Randy Couture still pays close attention to the UFC heavyweight division, and he doesn’t see Cain Velasquez giving up his title any time soon.
“I feel like Cain is the guy to beat,” Couture told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “Even in his loss to Junior (dos Santos) the first time, I was very surprised it went that way and expected it to go a lot more like their second fight.”
Velasquez (11-1 MMA, 9-1 UFC) dominated dos Santos at UFC 155 to regain the title he lost to the Brazilian at UFC on FOX 1. Now, the Mexican-American champ rematches another Brazilian opponent, Antonio Silva (18-4 MMA, 2-1 UFC), whom he badly beat one year ago at UFC 146.
The bout headlines UFC 160, which takes place Saturday at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas (10 p.m. ET, pay-per-view).
Couture, who spent the latter part of his career switching from light heavyweight to heavyweight before retiring in 2011, admits he’s partial to wrestlers such as Velasquez, who like him segued from the mats to the cage.
In Velasquez’s first meeting with Silva, it was ground and pound that carried the day as he took the fight to the mat early and landed big shots from overhead.
But when breaking down the now-champ’s second meeting with “Bigfoot,” he believes Silva has a chance to pull off the upset if his fist connects with Velasquez’s jaw.
“You can’t afford to play around with guys that size,” Couture said. “Trust me. I know.”
After a contract dispute with the UFC in 2007 that saw him briefly walk away from the sport, Couture returned to the heavyweight division in 2008 to face the 265-pound Brock Lesnar. After early success taking down the massive former wrestler, he was caught with a punch while trading punches in the second and suffered a TKO loss.
Couture fought twice more as a heavyweight, facing the smaller Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and the bloated James Toney, but light heavyweight was from then on where he was considered to be most competitive.
The 6-foot-4, 260-pound Silva is just the type of menace whom Couture would try to take down to avoid the result he met against Lesnar. Interestingly, he believes Silva might be best served doing the same against Velasquez.
“He has to come out, close the distance and get on Cain, especially if he can knock him down or take him down and get on top of him,” Couture said. “Establish a good top game, which if Cain wants to get up, he’s probably going to be able to do that, which would force Silva to do it again. He’s going to have be able to do it over and over in each and every round.”
But with Velasquez’s superior mat credentials, Couture believes it probably will be Silva on his back more often than not.
“I just think that athletically, Cain is just too much for him,” he said. “[Silva] is dangerous. He’s big, he’s strong, and he can hit hard, and if Cain gets caught up in that kind of fight and wants to trade with him, it could be a surprise. But I think Cain is smart. I think he’s going to have a game plan and do the appropriate thing he needs to do: implement the striking he has, but use wrestling to win that fight.”
For the latest on UFC 160, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.
(Pictured: Brock Lesnar)