UFC Heavyweight Title: Junior Dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez
Dos Santos, the UFC champion, is undefeated at 9-0 in the UFC and finished 7 of those 9 opponents. He relies on his excellent boxing and a ground game refined with his legendary mentor Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira. He also has a reputation as one of the nicest people in the sport, a beloved figure in his native country of Brazil. Velasquez’s only MMA loss came to Dos Santos and he has been pegged as a future champion from his start in the sport. He mixes excellent wrestling, solid striking and perhaps the best cardio of any heavyweight in the sport. Dos Santos knocked out in 64 seconds a year ago and Velasquez is gunning for revenge.
Round 1. Velasquez presses forward at the start. He fires in a few punches and then takes Dos Santos down. Dos Santos stands right back up. Velasquez then dives in wildly for another takedown attempt that doesn’t come close. Velasquez throws a few punches and gets caught with a counter. Velasquez charges in for another takedown but it is again defended. Velasquez lands a straight right punch but Dos Santos easily avoids another takedown attempt. Dos Santos catches Velasquez with a few jabs as Velasquez comes in. Velasquez lands a body kick but Dos Santos brushes off another takedown attempt with ease. Velasquez grabs a clinch and lands a knee to the body. Dos Santos lands a nice counter hook and there is a minor cut on Velasquez. Velasquez drops Dos Santos with a heavy overhand right punch and looks to finish him with punches on the ground. Dos Santos is just covering up but Velasquez isn’t landing particularly strong punches. Dos Santos finally stands back up but Velasquez pulls him back down. Velasquez opens up with punches on the ground and fires in punches as the round concludes. 10-8 Velasquez. Dos Santos staggers back to his corner. He’s in a world of trouble.
Round 2. A confident Velasquez drops Dos Santos back with big straight punches. He then slams Dos Santos to the mat. Dos Santos gets up but Velasquez slams him right back down. Dos Santos stands up again and they clinch against the cage. Velasquez grabs a single leg and throws Dos Santos back down. Dos Santos gets back up and eats a pair of punches right to the chin. Velasquez takes Dos Santos back down. Velasquez grabs an armbar and looks to finish with the submission. Dos Santos gets out and returns to his feet. They trade against the cage as the round comes to a close. 10-8 Velasquez.
Round 3. Dos Santos lands a nice uppercut as Velasquez moves in. He connects with a nice hook moments later. Velasquez ducks down and scores a takedown 30 seconds in. Velasquez has 165 landed strikes just through the first two rounds. Dos Santos does get back up. They exchange up against the cage. Velasquez lands big punches to the body and keeps walking down Dos Santos. He won’t allow Dos Santos any distance to land the punches that Dos Santos is most comfortable using. Dos Santos is showing great heart hanging in there and trying to counter as much as he can. Velasquez finally looks a little tired after pushing the pace so much. He backs away and eats a nice Dos Santos uppercut. 10-9 Velasquez.
Round 4. Velasquez immediately presses forward and clinches. He takes Dos Santos down a minute in but Dos Santos once more returns to his feet. Dos Santos lands a punch and presses Velasquez against the cage. Dos Santos looks for a takedown. Velasquez avoids that. He grabs a leg and takes Dos Santos back down. Dos Santos gets up but eats a heavy punch to the body and uppercut. Dos Santos walks away as if he isn’t interested in fighting but then throws a tricky elbow as Velasquez moves in. Velasquez clinches and they work against the cage. 10-9 Velasquez.
Round 5. Velasquez walks Dos Santos down right from the start again. He grabs a leg and looks for a takedown but Dos Santos avoids it. Velasquez keeps looking for a takedown but Dos Santos nicely is able to stop it. He then throws a huge hook that misses Velasquez’s chin. Velasquez keeps pressing forward and won’t allow Dos Santos the opportunity to plant his feet and land the home run shot that he needs. Velasquez finally gets Dos Santos down to the ground halfway through the round. Dos Santos once again gets back up to his feet and battles in a clinch against the cage with Velasquez. Velasquez connects with a huge head kick with 30 seconds in the round. He presses Dos Santos back against the cage and goes back to work. He looks for one last takedown as the round concludes. 10-9 Velasquez, 50-43 Velasquez.
