Opportunity knocks for Velasquez
Late replacement is good news for heavyweight prospect
Preview by Brady Crytzer
The co-feature of UFC 99: The Comeback offers a heavyweight contest with serious title implications as rising star Cain Velasquez faces the biggest challenge of his young career when he meets top contender Cheick Kongo.
Originally slated to face journeyman Heath Herring, Velasquez now readies to test his mettle against the very finest of the division. Kongo, who has looked nearly unstoppable in 2008, happily stepped up to the plate with the knowledge that a win over Velasquez nearly ensures him a shot at the heavyweight crown. But, with a short training came behind him and an air of superiority about him, is Kongo taking his young opponent too lightly?
Striking: In the purest sense, Kongo’s experience edge in striking can only be measured in lifetimes. While Velasquez has proven that his punching power is no joke, Kongo has spent his life perfecting his kickboxing artform and will not be afraid to use it in this fight. In his latest outing, Kongo used his heavy hands to brutally stop fellow striking ace Antoni Hardonk in the opening round.
Unfortunately for Kongo, MMA is not striking in the purest sense. The intangibles are situational and Velasquez has proven that he can be effective with his hands on the feet as well as the mat. Velasquez is the bigger puncher and is capable of doing more damage more quickly.
Although Kongo has the crisper striking, he won’t be given enough space to use it effectively. Ground n’ pound may not be entirely part of this category, but it will be the difference maker in this fight.
Grappling: Hands down, Velasquez. This Arizona State standout dominated the collegiate ranks and brings his pedigree directly into the Octagon. At a perfect 5-0, Velasquez boasts one of the most impressive starts of any pro mixed martial artists…outside of Brock Lesnar. Kongo has had difficulty stopping takedowns from undersized heavyweights like Carmelo Marrero and proven vets like Heath Herring. He quite simply won’t be able to stop a hard charging Velasquez.
If Kongo can’t stop the takedown, he can’t beat Velasquez.
How They Match Up
There was set plan for Cain Velasquez. After an impressive start, the young hopeful would match up with Heath Herring at UFC 99 to prove that he was for real.
Now with Herring out due to injury, a top contender in the heavyweight division with nine Octagon appearances takes his place…and Velasquez gets to prove that he belongs.
With Herring, the division’s premiere gatekeeper, out of the way, Velasquez now gets the chance to throw his hat into the title ring immediately. Should Kongo win, he would immediately move to the head of the pack as a title challenger.
It may not have been part of the plan, but it’s going to happen. Look for Velasquez to take Kongo down repeatedly and smash him into the floor. How can we be so sure? In this case, history repeats itself.
In 2004, a very raw and inexperienced Kongo faced a fairly one-dimensional kickboxer in Dutch Ace Gilbert Yvel. Yvel finished that fight with punches from the top position. Although Kongo has improved tenfold since that meeting, his chin has most likely not defied scientific logic and improved dramatically.
If Yvel, a lifelong striker with little or no wrestling history, could punish Kongo in such a way, the All-American standout Velasquez will have no trouble.
Expect a ground n’ pound TKO victory before the final bell.