Fightweets: Josh Barnett's take on Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos

USA TODAY Sports

To the untrained eye, Junior dos Santos' attempted choke of Cain Velasquez in the fifth round of their UFC 166 fight was a desperate dash to steal a fight which he was doomed to lose.

The fact that dos Santos slipped and hit his head off the mat, which led directly to Velasquez's TKO win, would seem to validate that position.

But one fighter who has been through his share of heavyweight slugfests says dos Santos was much closer to getting the submission than it may have looked to the casual observer.

"People can say what they want, but this is what I see, and this is what I know as a professional fighter," former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett told MMAFighting.com. "Junior threw on this nasty front choke, with a sleeper-style lockup on it, which is super-tight. Cain's a wrestler. If you try to front choke him or front headlock him in any way, there's a whole myriad of things he's going to do.

"So he gets locked into that thing, he was getting choked, and he spun," Barnett continued. "Because that's your last-ditch resort to getting out of that move. And that's why Junior planted his head right into the mat, because of that spin."

While Barnett won't go so far as to say dos Santos would have pulled off the miracle finish had Velasquez not spun out, he re-iterated that Velasquez was in a worse spot than it appeared on the surface.

"The reasoning behind Cain hitting that spin like that is that he was being threatened," Barnett said. "And then when Junior spiked his head right into the mat, which is a gnarly sensation, he was done."

Barnett has always marched to the beat of his own drummer, so it shouldn't come as a big surprise that he has a minority view on whether Velasquez-dos Santos should have been stopped sooner that it was. Barnett, after all, is an old-school type whose career dates back to the mid-1990s, so fighting to the finish is in his blood.

"The fighter knows best," Barnett said. "Let them do their job. If they want to quit, they'll quit. Junior will live to fight another day, so will Cain, everybody's OK. The worst thing you can do to a fighter is stop it before you give him a chance to give all he's got. All that time in the ring, all that opportunity, any chance you might have had, gone. What if Junior got that thing locked up, and boom, the fight is over? Then we're not even having this conversation."

With that, on to another edition of Fightweets.

Can Werdum tame Cain?

@TravisMacklem: Does Werdum really have the tools to be Velasquez or is it just UFC hype in motion again?

I understand why the initial instinct to Velasquez vs. Fabricio Werdum is to say "UFC hype machine." Having not only avenged his only career loss in a savage manner and done it again, but having also pretty much blitzed everyone else in his path along the way, Velasquez isn't too far from the point where it's going to get difficult to sell his challengers to his heavyweight title as credible.

But you have to put the breaks on those thoughts for now. Werdum's jiu-jitsu is legit. There's no major player in the heavyweight division with his credentials. He owns four world jiu-jitsu championship gold medals and a pair of ADCC golds. Velasquez has never been tested by anyone with Werdum's jitz cred.

Whether Werdum will be able to withstand Cain's assault in the standup or his relentless clinch work is a valid question. But we can't just assume that Velasquez will be free to take Werdum down and start wailing away as if he's another Brock Lesnar. One false move and Velasquez's belt is gone.

That's not a hype. If you don't believe me, ask Fedor Emelianenko some time.

Will Junior ever be champ again?

@The_AaronOBrien: Do you see Junior dos Santos ever getting the title back?

Never say never. I mean, the night 11 years ago when Randy Couture lost the heavyweight title to Barnett, if someone came up to you and said "Here's what's going to happen: Randy will drop down to light heavyweight, win the title twice, retire, come back out of retirement and win the heavyweight title again at age 43, get into a legal fight with the UFC which sidelines him, then come back more than a year later and finally lose the title to pro wrestler Brock Lesnar," you would have told that person to put down the crack pipe and get away from you.

If you want to say dos Santos will never get the title back as long as Velasquez is champion, I can go for that. Who's going to want to pay to see Cain whup on JDS again?

But let's play best-case scenario for Junior. Let's assume dos Santos is able to bounce back from those beatings and return to being the happy-go-lucky knockout artist we remember. Say Velasquez goes out and is upset by Werdum. Now let's say, in the interim, dos Santos returns and scored an impressive victory over someone like Barnett or Travis Browne. Let's also say Velasquez-Werdum goes down in a manner that makes it impossible for the UFC to an immediate rematch. Now you're left with Werdum, Junior, and, oh yeah, the tape of the dos Santos' bullseye bolo punch knockout which blasted Werdum right out of the UFC in 2008. The script practically writes itself.

