On Nov. 12, 1993, the UFC was born. Many people tuning into the inaugural event from the promotion got their first glimpses of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu thanks to Royce Gracie, and those who asked questions about how one martial art would fare against another received some answers. It was the birth of a new sport, which would eventually gain a set of rules, sanctioning bodies and a name, mixed martial arts.

It’s only fitting that on the anniversary of that historic occasion, the UFC is set to once again break new ground. Eighteen years to the day after Royce first conquered three opponents in one night, heavyweights Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos will fight in the lone battle on the UFC’s debut on network television. While “UFC on Fox 1,” as it has been dubbed, will not mark the first time the sport has appeared on network airwaves, it will be the first venture into such territory by the most easily recognizable and successful brand in mixed martial arts.

This time around, we’re not talking about a shaky organization that has put all their hopes behind an unproven street fighter. This time, we’re looking at a brand that has a deep roster of talent and a history of getting things right. When fans and curious first-time viewers tune in to Fox at 9 p.m. ET to watch Velasquez and dos Santos battle for the UFC heavyweight championship at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., they will be witnessing the start of a new era for the sport. Mixed martial arts’ version of the NFL, MLB or NBA now has a broadcast home equivalent to that of its major sports brethren.

With such a historic occasion upon us, we felt this event was too big for the standard three-writer Round Table panel. Thus, in this special edition of The MMA Corner Round Table, all eleven of The MMA Corner’s staff writers share their opinions on this remarkable occasion and how Velasquez and dos Santos match up in the featured heavyweight title tilt.

HW Championship: Cain Velasquez (9-0) vs. Junior dos Santos (13-1)

Gregory Chase: This fight is a very exciting match-up and a great kickoff for UFC on Fox. You have a very powerful and strong wrestler, and arguably one of the best heavyweight boxers in the sport. Velasquez’s ability to control this fight where he wants will be the deciding factor in the bout. Cain has every ability to stand up with dos Santos, but if JDS can land flush with some good technical strikes, the current champ could be in trouble.

Dos Santos has not had to do much ground time, but during the stand-up, he has the striking advantage. However, the second biggest factor will be the challenger’s stamina going into this fight. Velasquez has shown his endurance and control to pick his shots and work through his fights, even though he has stopped most of them early.

All in all, the superior wrestling of Velasquez will be the main difference in this fight. JDS must utilize his speed and precision, but none of that matters if he is on his back.

Brian McKenna: This fight could be one of the best heavyweight fights in a really long time. We have the undefeated champion taking on the one-loss No. 1 contender. To add to it, neither fighter has lost while fighting in the UFC, as they both are 7-0 in the Octagon. That last bit is pretty crazy, because as we know the best fighters in the world are brought in by Zuffa. For these two to defeat everyone in their path with the promotion, you know that they’re terrific fighters.

Gregory has highlighted the fact that dos Santos does a lot of his dirty work with fists, but I wouldn’t exactly rule out his ability to do work on the ground. He holds a brown belt in jiu-jitsu and like most Brazilians, he isn’t afraid to use it.

On the other hand, we have the champion who is recently coming off taking the title from Brock Lesnar via TKO in his last bout. Even though Lesnar isn’t by any means a striking expert, that fight proved that the champion is not afraid to use his fists to get the job done. Another tidbit with that fight is that even though Lesnar was able to get Velasquez to the ground, the AKA fighter was able to get off of his back against the elite wrestler and get the fight standing. This is a crucial bit of information because if dos Santos is able to gain top position, I have no doubt that the champion will be able to return the fight to standing. Because of this, I have to agree with Gregory and go with Velasquez in this fight due to the fact that he will control where the contest will take place. I have to take the champion by TKO in the second round.

Corey Adams: If I had to tally how many fights I have been overly hyped up for, I would lose count, but knowing that Velasquez and dos Santos are about to go toe-to-toe, it’s got to be one of the most anticipated fights in UFC history, in my eyes.

