LAS VEGAS — It’s gone all but unnoticed that we are going through a time of unparalleled stability for the UFC champions. As we near the end of May, not a single title has changed hands yet in 2013.
So far, Jon Jones, Georges St-Pierre, Benson Henderson, Jose Aldo, Renan Barao, Demetrious Johnson and Ronda Rousey have successfully defended belts. That’s seven wins without a loss, a trend that is expected to continue at Saturday’s UFC 160, where Cain Velasquez is a heavy favorite over Antonio Silva.
Since Zuffa bought the UFC in 2001, the latest title change during any year came in 2009, when the short-lived “Machida Era” began with a knockout of Rashad Evans. That fight took place on Memorial Day Weekend, and the event fell on May 23.
So, judging from past history, it seems we are overdue for a champion to lose.
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One clue why a title change has yet to happen? Usually, at the championship level, there isn’t much separating the champion from the challenger, and as a result, most title matchups are considered to be relatively close affairs by the oddsmakers and public. But UFC 160 continues an uncommon phenomenon of four straight pay-per-views headlined by a title match with a lopsided favorite and a sizable underdog.
Velasquez has ballooned to a 7-to-1 favorite, partially on the strength of his past win over Silva. This follows a series of fights where Jones neared 10-to-1 over Chael Sonnen, St-Pierre was 5-to-1 over Nick Diaz and Rousey was around 7-to-1 over Liz Carmouche.
Can Silva end the trend and score an upset? One good sign in his favor is he’s historically done well as an underdog. Just since the start of 2011, he’s won three times from the position, beating Fedor Emelianenko, Travis Browne, and Alistair Overeem.
Small world for Grant, Brenneman
Remember Charlie Brenneman, the former UFC fighter trying to work his way back to the octagon? In 2011, Brenneman was scheduled to fight T.J. Grant at UFC on Versus 4, but Grant fell ill just days before the event and withdrew, and Brenneman eventually went on to replace Nate Marquardt and fight Rick Story. Brenneman upset Story, ending his six-fight win streak. Afterward, the two stayed in touch, became friends, and on Saturday, Brenneman will be cornering Grant as the Canadian attempts to earn the lightweight division’s No. 1 contender slot.
Fight week quotes
T.J. Grant on potentially fighting Benson Henderson …
“I feel like I can beat anyone in the world. I’m not looking past Gray Maynard and I won’t, but I don’t want to give an answer on the Benson thing. He’s a very good fighter. He’s the champion for a reason. But I know if I go out there and fight my fight against anyone, I can win.”
Junior dos Santos’ fight prediction …
“I will knock him out. I’m faster than him and I’ll open some spaces on his game to knock him out.”
Cain Velasquez on what changes he expects from Antonio Silva …
“I’m just ready for everything. Whatever he comes out with. If his style is different, I’ll be ready. I know what it feels like to lose and I don’t like that feeling. I’m going to do anything in my power to win.”
Antonio Silva on what changes he’ll implement …
“The game plan is basically the same. I trained very hard standup, wrestling, jiu-jitsu. The difference is I had more time to train. Last time, I took the fight with two weeks before. This time I had 10 weeks. More time to train. The strategy was the same, but I put little details in my jiu-jitsu game because he has good elbows and I have a big head. I need to make space to try to submit him and stay off his elbows.”
Gray Maynard on whether he has the same drive to win a title as he did when he was a younger fighter …
“It’s kind of different. You change. I added a kid to the picture. Now it’s not about me, it’s about we. My little team, and the goals that we have, and so I need to achieve those goals.”
Glover Teixeira on the possibility of fighting Jon Jones in the future …
“In the back of your head, you always think ahead at what’s going to happen, because that’s the dream. But right now, I’m trying to focus on one fight. When it happens, I’ll be prepared. I think it will be a good fight. I’m going to come after him and try to take his head off.”
Mark Hunt on his improbable story continuing on Saturday …
“I’m always the underdog in every fight. Junior was the best in world. Of course I‘m the underdog. It’s good for me. When people don’t see it coming, that’s when it hurts the most.”
Dana White on Nick Diaz’s new MMA promotion …
“Good for him. Welcome to the losing money business.”
UFC 160 notes
- Silva will have his hands full trying to match Velasquez’s pace. In recapturing the belt last December, Velasquez became the only fighter in UFC history to land 100 or more significant strikes and 10 or more takedowns in a single fight. Amazingly, the heavyweight also lands more strikes per minute (14.0) than any fighter in UFC history.
- dos Santos’ nine knockdowns are the most in UFC heavyweight history
- Hunt has the best significant strike defense (1.56 per minute) and best takedown defense by percentage (85 percent) of any active UFC heavyweight.
- Maynard has bragging rights over Frankie Edgar in one thing: he has the record for significant strike defense in UFC lightweight history (72.7%), just ahead of Edgar (71.8%).
- Donald Cerrone has spent only 17 seconds of time on his back during his eight-fight UFC tenure.
- Glover Teixeira’s 18-fight win streak is impressive, but it isn’t even the best current stretch on the card. That honor goes to 24-year-old Khabib Nurmagomedov, who has yet to taste defeat at 19-0 overall.
- At age 21, Max Holloway is still the youngest fighter on the UFC roster, yet he’ll already be heading into his fifth UFC bout (he’s currently 3-1 in the octagon).
- Opponents Maynard and Grant both recently became first-time fathers. Maynard’s daughter Estella Eve was born on New Year’s Eve, while Grant’s daughter Casey was welcomed into the world last month.
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