Improbable? Maybe. Impossible? Not by a long shot.

Hall of Fame for Diego?

@ArtoH: I'd say Diego Sanchez should be a HOF'er. What would you say?

Interesting question. First, we should probably discuss what the UFC Hall of Fame is and what it isn't. The UFC Hall of Fame is not the MMA Hall of Fame. Does Diego Sanchez belong in the mythical MMA Hall of Fame? No.

But the UFC has made it clear that their Hall of Fame is for fighters who did something special and enduring for the company, not necessarily those who were the greatest pure fighters to step into the Octagon. If there was any question left, it was set in stone when Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar were inducted.

So if we look at the UFC Hall of Fame as something similar to a sports team retiring jersey numbers and not as the MMA equivalent to Cooperstown, the dynamics change. And then Diego becomes an interesting case.

This will seem unrelated at first, but Monday night I attended a screening of the UFC's 20th anniversary documentary on Sunset Blvd. I don't think I'm giving away any gigantic spoilers here by saying the first season of The Ultimate Fighter is a part of the flick. I interviewed Dana White afterward for a piece which will run sometime near the documentary's premiere on Nov. 5, and he pretty much got misty-eyed talking about the first TUF cast.

The point here? It's clear the fighters from the first season of TUF hold huge sentimental sway with White. From Griffin and Bonnar in the Hall, to White's obvious affection for Chris Leben, to the doors he opened for Kenny Florian to have a successful broadcasting career once he retired, the TUF 1 fighters who made a go of things clearly hold a special place.

So, in that context? With all the wars Sanchez has put on for the fans over the years? With two Fights of the Year among his six Fights of the Night? When you put all these factors together, the idea of Diego Sanchez in the UFC Hall of Fame isn't quite as nutty as it first sounds.

DC doesn't want to go to Europe

@YAHEARME614: Damn Cormier sure has a lot of demands. Trim your beard, now I'm not going to Europe?? WTF

I get what Daniel Cormier was trying to do when he went on UFC Tonight on Wednesday and declared he doesn't want to fight Alexander Gustafsson in Europe for his first light heavyweight bout. The fighters who double as UFC Tonight studio analysts have a bully pulpit few other fighters possess. They have a chance to get their message out there, unfiltered. Does Chael Sonnen manage to manipulate his way to a light heavyweight title shot on the heels of losing a middleweight title shot, if he wasn't out there every week dominating the discussion? Probably not. And the fact that we frequently hear from injured bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz, and see the anguish being on the sidelines has clearly caused him, has earned him quite a bit of sympathy for his plight.

So Cormier's staking out his position in public, like his colleagues. Will it work? That remains to be seen. Sonnen endeared himself even to his skeptics with his willingness to fight anyone, anywhere, anytime. Cruz makes it clear every time he speaks how badly he wants to compete again. Cormier went in the other direction, talking about what he doesn't want to do. Judging by the fact I got a ton of snarky responses like YAHEARME's to this, I'm not sure this approach going to win him many new fans.

Anthony Pettis vs. Jose Aldo

@thelowlyingmist: if u do a superfight with @josealdojunior & @Showtimepettis what weight? I think 145 with both belts on the line the fairest

The short answer is, Aldo would be expected to come up to 155, since White has said as much. But I think the window may have closed on the lightweight-featherweight superfight for awhile. At lightweight, Pettis has Josh Thomson on the horizon. Uncrowned champion Gilbert Melendez upped his stock with fans by putting on a barnburner with Diego Sanchez. T.J. Grant was promised a title shot, one he earned in the Octagon. And Benson Henderson is going to resurface eventually. At featherweight, I mean, the division's loaded, from the revitalized Chad Mendes to Ricardo Lamas to a surging Cub Swanson. Six months ago, when it appeared Henderson was about to clean out the division and Aldo was talking about moving up, it made more sense, but not now, not with both divisions jammed.

WSOF tickets

@JeffZanatta91: WSOF tickets in Vancouver are priced higher than UFC on FOX 9 and TUF Finale. What are they thinking?

Oh, I dunno ... maybe they think Vancouverites will get so angry over the ticket prices, they'll riot downtown, and they can film the fights which break out during the riot and air them instead? (Sorry dude, I'm a Bruins fan. Couldn't help myself).

Got a question for a future Fightweets? Go to my Twitter page and leave me a tweet.

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