The UFC’s heavyweight division is about to experience déjà vu. Just over one year ago, current champion Junior dos Santos captured the belt by knocking out Cain Velasquez at UFC on Fox 1 in just 64 seconds.

It was not the outcome that many were expecting—including the UFC brass—and following the bout both fighters revealed they were suffering from knee injuries. Talks of an immediate rematch swirled, but ultimately, the two combatants were selected to headline and co-headline May’s UFC 146 event.

Dos Santos emphatically retained his title with a second-round finish of former champion Frank Mir, while Velasquez left little doubt about whether he deserved a rematch with a vicious TKO stoppage of Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva.

The rematch will headline UFC 155 live on pay-per-view on Dec. 29 in Las Vegas.

Let’s take a deeper look at the match-up. And as a reminder, this is a side-by-side comparison of how the fighters’ skills matchup against one another using similar scoring to the unified rules.

Striking: Dos Santos – 10, Velasquez – 9

Dos Santos (James Law/Heavy MMA)

If the first fight tells anything, it’s that the Brazilian should be favored as long as this fight stays on the feet. Although dos Santos does not utilize a large variety of strikes—rarely throwing kicks—his boxing prowess has propelled him to stoppages in 12 of his 15 career wins. His uppercut is his go-to punch, but it was an overhand right that spelled doom for Velasquez in their first meeting.

Velasquez possesses his own devastating striking arsenal, finishing nine of his 10 career wins. The American Kickboxing Academy product mixes in a diverse attack of leg kicks and solid boxing. However, the first fight proved he’s not on the same level as the champion. In fact, it was a leg kick from Velasquez that opened him up for the fight-ending overhand right. The biggest question for the former champion is his chin. Although the first meeting was his first career loss, the few times in his career that an opponent has landed clean, Velasquez has looked vulnerable.

Ground Game: Dos Santos – 10, Velasquez – 9

Neither of these knockout artists has showcased their submission game in their UFC careers, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have one. Dos Santos does have a single submission win on his resume—via guillotine choke—but with the weapons he has on the feet, he hasn’t needed to utilize the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt he earned from the Nogueira brothers.

Similarly, Velasquez holds a brown belt in Dave Camarillo’s guerilla jiu-jitsu system, but with his strong wrestling base and finishing ability standing, he’s yet to put his submission skills to use.

Wrestling: Dos Santos – 9, Velasquez – 10

Velasquez (top) punished Silva (Tracy Lee/Yahoo! Sports)

What made this match-up so intriguing in the original meeting was the contrast of styles. It was billed as a classic striker vs. wrestler battle, but dos Santos ensured the striker would come out on top. As the Brazilian enters the Octagon for the tenth time, he currently boasts an 88 percent takedown defense. Unlike the first fight, that is likely to be put to the test in the rematch.

Velasquez’s wrestling base is one of the strongest in the heavyweight division. The former Arizona State All-American has been able to dictate where nearly every one of his fights has taken place—expect for his first meeting with dos Santos. With both fighters healthy for the rematch, can Velasquez implement his will and put the Brazilian on his back? This alone could be the most important aspect to this fight.

Strategy: Dos Santos – 10, Velasquez – 9

Proper grammar aside, the saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is certainly applicable to this fight for dos Santos. Thus far in his career, his game plan of keeping the fight standing and finding a home for his heavy hands has worked over and over again. Based on the outcome of the first fight, there’s no reason to think that won’t be effective once again.

On the other side of the fence, Velasquez has to change up his approach. He cannot stand in front of dos Santos and expect to get the better of the exchanges. It’s unclear how much Velasquez was limited with his knee injury, but he has to push for a takedown sooner and get away from dos Santos’ strengths.

Killer Instinct: Dos Santos – 10, Velasquez – 10

Combined, these two fighters have three decisions in 27 total fights. Dos Santos was unable to finish off iron-chined and heavy-handed Roy Nelson and Shane Carwin, but dominated both fighters from bell-to-bell. Meanwhile, Velasquez went the distance against Cheick Kongo in a fight that opened up many questions about the former champion’s chin. Regardless, when either of these fighters smells blood, there’s little chance the fight will go much longer. Eighteen of their 22 stoppages have come within the first round.


With both fighters recovered from their knee injuries and back to health, will this fight change dramatically? Or will things play out similarly to the first fight? Most importantly, can Velasquez secure a takedown and put dos Santos on his back this time around?

Total: Dos Santos – 49, Velasquez – 47

Verdict: Velasquez looked off in the first meeting and dos Santos capitalized, violently. Both fighters were impressive in their May bouts, but which will carry that momentum into this fight? To date, dos Santos hasn’t showed any holes in his fight game, while the same cannot be said of Velasquez. Look for a repeat of last November’s meeting as dos Santos once again finishes Velasquez with strikes in the opening frame.

Top Photo: UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos (Rob Tatum/The MMA Corner)

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