Winner: Cain Velasquez, unanimous decision (50-45, 50-43, 50-44).
Jim Miller vs. Joe Lauzon
Miller is a gritty, well respected veteran who grinds out wins with his wrestling and submissions. He needs a win here after decisive losses in two of his last three against Nate Diaz and Ben Henderson. Lauzon is an exciting, explosive fighter who tends to attack quickly and win fights via stoppage early but fades later in bouts. The common thinking about this fight is the key is whether Miller can survive the early Lauzon onslaught.
Round 1. Miller is aggressive at the start with punch combinations. Lauzon covers up and defends well. Miller knocks Lauzon off balance with a leg kick and pounds him with punches up against the cage. Miller lands a heavy kick to the body and backs Lauzon up with uppercuts. Lauzon retaliates and Miller backs off. Miller knocks Lauzon off balance with another inside low kick. Miller backs up Lauzon with huge punches that bloody Lauzon and leave him stunned. Lauzon is bleeding very badly. Miller continues pounding away at a disgusting Lauzon. There may be a blood stoppage here. 10-8 Miller.
Round 2. Miller goes back to work with punches. Lauzon is busted right back open. Miller then takes Lauzon down and starts dropping elbows. Miller then looks to pass guard. He moves into half guard. Lauzon is leaving behind disgusting puddles of blood. Miller looks for a D’Arce choke but Lauzon uses the opportunity to take top position. Lauzon drops back for a leg lock but Miller avoids danger. Close round. 10-9 Miller narrowly.
Round 3. Miller for the third time in the fight drops Lauzon with an inside leg kick. He then does it for a fourth time. Miller lets Lauzon stand back up. Miller lands a few punches and follows with a knee. Miller isn’t throwing as much as he was at the start of the fight, but he is still consistently landing the better shots. Lauzon connects with a solid knee to the body that slows Miller down. Miller backs Lauzon against the cage with punches but Lauzon circles around and backs Miller into the cage. Lauzon dives down for a heel hook with 30 seconds left in the fight. Miller wiggles out of trouble but Lauzon looks for a choke. That was just a tremendous fight. 10-9 Miller, 30-26 Miller.
Winner: Jim Miller, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
Tim Boetsch vs. Costa Philippou
Boetsch has become an improbable middleweight title contender with wins over Yushin Okami and Hector Lombard. While the names sound impressive, Okami utterly dominated Boetsch for the vast majority of their fight while neither fighter looked good at all in Boetsch-Lombard and most thought Lombard still should have won. Philippou has won four straight UFC fights and has the opportunity to move to a higher level.
Round 1. Boetsch walks down Philippou and clinches. Boetsch gets the takedown a minute in. Philippou, however, stands back up. Boetsch retains control of Philippou’s body and looks to take him back down. They exchange knees against the cage and separate. Philippou, perhaps concerned by the takedown attempt, is very hesitant to throw. He doe land an overhand right. Boetsch throws a series of push kicks but isn’t landing anything himself. Philippou connects with an uppercut as Boetsch comes in. As Philippou presses forward, Boetsch catches him off guard and takes him down. Boetsch does next to nothing and they’re stood back up. Philippou opens up and lands a few heavy punches at the close of the round. Boetsch drops Philippou with a push kick at the close. Close round. Not a good one. 10-9 Boetsch.
Round 2. Philippou throws a wild kick and Boetsch looks for a takedown. He doesn’t get it but lands a kneee on the separation. There’s blood on the face of Boetsch which the announcers say came from an accidental headbutt. Philippou lands a nice punch to the body. Philippou’s mouthguard falls out at the same time Boetsch takes an eye poke in a weird sequence. Philippou avoids a takedown attempt and takes top position on Boetsch. He drops some punches down for the remainder of the round. 10-9 Philippou.
