UFC 160 “Velasquez vs. Silva 2” Main Card Preview

May 24, 2013

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UFC 160 “Velasquez vs. Silva 2” Main Card Preview



Alexander Lee – It’s a rematch that nobody expected, but one that was inevitable given the circumstances.  When Antonio “Big Foot” Silva balanced the karmic scales with a stunning KO of Alistair Overeem, he gave the matchmakers no choice but to reward him with a title shot.  Standing in his way is Cain Velasquez, a fighter who utterly dominated the massive Brazilian in their first meeting.  Velasquez and Silva headline a card rife with title implications.

UFC 160 is Saturday, live on PPV starting at 10 PM (EST), with preliminaries starting on Facebook at 6:35 PM (EST) and continuing on Sportsnet at 8:00 PM (EST).

 

Lightweight Bout: Donald Cerrone (6-2 UFC, 6-3 [1 NC] WEC, 19-5 [1 NC]) v. KJ Noons (0-0 UFC, 11-6)

You couldn’t ask for a better fight to kick off the main card.  Cerrone and Noons are both known for their striking prowess and you can be sure that they’ll be bonus hunting.

A 3-time World Extreme Cagefighting Lightweight Championship challenger (once for an interim belt), Cerrone rifled off 4 straight wins after the WEC was absorbed into the UFC.  Not only was he putting on exciting fights, he earned a reputation as a “buzz-killer”, stopping highly touted Charles Oliveira with strikes and submitting a surging Dennis Siver (both fighters dropped down a weight class after).  Unfortunately, Cerrone himself hasn’t had much luck in de facto title eliminators, dropping a clear-cut decision to Nate Diaz and losing by TKO for the first time in his career courtesy of Anthony Pettis.  Trainer Greg Jackson has questioned whether the extreme sports loving Cerrone is burnt out as “Cowboy” enters his 9th UFC fight in just over 2 years.

Noons will be looking to pull off the upset here and make an instant impact in the UFC lightweight rankings.  The Strikeforce star went on an impressive run from 2007-2010, beating the likes of Nick Diaz, Yves Edwards, and Jorge Gurgel, but he’s dropped 4 of his last 5 since then (including a rematch with Diaz).  Noons has sneaky power as Edwards and Gurgel both discovered when they advanced too eagerly (Edwards ate a gorgeous straight right and Gurgel a winging left hook).  Cerrone’s range should keep him out of trouble, but Noons is not to be underestimated.

 

Lightweight Bout: Gray Maynard (9-1-1 [1 NC], 11-1-1 [1 NC]) v. TJ Grant (9-5 UFC, 22-8)

Maynard makes his return to the octagon after an 11-month layoff due to injury and his quest to broaden his training.  He bounced from Xtreme Couture to the American Kickboxing Academy, with a cup of coffee down with the Nova União team in Rio de Janeiro where he helped UFC Featherweight Champion José Aldo prepare for a title defence against Maynard foil, Frankie Edgar.  His last octagon appearance saw him take a close split decision victory from a wildly evasive Clay Guida.

Grant was a promising welterweight before it became clear that he was just too small to compete at 170 in the UFC (though losses to Dong Hyun Kim and Johny Hendricks are nothing to be ashamed of).  The native of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia dropped down to 155 in late 2011 and the results have been nothing short of astounding.  After submitting Shane Roller and manhandling veteran Carlo Prater, Grant got his first true test against lightweight stud Evan Dunham.  The two put on a Fight of the Night performance and suddenly there was serious sleeper buzz around Grant.  In his next fight, he blasted Matt Wiman inside of a round, announcing himself as a serious contender.

It’s impossible to discuss this fight without mentioning the potential for ring rust that Maynard might be dealing with.  Grant is likely to come out as the aggressor as Maynard adjusts to being back in the cage, but he’ll also have to be careful.  Maynard is incredibly strong and he’s capable of planting opponents on their back with a slam or a massive right hand.  Grant is unlikely to mimic the movement of Guida that caused Maynard so much frustration, but with his versatility and Muay Thai acumen he has the tools to take this one.  If Grant wins, he’ll become the 7th Canadian to challenge for a UFC title (the others being John Alessio, Patrick Côté, Mark Hominick, David Loiseau, Carlos Newton and Georges St-Pierre) and the 1st to challenge for the UFC Lightweight Championship.

 

Light Heavyweight Bout: Glover Teixeira (3-0 UFC, 20-2) v. James Te Huna (5-1 UFC, 16-5)

 

All you need to do is take one look at Teixeira’s record and see who he trains with (some guy named Chuck Liddell) to understand why he entered the UFC with lofty expectations.  Convincing wins over Kyle Kingsbury, Fabio Maldonado and Rampage Jackson have done nothing to alter that perception.  Visa issues kept him from fighting in the US for years, but Teixeira has long been touted as a light heavyweight contender by those in the know.

