Former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos learned a lot in his title fight with Cain Velasquez at UFC 155. I hope dos Santos paid attention because Velasquez put the blueprint to regaining his title right in front of him.
Velasquez dominated from start to finish — he won every round convincingly.
Dos Santos learned he needs to become a better all-around fighter — Velasquez is a better grappler, wrestler and, Saturday, was a better striker. Velasquez was able to mix up his strikes to take dos Santos down at will. The latter was the most-surprising; until this fight, dos Santos was widely-regarded as the best striker in the division. He has 10 victories by TKO or KO.
Simply put, Velasquez proved himself the better fighter by showing more diversity in his game.
Against most heavyweight fighters dos Santos doesn’t need to be great at more than one aspect of the cage but against top-level fighters, heavy hands aren’t always enough.
He became champion without becoming a great wrestler — partly because the depth of skill set at heavyweight is not as good as other divisions and partly because his striking is so dynamic. He showed that in the first fight with Velasquez, when he knocked him out early in the first round. In a bout with talented submission artist Frank Mir and a separate fight with Roy Nelson, dos Santos stalked them around the ring with his fists.
This time, Velasquez did the stalking.
Velasquez said the thought of winning occupied his mind since training camp in San Jose.
“For a whole year, I’ve been thinking about redeeming myself. I want the belt, I got into this sport to be the champion,” Velasquez said. “When you fight, there’s a sense of urgency. I don’t know how you can want something too much.”
Dos Santos also learned he needs to get better cardio. Velasquez pushed the pace for the entire bout. He was always moving forward for a strike or a takedown attempt and, eventually, dos Santos was a little bit easier to take down. Each round dos Santos was more sluggish and the single leg takedown was easier.
Finally, dos Santos learned that he needs to be more like Velasquez. As soon as their first bout concluded, Velasquez said he would return for his belt. Velasquez shredded the competition to get a rematch. If dos Santos wants regain his belt back he needs to have the same fire that Velasquez had.
“I just knew I’d come back stronger,” Velasquez said. “You’ve got to come back a better fighter. It feels so good to do this.”