Velasquez expects grueling fight with 'Bigfoot' at UFC 160
Cain Velasquez finished Antonio Silva in the first round last May. (USA TODAY IMAGES)
This Memorial Day weekend starts off with a bang in the UFC as four of the promotion's top heavyweights take to the octagon in Las Vegas. Junior dos Santos, Mark Hunt, Antonio Silva and UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez headline UFC 160 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Saturday's five-fight main card is headlined by all four men in action. JDS takes on Hunt in the night's co-main event while Velasquez defends his heavyweight title against Bigfoot Silva. Although the bouts are scheduled for three and five rounds, respectively, these heavyweights are capable of ending fights quickly.
The night isn't all about the big men, but the pay-per-view begins with two lightweight bouts. Donald Cerrone welcomes K.J. Noons to the UFC while Gray Maynard and T.J. Grant battle for a shot at the lightweight title. Sandwiched in between these four fights is a light-heavyweight bout between Glover Teixeira and James Te Huna.
Here's a closer look at the main card from the opening bout on up:
Donald Cerrone (19-5-0) vs. K.J. Noons (11-6-0): Noons follows a long list of former Strikeforce contenders looking to make a name for himself in the UFC. Cerrone is looking to rebound after a loss to Anthony Pettis while Noons is on a three-fight losing streak. The lightweight division is currently stacked from top to bottom and to get out of the bottom takes a strong win streak. Neither of these fighters are in the midst of such a streak and are stuck as mid-level fighters. Cerrone has climbed the lightweight ladder only to fall back down. Expect both fighters to come out with a lot to prove and looking for a finish.
Gray Maynard (11-1-1) vs. T.J. Grant (20-5-0): UFC President Dana White has stated that the winner of this bout will be next to get a title shot, so expect nothing less than a grueling battle. Maynard hasn't fought since June of 2012, a unanimous decision victory over Clay Guida. It was Maynard's first win and non-title bout since 2010. He'll have his hands full with Grant, though. Probably the best fighter most fans are unaware of, Grant has put together a four-fight win streak that includes victories over Evan Dunham, Carlo Prater and Matt Wiman. This has the makings of a three-round brawl that ends with both fighters bruised and beaten. Grant, as comfortable as he is to be the unknown, is set to become a household name and will do so against Maynard.
Glover Teixeira (20-2-0) vs. James Te Huna (16-5-0): On a night jam-packed with knockout artists, Teixeira and Te Huna could steal the show. Glover is riding an 18-fight win streak, including a 4-0 start to his UFC career, and Te Huna is on a four-fight streak. Believe it or not, this wasn't the bout the UFC had planned. Teixeira was originally scheduled to face Ryan Bader, but when Bader pulled out with an injury, Te Huna was one of the only fighters to ask for the fight. Rightfully so, Glover is on the cusp of title contention and if Te Huna is able to pull off the upset he could vault himself up the ladder. As promising a chance Te Huna has at pulling off the upset, Glover won't be the fighter he can do it against.
Junior dos Santos (15-2-0) vs. Mark Hunt (9-7-0): This is another bout that isn't going as originally scheduled. JDS was scheduled to face Alistair Overeem, but Overeem pulled out due to a thigh injury and was replaced by "The Super Samoan." JDS is coming off a loss to Cain Velasquez, which cost him his UFC title, whereas Hunt is on a four-fight win streak and has won three of those bouts via KO/TKO. Hunt has become a fan favorite for his knockout ability and constant offense. JDS is the same way. Fans should get used to seeing multiple knockouts during the UFC 160 card, because there should be quite a few. It isn't out of the realm of possibility that the winner of this bout could be next in line for a title shot, which makes Hunt the emotional favorite. Many do not want to see a JDS vs. Cain Part 3 and plenty are counting on Hunt to make sure that doesn't happen.
Antonio Silva (18-4-0) vs. Cain Velasquez (11-1-0), UFC Heavyweight title bout: This is a rematch of a bout from last Memorial Day weekend, that fight ended with Velasquez leaving Silva a bloody mess in the middle of the octagon. Since then, Silva has defeated his last two opponents via KO/TKO and Velasquez retained the heavyweight title. It was a matter of time before these met again and it happens for the biggest prize in the UFC. There's a sense that this bout will end in a knockout or that Cain will repeat what he did to Silva just a year ago. It wouldn't be a surprise, but neither man is the same fighter they were in their first meeting. Both have grown and become stronger competitors. Silva knows what not to do against Cain -- leg kicks -- and Velasquez is well aware of the dangers that Silva presents.
The biggest difference this time around is Cain and his attitude. This is Velasquez's second reign as champion and he is focused on making it last longer than his previous one. He's added to his repertoire and is more confident than ever before. After losing his title the first time, something clicked and he's become more driven. A driven and focused Cain Velasquez truly is the "Baddest Man on the Planet." This bout won't be the first-round blood bath it was last May, but Cain is still likely to walk away the victor with a finish.
Nitesh Dutt is a Productions Assistant at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter @NiteshDutt.