The UFC 146 co-main event will feature a heavyweight bout between former UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez and former EliteXC Heavyweight Champion Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. This is an important bout not only because it’s the co-main event, but because a win here for either fighter would be huge for their careers. Velasquez is coming off the loss against Junior dos Santos where he failed to defend the heavyweight title on his first try. A win for him would put him back in the mix and possibly grant him another shot at JDS provided he gets past Frank Mir in the main event. A win for Silva against Velasquez would be huge in that he would have won in his UFC debut against a top five heavyweight. It’s an interesting matchup so let’s get right to it.
Cain Velasquez (9-1) is coming off the aforementioned loss to Dos Santos in his last fight in November. Velasquez went into the fight after a lengthy layoff that involved shoulder surgery for a torn rotator cuff, and it was also heavily rumored that he went into the fight injured. Velasquez has nine wins via TKO/KO and one win via decision. The former All-American wrestler is known for having excellent cardio, extreme quickness, and the ability to put good striking combinations together. The one knock on him has been his that his chin maybe somewhat questionable.
Antonio Silva (16-3) comes into this fight off the KO loss to rising star Daniel Cormier in the semifinals of the Strikeforce Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament in September. Silva was coming off the biggest win in his career as he had battered MMA great Fedor Emelianenko in the quarterfinals, becoming the first guy to ever stop Emelianenko by TKO(minus the bogus cut stoppage in Japan). Silva has 11 wins via TKO/KO and 2 technical submission wins to his credit while only going to a judges decision three times in his career. He is an enormous heavyweight with good power, and an excellent top game when it comes to jiu-jitsu. The knock on him has been cardio issues in the past as well as a somewhat questionable chin as well.
Velasquez is the favorite at (-400) with Silva as the underdog at (+300).
I think Velasquez should be the favorite, but I’m not sure I would have Silva as that large of an underdog. He can put anybody away if he lands solidly and is a finisher if he gets you in trouble.
I think the key factors in this fight will be the speed and quickness of Velasquez going up against the power and reach advantage of Silva. Velasquez will be giving up a significant reach advantage to Silva of close to five inches, but will have a huge advantage when it comes to quickness and overall hand speed. Velasquez will have the wrestling advantage, landing 70% of his takedowns according to Fightmetric. However, Silva has defended 71% of the takedown attempts against him thus far, so that will be something to keep an eye on. Silva will have about a 30 pound weight advantage over Velasquez which could be a factor here as well.
Silva basically has two ways to win this fight. I think he clips Velasquez with a huge punch and puts down for the count, or possibly gets top position on Velasquez during a scramble of some sort and finishes him strikes on the ground from the mount. Admittedly, the latter isn’t very likely as Velasquez should be able to win all of the scramble positions due to his quickness. I do not see Silva submitting Velasquez off his back, nor do I see him sweeping Velasquez with jiu-jitsu.
Velasquez can win this fight via decision by out striking Silva, and I also think he can put him away via TKO if he connects solidly. I think he can finish a gassed Silva late in the fight as well. I think Velasquez will use lots of movement using leg kicks to negate the reach advantage that Silva will have while also decreasing an already less mobile heavyweight which could make takedowns easier as the fight goes on.
I see Velasquez finishing Silva via TKO half way through the second round or winning a decision.