For those of you who have just read the title of this article, I expect you must be understandably skeptical of the feasibility of this notion, but please, hear me out.
As an avid UFC fan and dedicated fight analyst, I spend much of my time reading articles and watching interviews and conferences related to mixed martial arts, and one subject that continues to resound in these circles is the super-fight, but for all this talk in the media about hypothetical super-fights between champions in different weight classes, I was surprised to observe that one matchup in particular was being conspicuously overlooked: Demetrious Johnson vs. Cain Velasquez.
While reading various pound for pound MMA rankings, I realized a prevailing trend--both Demetrious Johnson and Cain Velasquez ranked universally in the lists as two of the best fighters on the planet. With that consensus in mind, I'd like to explore this question: Who would win in a fight between the two if it were contested at a catch-weight of 205 lbs.?
Some of my readers may think impulsively--and I'd argue simplistically--"But Cain's bigger than Demetrious!" While this size difference very well may become a factor in their hypothetical encounter, that doesn't guarantee Cain would emerge the victor. In fact historically, size differences have even favored the smaller man on occasion. This possibility is made even more tangible due to Cain Velasquez's fighting style as I now intend to analyze it.
First of all, one of Cain Velasquez's most precious assets is his daunted stamina which has been superior to his opponent's in arguably every bout of Cain's mixed martial arts career. This is especially true because of the division in which Cain competes. Having said that, cutting down to light-heavyweight to face Demetrious would significantly dehydrate his body, inhibiting his ability to aggress against Johnson as tenaciously as he has his other opponents. In addition, unlike Cain's heavyweight opposition, Johnson has a gas tank comparable if not superior to Cain's, and unlike Cain, he wouldn't have to cut any weight to reach 205 pounds.
In fact, Demetrious Johnson would be able to meet Cain much stronger at light-heavyweight than he is now, and since he would also have a decisive, natural speed advantage over the slower Cain, it becomes increasing likely that Johnson would enter the Octagon as the more athletic of the two competitors.
Naysayers may agree that Cain's weight cut would be cumbersome, but that it would not be realistic due to his size. However, many fans and analysts have observed before that compared to most of the other heavyweights in the ufc, Cain stature is modest at best. He's visibly less muscular than his peers and stands at only 6'1''. With light-heavyweights like Brandon Vera, Jon Jones, and Phil Davis at 205, it's hard to imagine that Cain couldn't make weight if he only slimmed down with a healthier diet.
To conclude my analysis of the athletic differences of each fighter, I'll address the reach and height advantages that Cain would enjoy. While conventional intuition would still suggest that the taller, longer man should win the striking exchanges, this notion too can be empirically disproven. Manny Pacquiao didn't let his frame stop him from battering Antonio Margarito, and Robert Guerrero had no problem out-muscling Andre Berto. Both cases are examples of technique overcoming size, but more enlightening yet is that these fights illustrated how diminutive stature can be used to one's advantage on the feet. Johnson could exploit this height differential, as it easily allows him to duck under Cain's straight punches. Only uppercuts are ideal punches to throw at a fighter intent on ducking, but Cain has never demonstrated any proficiency with them. With such a small and quick target weaving around his attacks, I believe Cain would be hard-pressed to land a clean punch on Johnson. Kicks would always be an available alternative, but they would leave him susceptible to the wrestling of Johnson, and having the three-time world champion in your guard after attempting an ill-advised kick has not bode well for any of his opponents before, especially because he's never been submitted.
As for the reach advantage, closing the distance is usually a tall task for anyone to tackle against a larger opponent, but this case could be the exception as Cain's own aggression would facilitate closer engagements any time Demetrious chooses meets him in the middle of the cage. As an inveterate grappler, Cain has never been known to linger outside of his opponents' reaches anyway.
I'll now open this discussion to the readers themselves. Having considered all of my written observations and perhaps some of your own which I invite you to post, who do you think would win this fight?