Te Huna looked like little more than regional attraction, having fought 3 times in his home country of Australia.  He’s put together a tidy 4 fight win streak and now gets to face his first top 10 opponent.  In his last fight, he struggled in the 1st round against New Brunswick native Ryan Jimmo, but showed great resilience in coming back to earn a decision.  He mixed in takedowns to secure two of the three rounds, showing that he was more than a mindless slugger.

At first glance this fight might lack significance, but with many of the UFC’s 205ers lacking momentum right now, a win here could easily put Teixeira or Te Huna at the front of the line.  Even if they don’t get the next title shot, they’ll be the first ones called if there’s an injury.  In the case of the well travelled Teixeira, you might be looking at one of the last legitimate threats to Jon Jones’ reign.

 

Heavyweight Bout: Junior dos Santos (9-1 UFC, 15-2) v. Mark Hunt (4-1 UFC, 9-7)

 

With all due respect, Hunt has to be the ugliest Cinderella I’ve ever seen.  It’s a good thing he gets paid to break jaws (see: Stefan Struve), not win beauty contests.  Hunt’s shocking rise to contender status has been well documented, but what’s even more mind blowing is that this is arguably not the most impressive stretch of his career.

After finding success in K-1, Hunt made the jump to MMA.  In his 3rd career fight he took a split decision from Wanderlei Silva, who up until that point had been unbeaten in 18 straight contests.  He duplicated this feat in his next fight with Mirko Cro Cop and then knocked out Japanese legend Tsuyoshi Kohsaka two fights later.  Losses to Josh Barnett, Fedor Emelianenko and Overeem sent him on a downward spiral that damaged his standing so badly that the UFC offered to pay him not to fight when they acquired his contract from PRIDE.  Hunt insisted and rewarded the UFC for their faith.  He dropped his first fight before putting together this 4 fight winning streak that has him one big punch away from the unlikeliest of title shots.

Nobody could have predicted that dos Santos would have fared so poorly in his rematch with Velasquez, having needed only a minute to take the championship from him a year prior.  Whether it was because Velasquez was peaking at the right time while dos Santos had over-trained (a theory espoused by his camp) or Velasquez had vastly improved since their first meeting or Velasquez just being the superior fighter, one thing that was clear was that these two were destined for a third meeting.  All dos Santos has to do is get past Hunt, who a year ago wasn’t even in the title picture.  No problem, right?

Hunt and dos Santos both have iron chins, so don’t expect this one to end quickly just because of a shared history of taking people’s heads off.  Hunt’s striking is more technical than he’s given credit for and he will know better than to bang with dos Santos.  Even though he’s much taller, dos Santos only has a 3 inch reach advantage but that should be more than enough to frustrate Hunt and possibly set him up for a kill shot.  Interestingly, Hunt has never lost a decision so it might take everything dos Santos has to put the Super Samoan away and set up that trilogy duel with Velasquez.

 

Heavyweight Title Bout: Cain Velasquez (9-1 UFC, 11-1) v. Antonio Silva (2-1 UFC, 18-4)

 

The underlying historical implications of this fight were covered earlier this week (http://www.mmacanada.net/2013/05/previewing-ufc-160-main-event-velasquez-bigfoot-2/), so let’s take a look at some other reasons why fans should be invested in what was a lopsided match the first time around.

By avenging his only career loss, Velasquez did more than just regain the heavyweight strap, he staked his claim to a spot in the all-time big man list.  At just 30 years old, Velasquez is in his prime.  Wrestling and ground and pound are his bread and butter, but his boxing improves exponentially every time we see him and his knockouts of Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira and Brock Lesnar were instant classics.  A year ago, he brutalized Big Foot.  He’ll be looking for a repeat performance on Saturday.

Things might have gone differently for Silva were it not for an ill-advised kick that resulted in an easy takedown for Velasquez.  Silva is not an elite wrestler by any stretch, but he normally uses his size well to avoid takedowns.  He should fare better in that department, though denying Velasquez for five rounds is nearly impossible.  Silva himself is a terror when he has top control, a position that he might be able to achieve with a favourable clinch exchange.  He also has the largest fists in the world, so a flash KO is certainly in play.

Even then, Velasquez is less susceptible to a “lucky punch” than you might think.  A lot of questions about Velasquez’ chin arose from his fight with Cheick Kongo.  Kongo rocked him more than once leading many to believe that his knockout at the hands of dos Santos was a long time coming.  If being hurt by Kongo and dos Santos is the sign of a bad chin, then everyone has a bad chin.  Velasquez can take a hit.

It would be easy to point out Velasquez’ own victory over dos Santos as evidence that sequels can turn out drastically different than the original, but the problem with that argument is that dos Santos’ quick finish came off as (for lack of a better word) inconclusive.  The way Velasquez beat him was far more indicative of the champion’s skill set and more importantly, it is “sustainable offence”.  Velasquez is the master of pressuring his opponents until they reach their breaking point.  We’ve seen him do it time and time again.  Silva will need to fight an incredibly smart fight to overcome the speed and athleticism of Velasquez.  The good news is that it can’t possibly go any worse than last time.

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