Saturday, 12 November 2011

UFC on Fox: Velasquez vs dos Santos

At the exact same spot Cain Velasquez won the most important bout of his Ultimate Fighting Championship career, he’s defending his heavyweight title in what UFC president Dana White is calling the biggest match in company history.
UFC fighters Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos.

Velasquez, back in action for the first time since beating Brock Lesnar last October at UFC 121 to become heavyweight champion, puts his belt on the line against Junior dos Santos in the main event of UFC on Fox, live from the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Despite all the hype surrounding the company’s long-awaited debut on network television, however, Velasquez says he’s focused on only one thing – beating No. 1 contender dos Santos.

“From both of us, we have exciting fighting styles. We don’t go out there and put on boring fights. We’re both going to go forward,” said Velasquez this week in Anaheim, where he makes a comeback from shoulder surgery that has sidelined him since the Lesnar contest.

“That’s what fans are going to see. That’s what people who haven’t seen this before are going to see on Saturday.”

Dos Santos (13-1), who has been waiting more than a year for a shot at the title, says he isn’t putting any extra burden on himself, despite the magnitude of the evening.

“I feel really excited, but no pressure. It’s the same pressure I felt in my last fight. This is huge for me and I want to enjoy it and I will,” said dos Santos.

“Cain has amazing stamina. I think in this case, Cain Velasquez is the No. 1 heavyweight now. I want to change this on Saturday. It’s going to be a great fight and a war. I think a lot of people are going to be rooting for him on Saturday night, but I know I’ll have a lot of people rooting for me around the world. I’ll use that energy on Saturday night

“I will give my best to make this belt a Brazilian belt. I’m ready to go five rounds, but I think this fight finishes before.”

White, who along with brother Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta purchased UFC in 2001 for a mere $2 million and has built it into a combat-sports empire worth more than $1 billion according to several estimates, makes no secret of how big the card is for the company.

“This is without a doubt the biggest fight in UFC history. This thing started as a small fringe sport and has grown to what it is today. This Saturday night as we step out onto Fox, millions of people will see UFC who’ve never watched before,” said White.

“As we take this step forward into what we call ‘mainstream,’ we were much more fortunate in that we were able to hand pick a fight that we wanted to put on Fox. If I had to do it all over again, this is still the fight I’d pick to put on network television.”

In other matches at UFC on Fox:

* In a match that may have impossibly lived up to its high expectations, Benson Henderson (15-2) earned a lightweight title shot against champion Frankie Edgar, getting past Clay Guida (29-9) in a high-octane No. 1 contender’s bout.

Henderson, who previously held the World Extreme Cagefighting title before WEC was merged with sister promotion UFC, is expected to meet Edgar at UFC 144 on Feb. 26 in the company’s return to Japan.

“Frankie Edgar, we’ve got a date. Let’s do it, baby,” said Henderson.

The co-main event delivered everything it was expected to: a heart-stopping tempo, both fighters pushing forward, each looking to score at every opportunity.

And though Guida landed several big shots, and came close with a submission attempt in the third round, it was Henderson who did the most damage over the course of three rounds. In the first round, he dropped Guida in the opening moments and, later, finished the second round by raining down punches on Guida from behind.

* Dustin Poirier (11-1) improved to 3-0 in UFC, submitting Pablo Garza (12-2) with a D’Arce choke at 1:32 of the second round in a featherweight match.

* After nearly getting submitted in the first round, Ricardo Lamas returned the favour in the second round – only he finished the job.

After barely surviving a guillotine choke in the opening round by Cub Swanson (15-5), Lamas (11-2) locked in a head-and-arm triangle that forced Swanson to tap out at 2:16 of the second round in a featherweight contest.

“I wasn’t tapping, man. He was going to have to choke me out,” said Lamas, who noted afterwards that his grandmother passed away seven days ago. “I just want to dedicate this fight to her.”

* Damarques Johnson (18-9) made short work of Clay Harvison (9-4) in a welterweight bout, scoring a jaw-rattling TKO at 1:34 of first round.

Johnson scored with a left hook that dropped Harvison. Johnson clearly didn’t want to attack the fallen Harvison any further but when Harvison wasn’t quite finished, Johnson landed one more right hand before the bout was stopped.

“It feels great to get the win because I know that’s what I’m capable of. I just wanted to go out there and show a more polished version of myself and I think I did that tonight,” said Johnson.

* After nearly a decade in the sport, Darren Uyenoyama (7-3) finally got his shot in UFC – and he took full advantage. The veteran took down Japanese superstar Norifumi ‘Kid’ Yamamoto (18-5, 1 NC) via dominant unanimous decision in a bantamweight match.

The judges scored the match 30-27, 30-26, 30-27.

“I was walking to the octagon and I still couldn’t believe I was about to compete in the UFC. I didn’t have an easy road to get here and I had the honor of fighting a legend and a personal hero of mine,” said Uyenoyama.

“He hit me with some hard shots and I’m happy I was able to take them because I think that he is one of the hardest punchers in the division.”

* In a hotly-contested featherweight contest, Robert Peralta (16-3) posted a TKO win over Mackens Semerzier (8-4) at 1:54 of the third round.

In the final seconds, both fighters were swinging when Peralta accidentally butted heads with Semerzier and wobbled him. From there, Peralta pounced and landed fist after fist until the bout was stopped.

“When I caught him I was just trying to throw everything I had to finish him as quickly as possible,” said Peralta.

“I have a baby on the way at home so I’m excited to get back after a great performance.”

* Moving down to the bantamweight division, Alex Caceres (6-4) put on the best performance of his young career, dominating veteran Cole Escovedo (17-9) on his way to a unanimous decision.

All three judges scored the bout 30-27.

“I feel great and I don’t think it has all registered yet. This was my third fight under the UFC banner and considering that I lost my first two I knew that tonight it was do or die,” said Caceres.

“It’s my dream to fight in the UFC and I want to make sure it lasts as long as possible.”

* For the second time in their careers, Mike Pierce (13-4) earned a decision over Paul Bradley (18-4) in a middleweight bout, although this time the judges were split.

Pierce was given scores of 30-27 and 29-28, while Bradley was given a 29-28 score from the third judge.

“I felt great tonight and I’m happy to get another win and continue moving up the ranks in this division,” said Pierce.

* Aaron Rosa (17-4) earned his first UFC victory, awarded a majority decision over Matt Lucas (14-3) in a light heavyweight contest. The judges scored the bout 30-26, 30-26 and 28-28. Lucas, in the second round, was docked one point for spitting out his mouthpiece, meaning two of the judges would have scored it 30-27 in favour of Rosa, while one would have awarded a 29-28 decision to Lucas.

“I was very happy to go out there and get the win in such a big show. When the people started cheering, it made all the work worthwhile,” said Rosa.

“My hands are feeling a little roughed up but I’m very excited to get back in the octagon as soon as possible.”

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