Dos Santos (R) battles Roy Nelson (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

Without going deep into the background of each fighter, I’m going to throw out some numbers that I believe will impact this heavyweight bout, while also making a case for who I believe will walk out of the Octagon with the belt. My notable stat is this: Velasquez has only been past the second round once in his career, in a decision win over Cheick Kongo. On the other hand, dos Santos has gone to the judges’ scorecards in his last two fights. So when it comes down to who has the best finishing ability, the nod goes to the champion.

There are many ways where you could predict dos Santos winning this fight, but when it comes down to it, Velasquez is the champion for a reason and will prove to the millions worldwide why he is considered the number one heavyweight in the world. While the majority of Velasquez’s fights have ended in the first round, I think dos Santos will be able to survive the opening stanza, but will lose via TKO in the second round.

Richard Wilcoxon: I also like to use numbers to make my case. As Brian pointed out, both fighters have gone 7-0 in the UFC. This gives us a perfect comparison. Corey indicated that Velasquez has only been to one decision, however dos Santos has only been to two. I really don’t see this as a big enough difference to indicate one is a better finisher than the other, especially when you consider the competition each has faced. Dos Santos has faced more veterans in his run in the UFC than Velasquez. The record of dos Santos’ opponents going in to the fight with him is 128-33 while the record of Velasquez’s opponents is 99-22.

Another interesting number is that the opponents dos Santos has squared off with in the UFC have considerably more knockouts than those Velasquez has faced. Dos Santos’ UFC opponents have 81 career knockouts while Velasquez’s opponents have just 44. While this doesn’t prove dos Santos has a better chin, it does indicate that he has faced better strikers and has defended well against them.

Velasquez (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

There is no doubt this will be a great fight and the UFC is banking on it by making it the lone televised fight for this historic card. However, I am leaning the opposite way from my colleagues. Numbers can only take you so far while predicting a fight. There are also intangibles. Velasquez is coming off a serious shoulder injury and has not competed in over a year. The threat of ring rust and cardio issues added to dos Santos’ skill makes me have to disagree with my fellow panelists and go with dos Santos to take Velasquez past his comfort zone before finishing it in the fourth round.

Joe Atkins: This fight couldn’t be happening at a better time. Both fighters are in their prime and riding win streaks. A lot of MMA pundits have pegged the fight as this generation’s Fedor Emelianenko vs. Mirko Cro Cop, and I’d be inclined to agree.

Velasquez’s cardio at heavyweight is unmatchable. The man has never looked tired. Combine that with a formidable wrestling pedigree and ever-improving striking, and you have a fighter who is destined to go far in the sport.

Junior dos Santos is a different animal. He’s a true gentlemen outside of the Octagon, but when that cage door closes behind him, he’s all business. Outside of Alistair Overeem, I’d say he is the best striker at heavyweight. Although primarily a boxer, his limited striking repertoire hasn’t hindered him in the past, having stopped five of his last seven opponents with punches.

I’ll be interested to see how Velasquez’s striking holds up against dos Santos’s. The last decent striker he fought was Kongo, and he was knocked down on several occasions in that fight.

There’s still a big question mark surrounding dos Santos’ ground game. We’ve only seen fleeting glimpses of his takedown defense, and although it has looked good, he has never fought a wrestler of Velasquez’s caliber. I think if dos Santos can keep this fight on the feet long enough to land a clean shot, we’ll see the crowning of a new heavyweight champion.

Junior dos Santos via KO.

Josh Davis: On paper, this fight looks like your typical striker vs. wrestler match-up, but that is anything but the case. There is no question that Velasquez has the superior wrestling in this fight and dos Santos is the more pure and sound striker, but the winner of this fight will be person that can survive outside of their comfort zone.

Dos Santos (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

If Velasquez is going to win this fight, he will need to use his superior wrestling to get it to the ground. From there, he will need to control dos Santos on the ground and inflict damage through ground-and-pound. In order for this to happen though, he is going to have to exchange punches with JDS. He will need to use his striking to set up these takedowns and the longer he is forced to stand and trade with JDS, the less likely he is to win this fight.

Dos Santos, on the other hand, will need to use his striking to keep Velasquez on the outside and punish him every time he attempts a takedown. To this point we have never really scene JDS fight off his back, so it will be interesting to see how he handles himself if Velasquez is able to get him to the ground.

