecast is guaranteed to explode the sport into widespread popularity.

To me, fight quality is just as important as the viewership itself. If you’re an MMA purist, you may hate it when a newbie fan gets bored by Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling, and other forms of grappling. However, even if it’s unfair, it’s a simple truth that the ground game takes longer for a new fan to learn. A wild striking affair is more likely to first-timers over. So, for example, if Velasquez takes Dos Santos down and lays on top of him for five rounds, the result could be disastrous for the UFC. The same people who didn’t give the sport a chance before will turn off their TV believing their skepticism was validated.

The good news is that we’re fairly likely to see a great fight on Saturday. Velasquez a is world-class wrester who remains very active on the ground and Dos Santos is a world-class boxer with great hand speed and power. Both guys finish opponents more often than not. So it’s fair to expect fireworks.

However, a thrilling fight isn’t guaranteed – and neither is a widespread explosion in MMA popularity. If the stars align and we’re treated to an epic heavyweight war, the Earth might move, but the UFC is probably better off expecting incremental gains for now.