Point-counterpoint: Cain stoppage & trilogy bout

Cain Velasquez stopped Antonio Silva with strikes, while Junior dos Santos put away Mark Hunt and the two winners will meet again for the title.

In our last point-counterpoint on Wednesday, two guest bloggers debated two points related to the knockout of the night bonus at UFC 160. Here we debate two more topics from Saturday’s show, both pertaining to headliner Cain Velasquez, who defeated Antonio Silva by TKO in a stoppage that some thought was controversial, and who will now fight Junior dos Santos in a third heavyweight championship meeting between the two.

Our sportsnet.ca bloggers Mike Johnston and James Brydon give their thoughts in this “Point-counterpoint Extra.”

As always, cast your votes as to which arguments you like better…

WAS THE VELASQUEZ-SILVA STOPPAGE TOO EARLY?

Johnston: Yes, Silva deserved more time

I can’t sit here and say this was a terrible stoppage — there have been far, far worse ones in the UFC — but it was definitely earlier than it needed to be.

When Velasquez landed that beautiful one-two combination on Silva that dropped the giant, everyone figured the fight was about to be over. Silva fell to the canvas but he never lost consciousness and he began working from his knees immediately.

As Velasquez pounded away, Silva was covering up, moving around and looking to improve his position. In my mind, that constitutes intelligently defending yourself. Yes, Cain was landing big shots, but there’s no rule saying a fight has to be stopped if a fighter eats big shots.

We’ve seen so many times in the past a fighter get rocked, dropped and even briefly put into unconsciousness – Cheick Kongo vs. Pat Barry anyone? Even earlier on the UFC 160 card, Mike Pyle was flattened by Rick Story yet that fight wasn’t stopped and Pyle came back to win a split decision.

Yes, the referee’s job is to ensure fighter safety, first and foremost, but it should also be the referee’s job – especially a veteran like Mario Yamasaki who has officiated hundreds of elite-level fights – to understand the limits of the fighters he is refereeing.

Silva is notorious for being able to endure an inordinate amount of punishment. Perhaps it would have simply been delaying the inevitable, but it would have been nice to see Silva given a better chance to recover.

No, Silva was done

At the moment that the referee stopped the bout, Antonio Silva was on all fours having just absorbed 11 consecutive unblocked punches to the head. If that’s considered intelligently defending himself, then I fear for Bigfoot’s intelligence.

No, I’m not trying to take a shot at Silva. When he was first dropped, he tried to defend and tried to come back. Indeed, maybe had Velasquez run out of gas as he was pouring haymaker after haymaker on him, Silva may have survived and may even have been able to return to his feet. But it’s not the referee’s job to deal with hypotheticals. His job is examine the action in front of him and from what he was seeing, the most likely scenario was that Silva was only going to suffer an unnecessary amount of additional damage had he let it continue. So he quite correctly stopped it.

Yes, referees do need to take into account a fighter’s experience, past results, and ability to absorb punishment. But remember, this is MMA not boxing. The goal isn’t to pummel a fighter to the point where he is unconscious or unable to stand within a 10-count. It is to get your opponent in a position where he has been “submitted” – either willingly or not. When you’ve reached double digits in consecutive undefended blows to the head, you’re done. That even applies to Silva, no matter how big a head he has.


IS NOW THE RIGHT TIME FOR CAIN-JDS TRILOGY BOUT?

Johnston: Yes, both are at their best

As soon as Velasquez won his five-round decision over dos Santos at UFC 155 – a year after being KO’d by Junior — everyone knew we’d one day see a trilogy match and now is the perfect time to set it up.

Velasquez and dos Santos really have separated themselves from the rest of the pack and the champion fighting the undisputed No. 1 contender makes perfect sense simply from a rankings aspect.

But more than that, not only would this be one of the most anticipated fights in UFC history, but it would be a matchup of the two best heavyweights in MMA history competing against one another at full health in their prime (sorry Fedor fans, your boy has been leapfrogged).

In their first fight, Velasquez was coming off surgery and hadn’t fought in 13 months. In the rematch, dos Santos over-trained and his creatinine levels were off the charts, which resulted in serious fatigue on fight night.

It’s fair to say, based on what we’ve seen of them in the past and what we saw from them at UFC 160, that neither fighter was as healthy as he could have been in the first two matchups.

The UFC made the right call with this one. A trilogy bout where both are 100 per cent will bring out the best in both fighters.

Brydon: No, it’s too soon for third meeting

UFC president Dana White called doing the trilogy bout now a “no-brainer.” Perhaps that’s the problem with the UFC’s matchmaking lately.

Look, I’m not trying to insult White or Lorenzo Fertitta or Joe Silva or Sean Shelby. They do a great job of putting together exciting fights, and you can bet Cain vs. JDS 3 will fit the bill. But sometimes you need to think beyond the fight itself and consider the wider implications of making it, and to have a third heavyweight title fight between the same individuals so close together – it will be three straight years now and only two other guys have fought for the heavyweight title since Velasquez first won it in October 2010 – can lead to some monotony in the division. I would have preferred to see the title shot go to a guy on a longer win streak like Fabricio Werdum (assuming he beats Big Nog next weekend for his third straight victory).

The truth is, Cain and Junior are indeed proving themselves to be on another level from the rest of the division. But by making them fight again right now, you’re actually highlighting that fact – and effectively giving the impression the division is not deep enough to have other reasonable challengers. This is not good for the long-term promotion of the organization’s biggest class.

Many complained when we saw Frankie Edgar repeatedly competing in immediate rematches. While not quite the same thing, we run into a similar danger here. Let’s see a little more variety in title fights.

You can bet their rubber match will happen at some point down the line, but it would be better after each has taken on another challenge to prove their third meeting truly is the fight that needs to take place, and isn’t simply the de facto option because there are no others (ie., the “no-brainer.”)

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