COMMENTARY | There aren't too many people giving Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva a great chance to pry away the UFC heavyweight title from the clutches of Cain Velasquez at UFC 160. Primarily because of what happened when the two met around this time last year when Velasquez completely dominated Silva en route to a brutal and bloody first round TKO.
But if there's one thing that Cain Velasquez knows all too well, it's how to take advantage of a second chance.
Velasquez was in a similar position this past December when he looked to avenge a lightning quick knockout loss to Junior Dos Santos. The loss sent a shock through the MMA world, not because Dos Santos won, but because of how quickly he took care of business to become the new UFC heavyweight champion. Some figured that Dos Santos would win again in the rematch, but Velasquez thoroughly dominated the fight from bell to bell and handed the Brazilian one of the most one sided beatdowns in recent memory. All it took was some minor adjustments (and being injury free) to change the fortunes of the fight. So, if he could come out victorious after being a victim of a first round knockout, why can't Silva?
"I think he's going to come into this fight completely different," Velasquez said during UFC 160's media day while acknowledging that he knows the position that Bigfoot is in first hand. "His first game plan didn't work so obviously he has to have a better plan for this fight. I do expect a much more improved Bigfoot Silva from our last fight."
Since being starched by Velasquez last year, Silva scored two devastating knockout victories against Travis Browne and Alistair Overeem to put himself in the position to face Velasquez in a rematch. However, this is for all of the marbles and, for Silva, that changes everything. "It was really important for me to get a second fight," Silva said. "But (the UFC heavyweight title) is everything to my career. It's my dream. I want to get it and I will take it."
When looking back on their first encounter, Silva recognizes that he made an ill-advised error that cost him. A low kick that Velasquez caught and used to take Silva down spelled the beginning of the end. Don't expect him to make the same mistake twice.
"I'm training different and because I have nine weeks to train instead of two, I can focus strictly on Cain Velasquez," Silva said. Knowing that Velasquez' biggest strength is his wrestling ability, Silva has brought in more wrestlers to help him defend against the takedown.
"I brought in Steve Mocco to train with me," Silva said. You may be wondering what is the significance of Steve Mocco being part of Silva's camp. Well, Mocco faced Velasquez several times while wrestling in college and is unbeaten against the current UFC heavyweight champion. "We now know everything about Cain Velasquez' wrestling. I know MMA is different than wrestling but Mocco can help me better prepare."
Velasquez is well aware what a second chance means to Silva. And because of that, he sees this version of Silva as a far more dangerous opponent than the first time they clashed. However, Velasquez is also a different fighter now that he has reclaimed the UFC heavyweight title. After losing it to Dos Santos, Velasquez says that he plans to hold the championship with a much firmer grip because he realizes how it felt to lose it and doesn't ever want that to happen again. For him, this fight is like winning the title all over again.
"I just see it as we're both fighting for a new belt," he said while stating that he's not satisfied with his career just yet. It's no longer about winning the title, it's about keeping it by any means necessary. "It's up for grabs for both of us so let the best man win. But it's not just about winning the belt, it's about beating the best fighters out there."
For Silva, being the underdog in this rematch doesn't bother him one bit. After all, when is the last time that Bigfoot was favored to win a fight? He defeated Fedor Emelianenko and Alistair Overeem when nobody thought he could. Now he plans to prove everyone wrong by taking home the UFC title. If that happens at UFC 160, the odds makers will have to reconsider his underdog status.
"After this fight I will be the favorite, for sure," Silva said with a smile. It's not too often that you get a second chance with stakes higher than the first encounter. Both Velasquez and Silva know this and are preparing accordingly.
Andreas Hale lives in the fight capital of the world and has covered the sport for mainstream media outlets such as MTV.com and Jay-Z's LifeandTimes.com, as well as die-hard websites including FightNews.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@AndreasHale).
- Mixed Martial Arts
- Martial Arts
- Cain Velasquez
- Dos Santos