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UFC on FOX Roundtable: Big Questions Before the Big Fight

Cain VelasquezWe're just a few days away from the first UFC on FOX event, and still so many questions remain. What will the show look like? Will Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos manage to deliver in the UFC's hour of need? And what ever shall I wear?!

To answer at least a couple of these queries, I enlisted the help of my MMA Fighting colleague Mike Chiappetta for a good old-fashioned writers' roundtable. Let's do this.

1. What do you make of the decision to air just one fight on FOX? If you were calling the shots, how would you spend that extra time?

I'm going to file this under 'Decisions I Understand, But Do Not Like.' It's a big file, one that begins with my parents' refusal to take me to a Guns N' Roses concert in 1991, and one that gets a little fatter every time the city denies my request to re-zone my garage as a tanning salon.

The UFC made a bold and perhaps brilliant move by throwing a heavyweight title fight on network TV. Everyone, regardless of their combat sports IQ, can appreciate the significance of the heavyweight title. Two big guys are going to try and knock each other out on a channel you could get with your grandmother's TV? Of course you want to see that.

When deciding how best to use the hour-long introduction on FOX, I can understand the need to both a) take some time and educate new viewers on what all this MMA nonsense is really about, while also b) preparing for the unlikely possibility that Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos will go the full five.

That said, would it kill them to keep one of the evening's better fights in the can, just in case? If there's an amazing fight somewhere on the undercard, wouldn't you want the flexibility to throw it onto the broadcast, time permitting? I know you need to take a minute and explain to some viewers that, contrary to what they've heard, biting and eye-gouging are not allowed in this crazy Thunderdome-esque sport, but too much of that and you risk condescending to your audience. I realize I'm biased, but I'd rather see a hand-picked fight from the prelims than a primer on joint locks.

Reality check ... Let's not forget that this fight isn't even part of the actual UFC-FOX contract. It is essentially a one-hour infomercial preview to advertise the coming of the UFC on FOX in 2012. And what do they give us? It's not Ron Popeil talking about a new product that is going to change your life. They're giving us a UFC heavyweight championship fight. For free. Yet people complain this isn't enough? So you're telling me you would rather have paid $54.95 to watch five fights just before the holiday season hits? I'm not buying it. This is a lot of belly-aching over something MMA observers should be thrilled about. I think MMA fans are conditioned to believe they're getting the short end of the stick no matter what. Having the spotlight on just one significant fight will make it easy to understand for those who are tuning into MMA for the first time, and this may hurt to hear, but this fight is more about them than you.

I like the fact that FOX will have brief pre-fight interviews with Velasquez and dos Santos, which will probably make the start time of the fight around 9:15 pm ET. If the fight ends in a flash, I would of course show replays and allow time for analysis of what just happened. And in the true spirit of the infomercial sell, I'd have Brock Lesnar and Alistair Overeem on site to hype their fight and promote the winner as the next contender for the championship. One hour will go by in a flash.

2. A lot seems to depend on whether this fight goes 25 minutes or 25 seconds. Call it: who wins, how, and when?

Chiappetta: If Cain Velasquez never suffered through his shoulder injury, this would be easier to predict, but a torn rotator cuff is a serious injury for any athlete, let alone someone whose livelihood depends on punching, pushing and pummeling for position. Because of that, a question mark hangs over this fight that otherwise wouldn't be there.

That said, I have to assume that Velasquez is close enough to 100 percent that he'll be able to do most of the things that have led to his unbeaten record and the title. He'll mix up his striking with punches, kicks and elbows, sprinkle in a few takedowns and even grind dos Santos against the cage in hopes of sapping his explosiveness and power. dos Santos' hands are so gifted that there's simply no reason to engage him where he's best, and Velasquez doesn't have to. It is Velasquez's motor that will ultimately win it, though. He can fight at a blistering pace longer than anyone at heavyweight. After the grind of a couple of rounds, that will get to dos Santos.

Velasquez wins by TKO from ground strikes late in the third round.

Fowlkes: The big question for me is, how conservative will Velasquez decide to play it? Are we looking at a replay of his fight with Cheick Kongo, which was a real nail-biter for every second it stayed standing and a total blowout every time it hit the mat? Or will the pressure to go all Forrest Griffin-Stefan Bonnar for the FOX debut get to the champ and make him do some things that might not be in his best interest?

I might be more worried about that with a different fighter, perhaps one known to let the spirit of the moment take him out of his game, but that's not Velasquez. The poise he showed in his bout with Brock Lesnar will serve him well here, and having a smart camp full of veteran coaches won't hurt either. I think he trades punches just long enough to open dos Santos up for the takedown, then he wears him out on the mat. I agree that it will be more of a grind than an explosion, and I also agree that dos Santos will succumb to the pace and the pressure more than the sheer power.

But because I agree with you, I must attempt to upstage you by getting even more specific with my prediction. Thus: Velasquez wins by TKO (corner stoppage), at the end of the fourth round, following 20 solid minutes of straight-up beatdown that JDS' trainers simply cannot stand to watch any longer. As Velasquez celebrates across the cage, JDS remains on his stool, blinded by swelling, insisting that he can continue even as his coach fans him with a towel and tells him that he doesn't have anything left to prove. "Not to me," he'll add, choking back tears. "Not to anyone."

Thank you and goodnight!

3. The undercard fighters are, in a way, a part of history here, but is this a raw deal for guys like Clay Guida and Ben Henderson?

Short answer: yes. How could it not be a raw deal? Usually, even if you're the curtain-jerker for a UFC pay-per-view, there is at least a chance that you could end up on TV. If you have a great fight or a quick finish you might just make the broadcast and please your sponsors, not to mention your family and friends. Granted, it's far from guaranteed, but at least you have that lottery ticket in your back pocket.

With this event, however, there's not even a chance. Even Guida and Henderson will have to be content with a Facebook stream and an appearance on Fox Deportes. No offense to The D (that's a hip new nickname I'm trying to start for Fox Deportes -- just play along), but I'm not sure Guida grew up dreaming of the day he'd be fighting on a Spanish-language cable TV broadcast. Years from now these other guys on the FOX card might be the answers to a trivia question, but Cain and JDS are what people will remember. Kind of a bummer, when you consider what's at stake in some of these fights that will be afterthoughts for the vast majority of viewers.

I don't know Fowlkes, have you ever seen a Spanish telenovela? If the hero gets the girl, I don't think Guida would be so opposed.

But yes, it is a raw deal for Guida and Henderson, who will be competing in the biggest fight of their lives before an internet audience of ... thousands? That said, I would expect a raucous crowd at the venue in Anaheim, and there is a huge potential reward in it for both men, so it's not exactly going to be meaningless. In some ways, this might be a bigger letdown for Guida, who has fought for the UFC for five years and probably saw this bout as his coming-out party. Henderson is at a much earlier stage in his career, and after recently coming over from the WEC, he might not take the bright lights and big audiences for granted.

An internet stream is not the optimal outlet for a fight of this importance, but at least the winner can soothe himself with the probable top contender status that is likely to come his way.

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