SANTA MONICA, Calif. – Tonight’s UFC on FOX main event is one of the closest heavyweight fights in history. The champion and challenger seem evenly matched, at least on paper. Media and public perception of the fight is nearly split down the middle.
It’s a rare instance of fans and pundits believing that both men have a real chance to win the fight. UFC middleweight contender Chael Sonnen doesn’t agree.
While appearing on Thursday’s edition of ESPN’s MMA Live, Sonnen named UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez as not just the best heavyweight in MMA history, but the best heavyweight in the history of combat sports.
“Cain Velasquez, for my money, is the most intimidating force ever in heavyweight combat,” Sonnen said. “That includes guys like Tyson, Holyfield, Foreman. Whoever you want to name, Velasquez is the most feared of them all.”
Velasquez is just 9-0 in professional mixed martial arts competition. But the champion, with his rare blend of skill, speed and endurance, has Sonnen believing he could be one of the all time greats.
It’s certainly too early to call him the greatest heavyweight in MMA history, much less the greatest in the history of combat sports. But there is no question that Velasquez has been a dominant force in the sport and has a very real chance to cement himself as one of the greats if he’s able to get past Dos Santos and the winner of the Brock Lesnar/Alistair Overeem main event at UFC 141 in December.
Sonnen, who will likely score a rematch with middleweight champion Anderson Silva in the first half of 2012, believes that Dos Santos’ only chance to beat Velasquez will come early in the fight.
“Junior’s got to win this fight and he’s got to win early,” he said. “If he doesn’t win it in the first round – and realistically if he doesn’t win it in the first minutes of the first round – it’s going to go from bad to worse.”
Strong words from a fighter who, at least publicly, rarely has anything good to say about other fighters, regardless of weight class.