Round 3. Boetsch goes for a takedown but Philippou sprawls nicely. Philippou takes top position and lands some punches. Boetsch is bleeding badly and Philippou stands back up. Boetsch pulls guard but Philippou stands up. Boetsch goes for another takedown. Philippou blocks it, lands some punches, and gets the stoppage.
Winner: Costa Philippou, TKO, round 3.
Yushin Okami vs. Alan Belcher
Okami and Belcher fought each other in their UFC debuts. Okami won, utilizing his wrestling. Since then, Okami has been a top middleweight contender and fought for the UFC middleweight title. Belcher, meanwhile, has won 6 of 7 fights and shown tremendous improvement in his wrestling and ground game. The question is whether Belcher’s wrestling has improved enough to negate Okami’s wrestling and keep the fight in the standup domain where Belcher is most comfortable.
Round 1. Belcher throws a couple head kicks early. Okami throws a pair of straight punches in response. When Belcher throws a third head kick, Okami pushes him down. Okami then clinches and looks for a takedown. Okami throws a few knees against the cage while looking for a takedown. Belcher grabs a guillotine choke but Okami gets out quickly and has top position. Okami lands some punches from top position. He smothers Belcher against the cage and moves into side control. Okami lands a few elbows in side control and tries to isolate Belcher’s arm. Belcher works his way up but Okami keeps him on his knees as the round concludes. 10-9 Okami.
Round 2. A scramble for positioning ensues early, with Belcher again grabbing a guillotine choke. Okami like in the first round is able to avoid jeopardy and use the opportunity to take top position a minute into the round. Okami works his way into side control and is landing elbows when the referee inexplicably stands the fight up. Okami takes the fight back down with a minute left in the round. The referee stands them back up. 10-9 Okami.
Round 3. Belcher drops Okami with a straight punch but Okami appears to have his senses together. Okami lands a straight punch of his own and looks to close the distance. Okami clinches against the cage and looks for another takedown. He pulls Belcher down but Belcher lands in top position and full mount to boot. Okami rolls over and Belcher looks for a rear naked choke. Okami is able to avoid trouble and stand up. Belcher again looks for a guillotine choke. Okami gets a takedown again and again is able to avoid the guillotine. Okami works his way into full mount near the cage. He lands some punches while Belcher just tries to hold on. Okami lands punches up against the cage and looks briefly for an arm triangle choke. He drops down punches and when Belcher rolls over, Okami looks to sink in a rear naked choke. Okami lands a few punches and the round comes to an end. 10-8 Okami, 30-26 Okami.
Winner: Yushin Okami, unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-27).
Chris Leben vs. Derek Brunson
Leben is a well known fighter with a crowd pleasing style dating back to his time on the first season of the Ultimate Fighter. He is coming off a one year drug failure suspension for banned painkillers. His opponent Brunson is one of the first fighters to move over from the imminently closing Strikeforce promotion. He has lost his last two fights.
Round 1. Leben catches a kick and looks for a leg trip but Brunson pushes through and takes Leben down instead. Brunson postures up and drops an elbow down. Leben for a moment pushes Brunson off but Brunson transitions into side control and then full mount. He lands some punches from that position and appears to try to set up an arm triangle choke. Leben is able to get out of danger and stands up against the cage but eats some punches in the process. Dominant round for Brunson. 10-9 Brunson.
Round 2. Brunson shoots for a takedown 30 seconds in but Leben blocks it. Leben lands a big left punch but Brunson takes Leben down. Leben is more active off his back landing punches and then wall walks back up to his feet. Brunson grabs a guillotine choke but Leben brushes it off. Leben lands a heavy uppcercut but Brunson counters with a nice 1-2 combination. Brunson looks up at the clock halfway through the round. Leben pushes forward looking to land a big shot. Brunson clinches up against the cage but Leben defends well. Brunson again clinches. Leben lands a knee to the body and Brunson breaks away. 10-9 Leben.