Kongo proved that Velasquez’s chin is questionable and I think that JDS will be able to exploit it. JDS wins this fight by third-round TKO.

Sean Smith: This has to be one of the toughest fights to predict in all of 2011, which is what makes it such an exciting match-up and a great choice to kick off the UFC’s run with Fox. It’s already been said many times, but it’s worth repeating that there is simply no way that this fight will be a boring one.

In his recent fights, dos Santos has proven that he has capable takedown defense, which has long been an unknown portion of his game. Undoubtedly, dos Santos will need to put that takedown defense to use against Velasquez, who possesses some of the best wrestling in the heavyweight division.

Even if dos Santos does keep this fight standing though, Velasquez is no slouch in the striking department. Despite the long layoff, the champion simply has more ways to win this fight than dos Santos, so I expect him to hold his own on his feet before eventually taking dos Santos to the ground in the later rounds.

Velasquez (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

I’ll break the streak of picks for dos Santos and put the champion back in front. Once he is able to take the fight to the ground, look for Velasquez to use his relentless ground-and-pound to earn a stoppage in the fourth frame.

Chase Buzzell: I do not know if there is a better fight the UFC could have scheduled when making their broadcast television debut. By placing the heavyweight champion against the No. 1 contender, the UFC is sure to garner fringe fans tuning in for the first time. The reason is that both fighters are absolutely elite, not only within their own division, but throughout the entire sport of MMA. In short, this fight is surely going to be fireworks in the making.

As always, styles make match-ups. Here, you have an elite striker in dos Santos versus a master of controlling fights in Velasquez. Beyond the natural disposition of each fighter, there are other variables at play. Velasquez is coming off a significant shoulder injury that raises questions with respect to his fitness level (which is usually never questioned) and ring rust.

JDS, on the other hand, has cut it close in his last two fights when winning by decision and this trend coincides with his stepping up against more accomplished competition. Whereas Velasquez for the most part has walked through most of his opponents. Both fighters have KO power, as expected in the heavyweight division, and both can take it to the mat, dos Santos employing his brown belt in BJJ and Velasquez using his outstanding takedowns and opponent control.

I believe the champ is going to try and mix it up, he will take JDS down and control the fight and then let it go back to the feet and strike with the challenger. Dos Santos will look to catch Velasquez at some point, whether it be by clipping him with a strike or in a submission attempt. If JDS does catch Velasquez, the AKA product should have no problem as he was hurt twice against Kongo but remained composed and recovered nicely. Dos Santos has proven that he can strike with anyone in the heavyweight division, but he seems to lack the finishing instinct, as in his last two fights when it became apparent that JDS was winning the fight on the feet and waited for the reading of the cards.

In the end, I believe JDS has the faster hands and better BJJ, but Velasquez put it all together and is a faster fighter. There is a difference between having fast hands or lightning quick strikes and being a fast fighter that puts all the elements of the game together. In an extremely close fight, I believe Velasquez will win via split decision.

Duncan Price: I’ve heard a lot of opinions and lot of facts, yet I still find it extremely difficult to pick between these two impressive combatants.

Dos Santos (R) battles Roy Nelson (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

On the side of the current champion Velasquez, we have an explosive wrestler who has also proven that he can hang with the best on his feet. Eight of his nine victories have come via knockout, so it is obvious that he possesses real punching power. So would dos Santos risk a brawl with Velasquez, just in case he gets tagged by one of the champ’s heavy hands?

On the side of dos Santos, we have an effective and accurate striker who, for the most part, is able to keep the fight standing using a mixture of boxing and grappling techniques. He managed to contain and defeat Shane Carwin, who is an impressive wrestler, so in theory he should be able to handle that side of his opponent’s game.

Both men have their own particular strengths and weaknesses, but the fact is they match up extremely well. Neither man has lost via knockout and neither man has been to a losing decision. Dos Santos has lost via submission before, but only once, and this is by far the weakest area of Velasquez’s offensive skills.

