(I’m only giving this face-off a 6 out of 10, since Velasquez didn’t have his championship belt with him, and his teammates weren’t in the background throwing middle-fingers at the crowd. Props: UFC.com)
With Cain Velasquez‘s shoulder injury taking him out of action for all of 2011 (so far), Junior Dos Santos was forced to keep busy with a coaching gig on The Ultimate Fighter and a #1 contender fight against
Brock Lesnar Shane Carwin. Any number of misfortunes could have befallen Cigano in the interim, but he managed to keep his spot at the front of the line, and will face Velasquez later this year in the heavyweight title fight that should have happened all along. (By the way, Velasquez’s return on October 8th in Houston isn’t guaranteed yet, due to his health status.)
Between Velasquez’s long injury layoff and Junior’s outstanding body of work in the UFC — culminating with a three-round drubbing of Shane Carwin on Saturday that saw JDS out-strike and then out-wrestle Carwin — the oddsmakers are looking very kindly upon the Brazilian challenger. At this point, Dos Santos is a -120 favorite in the fight, compared to Velasquez at -110.
The line is so close that you won’t get rich betting on Velasquez even though he’s technically the underdog. (For the unfamiliar, those “-” numbers are the amount of dollars you’d have to risk to bring home a $100 profit.) But it says a lot about the perception of where these guys stand in relation to each other. The champion has been out of sight, and thus, out of mind. And again, Dos Santos’s wrestling defense and late slam-takedowns against Carwin demonstrated that he’s more than just a pair of hands, and can beat a wrestler at his own game. Will Velasquez still be able to threaten JDS in that area? Because I’d give the striking edge to Dos Santos, easily.