Round 3. Leben blocks another takedown attempt. Brunson goes for a second and gets it this time. Leben gets up without too much danger but eats a couple punches on his feet. Both men are just moving in slow motion as the fight progresses. Neither seems to have any energy and their punches are being thrown in an extremely lethargic fashion. Leben lands a nice left hook but Brunson then takes him down. Leben gets up and they trade punches at the close of the fight. Brunson then screams in a bizarre manner and collapses. 10-9 Brunson, 29-28 Brunson.
Winner: Derek Brunson, unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
Brad Pickett vs. Eddie Wineland
This is an important fight for two fighters looking to establish themselves as contenders at 135 pounds. Pickett is a well rounded Brit coming off a one punch knockout that affirmed his “One Punch” nickname. Wineland is a sold striker in his own right and knocked out Scott Jorgensen in his last fight.
Round 1. Wineland connects with a few nice punches early. He looks like the significantly bigger man, but part of that is a thinner frame. They exchange heavy hooks. Pickett appears to be getting the better of it early but then Wineland drops him to one knee with a strong connect. Moments later, Eddie Wineland staggers Pickett again with a right hook. He lands yet another hook after that. Pickett shoots for a takedown but Wineland defends nicely. Clear round for Wineland. 10-9 Wineland.
Round 2. Pickett connects with a hook early. Problem is Wineland seems to have an edge in both output and power. Wineland seems comfortable with the range of the fight, picking shots but not being overly aggressive. When Pickett moves in, Wineland counters. Pickett does open up a cut near the right eye of Wineland. Slower, less active second round. 10-9 Wineland.
Round 3. Pickett wades in and lands a knee to the body. Wineland increasingly utilizes his jab to keep Pickett at distance. Pickett will get hit when he moves in. Pickett lands a solid right hook as Wineland backs away but Wineland is fine. Pickett lands another hook and is having his best round of the fight. Pickett is exercising good patience while trying to land a finishing shot, but it’s just too late. Pickett perhaps charitably gets the last but he’s not getting the fight. 10-9 Pickett, 29-28 Wineland.
Winner: Eddie Wineland, split decision (30-27, 28-29, 30-27).
Byron Bloodworth vs. Erik Perez
Perez is a Mexican prospect with a 2-0 record in the UFC. Bloodworth has a 6-2 MMA record with nothing remotely resembling a quality win.
Round 1. Perez lands a few punches and clinches. He drops Bloodworth with a knee to the body and lands some punches from top position. Perez continues working over a bloody Bloodworth and the fight is called off.
Winner: Erik Perez, TKO, round 1.
Melvin Guillard vs. Jamie Varner
This fight was originally scheduled to take place two weeks ago, but Varner was sick the day of the show and the athletic commission called off the bout. That led to a very memorable moment where Guillard was interviewed on television about Varner. Guillard said adamantly that he would never fight Varner and that he lost all respect for Varner when Varner pulled out of the fight. Guillard was informed by the interviewer that UFC president Dana White planned to re-book the fight in two weeks. “That’s cool,” Guillard retorted. Guillard is a high level striker who finds ways to lose, usually on the ground. Varner is a fast starter with a similar overall game to Guillard.
Round 1. Guillard lands a series of heavy leg kicks early. The kicks keep Varner at a distance and Guillard doesn’t try to close the distance himself. Varner moves in with an overhand power punch that backs Guillard against the cage and Guillard has to circle out. Guillard continues to throw leg kicks that punish Varner’s lead leg. However, he doesn’t open up with punches as he often does. This has been a more measured Guillard striking offense than usual. Varner grabs a single leg and looks for a takedown with a minute left in the round but quickly gives it up. Varner lands a pair of solid punches against the cage and then another pair a moment later. Varner looks for a guillotine choke as the round closes. Guillard generally controlled the round but Varner’s flurry at the end was enough to get the round. 10-9 Varner.
