In the aftermath of Junior dos Santos' quick victory over Cain Velasquez, the news has emerged that dos Santos won the title while fighting with a torn meniscus suffered only 11 days before the bout. You couldn't tell from his performance however, apart from an odd sideways stance.
But dos Santos wasn't the only athlete dealing with the limitations of the flesh going into the fight. Velasquez was coming back after nearly 12 months off due to a surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. Before the fight some pundits wondered if Velasquez would be suffering from ring rust, a loss of confidence or even a fundamental erosion of his physical capabilities.
In addition, it's believed Velasquez sprained his knee and needed cortisone shots to compete. Per Joe Rogan talking to MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani after the fight: " There was a lot of rumblings about Cain Velasquez having a knee sprain, that he got shot with cortisone before the fight, so... who knows if that played a part in it, you know?"
"He had a shoulder surgery that took him out for over a year, right? So, there's that. And then on top of that, there was this knee issue and he came in at 249 pounds, which is heavy for him. I believe he's usually around 240ish, somewhere around that. He looked a little soft. So, it could be that he has had issues training. It could be, you know, shoulder surgeries are very difficult, you know. The joint is an unusual joint. It moves all sorts of different directions and it's notoriously hard to repair 100%. So, who knows if that was good. I mean, who knows what issues he had and who knows if Junior dos Santos would have done to a perfectly in-shape, perfectly healthy Cain anyway. Junior... if he hits him with that punch any time in Cain's life, Cain's going to be in big, big, big, big trouble, you know. It doesn't matter if he's in great shape or not, it's the punch that landed. It's why the punch landed. Did it land because Cain overestimates his chin? Did it land because Junior's just that good? Did it land because of ring rust? Did it land because of knee problems or shoulder? Who knows. But for Junior, perfect result."
Judging from what we could see in the cage tonight, Cain was at less than at the height of his powers. He looked tentative, slow, and if he had any snap in his right arm we didn't get a chance to see it. Nor was his one take down attempt convincing.
It's not easy to fight a 230lb bad-ass like dos Santos or Velasquez, imagine what it's like to step in the Octagon at less than your physical peak. Dos Santos, according to his coaches, will require knee surgery before facing the winner of UFC 141's Brock Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem.