By Elias Cepeda
With a somewhat forgettable year thankfully coming to an end, UFC 155 looked to excite fans, promote contenders and get everybody ready for a new year. This card did exactly that. Not to reach into our bag of clichés so early into the aftermath, but UFC 155 really sent 2012 out with a bang, and set the bar high for upcoming cards in 2013.
With as many solid fights as took place Saturday in Las Vegas at UFC 155, Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon’s three round battle was recognized by the UFC brass as the Fight of The Night and each man earned an extra $65,000 for their effort. The lightweight contenders should also be in consideration for Fight of The Year lists everywhere.
If it is, Lauzon will be competing with himself for his incredible fight last August against Jamie Varner. JLau may have lost the decision against Miller on the judge’s score cards, two rounds to one, but deserves credit for coming back from being bullied, beaten and bloodied badly in the first round by Miller in the first round and finishing stronger in the final two rounds.
On the strength of his aggressiveness and multiple submission attempts to close out the second and third rounds, this writer believes that a very reasonable judge could have scored the bout Lauzon’s way instead of Miller’s. As it stands, both men were impressive in their own ways and, *reaches back into the bag of applicable clichés* there simply were no “losers” in this one.
Miller has always shown excellent boxing skills but he may have been sharper than ever before against Lauzon in the first and second rounds, scoring almost at will with shots to the body and head, as well as knocking Joe down repeatedly with a nasty inside leg kick. His dirty boxing from the clinch was masterful, using punches, knees and elbows to hurt and cut open Lauzon over and again.
For his part, Lauzon looked to be on his way out of the fight early on but somehow not only managed to survive, but thrive and turn the tide back in his favor multiple times with knees and submission holds despite bleeding like a stuck pig. Lauzon was cut in at least three places on his head by Miller and wore a crimson mask for most of the fight. On his facebook page, the Massachusets fighter shared a photo with fans of his bruised and stiched up (to the tune of 40) face.
The old knock on Lauzon for tiring late in fights should finally be retired. Both men look ready to continue to fight the division’s other elite. Lauzon, of course, has hit a speed bump and may have to move back a spot or two. Miller, as long as he’s healthy, should get another top opponent as soon as possible to give him another chance to move towards a title shot.
More than just a big uppercut – Dos Santos shows heart of a champion in defeat
Junior Dos Santos could not threaten in the late rounds to the same level that Lauzon did but he also, and perhaps even more improbably, managed to go the distance and survive after nearly being knocked out in the first round. For five rounds Cain Velasquez knocked around and took down Dos Santos en route to winning back the UFC heavyweight title that he lost a little over a year ago to Dos Santos.
Despite looking to be out on his feet from the early minutes, Dos Santos never stopped moving, never stopped swinging and demonstrated almost unbelievable conditioning and mental fortitude. Despite being knocked silly time and again from clean shots to the chin and temple from Velasquez, and being dragged to the ground time and again, Dos Santos refused to stay down. He fought to the end and promised to be back for what an almost inevitable rubber match at some point between the two champions.
Cain out-paced, grappled and struck Dos Santos with a ballsy strategy that relied on complete faith in his own conditioning level. We’ve heard for years about how Velasquez out-worked light and welterweights in the gym but we’ve rarely had to see him go the distance and show his supposed inhumane conditioning.
In the main event at UFC 155 Cain showed what all the gym-buzz was about. Velasquez used everything in his arsenal from the opening bell, from punches, kicks, knees to diving for take downs ceaselessly, and continued to until the final one. After Dos Santos quickly got back to his feet after Cain’s first successful take down in the opening stanza and then Velasquez began missing follow up low single leg attempts from far away, it appeared that the Chicano fighter might be on his way to getting frustrated by the then-champ.
However it soon became clear that Velasquez was simply employing a strategy set on tiring out the larger-muscled Brazilian from the onset. Cain’s low single leg attempts from far away were not so much about landing the take down as not letting Dos Santos rest at any point while managing to stay low and out of the way of his counter upper cuts.
As Dos Santos huffed and puffed in the first round and then began eating more and more shots on the feet, including a huge over hand right from Cain, it was evident that the Velasquez strategy was paying dividends.
Still, the now two-time champion had to stay clear of Dos Santos’ power for five rounds. Even when “Cigano” had his hands at his sides and ate huge shots to the chin against the fence, he followed up with wild but hard punches, one at a time, to the body and head of Velasquez. Cain got hit with plenty, but his Toltec stone statue-like head managed to hold up to Dos Santos’ power this time around.
From the sound of Dos Santos’ voice in his post-fight interview, he injured his jaw badly. His head was also badly bruised and swollen, no doubt outward evidence of concussions suffered internally. As such, and because Velasquez won so dominantly, an immediate rematch is out of the question.
That said, however, two exciting fights from this rivalry have left each man with one win a piece. There is no doubt that should both stay healthy and winning enough, that they will face one another at least one more time.
Fans can’t be upset with that. Well, maybe the Vegas crowd that inexplicably booed Dos Santos after his courageous effort could be, but other than those ignorant parasites, no fans could be upset with a third fight.
The only question is who Velasquez will fight next. If his teammate Daniel Cormier keeps on winning as he enters the UFC, he couldn’t be far off from deserving a title shot. The two have said they don’t want to fight one another but Dana White has a way of making these things happen.
Fight of the Night went to Jim Miller vs. Joe Lauzon, Submission of the Night went to John Moraga, who kicked off the preliminary card by choking out Chris Cariaso, and Knockout of the Night went to Todd Duffee, who scored a first round TKO (Caveman Seizure) over Phil De Fries.
Cain Velasquez def. Junior Dos Santos via Unanimous Decision
Jim Miller def. Joe Lauzon via Unanimous Decision
Costa Philippou def. Tim Boetsch via TKO (punches), 2:11 of Round Three
Yushin Okami def. Alan Belcher via Unanimous Decision
Derek Brunson def. Chris Leben via Unanimous Decision
Eddie Wineland def. Brad Pickett via Split-Decision
Erik Perez def. Byron Bloodworth via TKO (punches), 3:50 of Round One
Jamie Varner def. Melvin Guillard via Split-Decision
Myles Jury def. Michael Johnson via Unanimous Decision
Todd Duffee def. Phil De Fries via TKO (punches), 2:04 of Round One
Max Holloway def. Leonard Garcia via Split-Decision
John Moraga def. Chris Cariaso via Submission (arm-in guillotine choke), 1:11 of Round Three