It’s difficult to say exactly why, but I just see dos Santos dropping the champion at some point. He has the better technical striking ability and I just don’t know if Velasquez is going to be able to take the challenger down and control him if the going gets tough. With my mind almost constantly changing, I’m locking my prediction in: dos Santos via TKO in the fourth round.

Rob Tatum: As all of my colleagues have pointed out, this fight is history in the making. After nearly 200 events (including Fight Nights and Ultimate Fighter Finales), the biggest mixed martial arts promotion has finally made its way on network television. And what better way to introduce the sport to a new audience than with a heavyweight title fight?

Much like my fellow writers, I find this a tough fight to predict. You have two talented fighters that have yet to taste defeat inside the Octagon and have largely dominated their competition. Both fighters possess a strong arsenal, with the champion Velasquez bringing world-class wrestling and an ever-evolving striking game, while dos Santos carries the best hands in the business, coupled with a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt under the Nogueira brothers. Something has to give between these two men.

While you can sit back and look at all of the weapons each man has at his disposal, it’s the deficiencies in their games that will ultimately decide this fight. The Brazilian dos Santos does not have a wrestling base, and while he has shown solid takedown defense in his past few bouts, he is yet to encounter someone as explosive and powerful as Velasquez in that regard. Velasquez, meanwhile, has been out of action for over a year following shoulder surgery, which in itself could pose a problem. Furthermore, I’m of the mindset that Velasquez didn’t show off his chin against Kongo, rather, it was exploited. Kongo rocked the champion on three different occasions with counterpunches. If one of dos Santos’ lethal uppercuts lands clean, the undefeated champion will go crashing to the mat.

In a five-round fight, I simply cannot envision Velasquez avoiding getting hit for a full 25 minutes. He may score some takedowns and make the Brazilian uncomfortable, but in the end, it will be dos Santos walking away as the new champion by second-round TKO.

Bryan Henderson: There’s no question surrounding the historic impact of this fight on the sport of mixed martial arts. The UFC might not have been the first MMA promotion to hit network airwaves, but where EliteXC failed, the UFC’s much more recognizable brand name and knack for getting it right will allow them to succeed. And, as many of my fellow panelists have mentioned, there’s no better way to launch this new era of the sport than with a heavyweight title tilt.

The even match-up between these two big men is clearly illustrated by the tally of picks for each man so far within this panel. We have five writers predicting a successful title defense for Velasquez, while the remaining five envision the crowning of a new champion on Saturday evening. Guess that makes mine the tie-breaking vote.

I must admit that despite where these two top heavyweights stand right now, I had my doubts about both as they worked their way through the ranks. It took a long time for me to be sold on either man. Velasquez raised concerns while dragging out fights to the second round against Denis Stojnic and Ben Rothwell, and with his exposed chin against Kongo. Meanwhile, “Cigano” took off the heads of opponents that did not present well-rounded challenges, guys such as Fabricio Werdum, Gilbert Yvel and a declining Mirko Cro Cop.

For Velasquez, his two most recent efforts against Lesnar and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira have convinced me that he belongs atop the mountain. And for JDS, decisions over Roy Nelson and Shane Carwin bring me to a similar conclusion.

What it all comes back to is wrestling. Velasquez has proven his ability to stand and trade against solid strikers. While I agree that Kongo exposed the champ’s weak chin, Velasquez was still able to survive and his killer wrestling instincts kicked in immediately when he was in trouble during that bout. Even dazed, Velasquez is a high-caliber wrestler.

JDS has shown what he’s capable of in the striking department, but I look at his resume and cannot point out a single opponent who could really test the takedown defense of the challenger to its fullest. Men like Werdum, Nelson, Gonzaga and Struve had the mat skills to put JDS in trouble with submissions, but none of them possessed great takedowns. Carwin has a wrestling background, but he prefers to let his fists do the talking and stand with foes.

So, with that in mind, I have to give the edge to Velasquez. He might not evade dos Santos’ punches for a full 25 minutes, but the minute he gets rocked, his wrestling instincts will take over. With that as a means of defense, Velasquez will be able to weather any storms he might encounter and score a ground-and-pound TKO stoppage in the championship rounds to retain his belt.

Top Photo: Dos Santos (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

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