MMA Goes Mainstream

By Sam Offutt

For the first time ever the Ultimate Fighting Championship will broadcast a free fight live on network television, and it’s a good one. The UFC heavyweight title will be up for grabs Saturday, Nov. 12, at 8 p.m. live on FOX.  A special one-hour broadcast will include a brief overview of the sport for new fans as well as the five-round title fight.

Undefeated Cain Velasquez (9-0), the world’s best heavyweight fighter, is defending his title for the first time against Junior dos Santos (13-1) the consensus number two heavyweight.  Velasquez is the first Mexican-American heavyweight champion in either boxing or mixed martial arts.  Never losing a single round in any fight, Velasquez is known for his impressive cardio and has a relentless “ground and pound” style. He has only fought to a decision once, knocking every other opponent out. His knockout list includes former world champions Brock Lesnar and Antonio Rodrigo Noguera.  Velasquez, a former Arizona State University wrestler, was a two-time division 1 All-American and a PAC-10 champion.  He will look to bring the fight to the ground, stay on top of dos Santos and beat him up.

Velasquez dedicated his title reign to young Mexican-Americans.  He is the son of illegal immigrants and has the words “Brown Pride” tattooed across his chest.  He points to the lack of Hispanic role models he had in his youth and hopes to help fill that void for young Mexican-Americans.

Junior “Cigano” Dos Santos also comes from a modest childhood.  Born in Brazil, he has developed a reputation as a feared striker with nine of his 13 wins coming via first round knockout.  Dos Santos’ takedown defense is also phenomenal even though he has consistently been able to keep his fights standing.   Look for dos Santos to implement a “sprawl and brawl” strategy and attempt to knock Velasquez out standing.  Dos Santos’ nickname “Cigano” is Portuguese for gypsy.  He earned that moniker early in his career as a fighter when training partners taunted him for his ponytail.

There are some big questions coming into this fight.  How will Velasquez deal with the pressure of his first title defense on such a grand stage?  Will Velasquez have any ring-rust from a yearlong layoff due to injury?  Will Dos Santos be able to stuff the iron-willed Velasquez’s takedowns?  The most interesting factor going into this fight is that Dos Santos has never once in his entire UFC career fought off his back. These questions will all be answered Saturday night in primetime.



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