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Saturday, May 25, 2013

UFC 160 Preview: Expect Velasquez vs. dos Santos III

Velasquez (photo via UFC)

By Kelsey Mowatt

UFC 160 goes down tonight in Las Vegas, Nevada, and although some fans question whether the main event between Cain Velasquez and “Bigfoot” Silva should be happening, the card includes several compelling bouts with title shot implications. All things considered, if you’re not excited about this event, you are one hard fan to please.

Cain Velasquez vs. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva

One year ago, the MMA world was busy discussing the mauling Velasquez had just handed Silva at UFC 146. Velasquez wasted little time taking Silva to the mat, and blasted away at the massive heavyweight with punches and elbows until the bout was stopped in under four minutes. So why will tonight be any different?

Well, there’s a good chance it won’t be, which is why some fans aren’t overly pumped to see this bout, even if Silva is coming off a thrilling KO win over Alistair Overeem in February. As we’ve seen, Silva has a puncher’s chance in any bout, and his top game is not a fun thing to work out from (as Fedor Emelianenko found out). But, Velasquez is a highly decorated wrestler and ridiculously athletic heavyweight, who according to Fight Metric has a takedown accuracy of 52%. The champion has defended 88% of takedowns that have come his way.

So, while Silva may be able to keep Velasquez at bay for a longer period tonight, it is hard to imagine “Bigfoot” keeping the fight on its feet for very long. Even if it stays standing, Velasquez will be navigating dangerous waters, but his speed and diverse striking attack will be too much for the challenger.

Junior dos Santos vs. Mark Hunt

It’s safe to say that much of the buzz surrounding tonight’s card stems from this match-up, as not only are both men knockout artists, but Hunt’s backstory is movie script worthy material. After losing six straight bouts with organizations like PRIDE and DREAM, the UFC wasn’t interested in promoting the K-1 vet. Since losing his Octagon debut, however, Hunt has won four straight and is on the verge of contending for the title. Now that’s compelling stuff.

Unfortunately for Hunt and his growing legion of fans, chances are his storybook run will end tonight. Dos Santos is widely regarded to be one of the best boxers in the heavyweight division, and has landed 5.51 significant strikes per minute to date. While Hunt also has the ability to end anyone’s night with one punch, the 39 year-old has averaged 3.58 SLpM.

While dos Santos may look to utilize his speed and outscore Hunt on the feet, the safest path to victory would be to take the feared striker down and put his BJJ black belt to use. Whether dos Santos can, or will try to do this, remains to be seen, but the former champ has more tools to win this fight. In other words, Velasquez-dos Santos III is probably going to happen.

Glover Teixeira vs. James Te Huna

Teixeira may be a few steps behind Alexander Gustafsson and Lyoto Machida as far as securing a title shot, but the light-heavyweight appears to be on his way to the top of the division. Could Te Huna pull of the upset and derail Teixeira’s title run? Probably not.

Teixeira’s Fight Metric stats so far are pretty impressive, as the Brazilian is landing 6.6 significant strikes per minute and has a takedown accuracy rate of 80%. The 20-2 fighter has defended every takedown that has been sent his way in the Octagon so far. Te Huna’s SLpM is 4.45 and his takedown accuracy and defense rates are 39% and 69% respectively.

Like dos Santos, Teixeira has more ways to win this fight, and if he has trouble with Te Huna standing, look for him to take the fight down and secure the win.

TJ Grant vs. Gray Maynard

UFC President Dana White announced recently that the winner of this lightweight bout will challenge Benson Henderson next, and both men would be an interesting challenge for the champ.

Grant has been on a roll since he dropped to lightweight, and while he’s always had a developed ground game, the improvements in his striking have been violently obvious (see his standing elbows stoppage of Matt Wiman). Maynard, of course, is one of the division’s best wrestlers who also possesses devastating punching power.

It will be interesting to see how things play out on the feet, as Maynard’s striking accuracy rate is significantly lower than Grant’s, at 31% to 54%. His striking defense, however, is much higher at 73% compared to Grant’s 54%.

In the takedown department, it’s not surprising to see that Maynard has the better numbers. The noted wrestler has a takedown accuracy rate of 48% to Grant’s 44%, and on the defensive side of things Maynard’s sits at an awe inspiring 86% versus Grant’s 37%.

This bout could very well come down to whether Maynard has difficulty scoring strikes on Grant early on, and if so, if he can take the former welterweight down and keep him there. If Maynard can avoid Grant’s submission game, then the perennial contender should be able to entrench another title shot.

Stay tuned to Full Contact Fighter for more UFC 160 coverage.

posted by FCF Staff @ 12:17 pm
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