Round 2. Varner lands a few punches at the start of the round and then takes Guillard down. He looks to take Guillard’s back as Guillard stands up but Guillard throws him down to the mat impressively. Guillard lands a knee on the break and they return to the feet. Varner connects with a few heavy punches against the cage. He’s beginning to outbox Guillard. Varner then takes Guillard to the ground. He gets a mount, but it is up against the cage where he can’t do much in the position and Varner quickly loses the position. Guillard stands back up but eats a punch in the process. Guillard lands a couple nice punches of his own including one to the body. Varner connects with an accidental low blow and there is a momentary pause in the action. Guillard opens up in the final seconds of the round. 10-9 Varner.
Round 3. Varner lands an overhand right and takes Guillard down. He lands a series of rapidfire punches up against the cage. Varner looks for a choke but Guillard uses the opportunity to take top position. Guillard lands some punches from top position and a nice knee to the body as Varner gets up. Varner then shoots and takes Guillard down. Guillard stands back up without too much trouble. As Guillard looks to strike, Varner times it nicely and takes him down. Guillard looks for an armbar and then reverses into top position. Varner looks to stand up and then takes top position back from Guillard. That was a nice series of ground transitions. Guillard gets back up and lands a nice knee and body punch. In a scramble, Varner lands what I’d have to describe as the Schwein. Guillard leaps into Varner’s arms and gives him a hug at the close. Excellent fight. 10-9 Varner, 30-27 Varner. The fight was a lot closer than that score suggests, however.
Winner: Jamie Varner, split decision (30-27, 27-30, 30-27).
Michael Johnson vs. Myles Jury
This bout opens the television portion of the event. Johnson, an Ultimate Fighter runner-up, has shown marked improvement in recent bouts and has three consecutive wins in the UFC over respectable opposition. Jury is technically undefeated with a 10-0 official record, but lost in the round of 16 on the Ultimate Fighter.
Round 1. Johnson is the more active fighter at the open, throwing a lot of leg kicks and mixing in punch combinations. Jury is able to mostly avoid those strikes however, and he ducks down and takes Johnson to the ground two minutes in. Jury immediately works for a better position. He isn’t able to fully escape Johnson’s half guard, but he opens up with a series of heavy punches anyway. Jury moves away from his strikes from a moment to try to remove his other leg from Johnson’s guard but is unable to do so. Jury thus goes back to landing solid punches from top position. Jury looks for a kimura and uses that to pass into side position. Jury quickly transitions into full mount, drops down punches, and looks for a rear naked choke as the round comes to a close. Borderline 10-8 round. 10-9 Jury.
Round 2. Johnson comes out active again on the feet. He struggles to land solid punches but is able to have success with kicks. Halfway through the round, Jury catches one of Johnson’s kicks and gets a seemingly effortless takedown. Jury postures up and looks to land a few strikes but Johnson’s defense is solid and Jury is able to have little success. Jury lands a few elbows as the round closes. 10-9 Jury.
Round 3. Jury looks for a takedown quicker in round 3 than he did in rounds 1 and 2. He immediately moves to clinch and then pulls Johnson down 45 seconds into the final round. Johnson has had no answers whatsoever for Jury’s takedowns and that has been the difference in the fight. Up against the cage, Jury drops down some punches and looks to get into better position. Johnson isn’t in danger but he hasn’t mounted the slightest modicum of offense from the bottom for the entirety of the fight. Jury just continues working over Johnson with punches and grinding Johnson against the cage. 10-8 Jury, 30-26 Jury.
Winner: Myles Jury, unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
In preliminary action, John Moraga scored a come from behind win by submitting Chris Cariaso with a guillotine choke in the third round. Max Holloway earned a somewhat controversial split decision over Leonard Garcia. And heavyweight Todd Duffee made a successful return to the UFC by knocking out Phil De Fries in 2 minutes and 4 seconds.
Follow on Twitter at @toddmartinmma.