It shapes up as another explosive matchup between heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos at UFC 166. The standout heavyweight competitors have split their prior affairs heading into the rubber match. The previous battles couldn’t have been more different. The Brazilian dos Santos became the new champion when he stunned Velasquez in just 64 seconds at UFC on FOX 1. Velasquez gained his revenge in the rematch with a decision victory to regain his title after laying down a brutal beat down of dos Santos over five rounds.
While the trilogy fight is being labeled as the final chapter, you really have to wonder if this is the final time that these two talented heavyweights will ever cross paths. The reasoning is that they are simply seen as head and shoulders above everybody else in the weight class. The winner Saturday night will undoubtedly have new challenges to face such as Fabricio Werdum, Josh Barnett or Travis Browne, but after that the ranks get quite thin.
Daniel Cormier could have become a key figure in the heavyweight ranks but he’s decided to make the move to 205 pounds after his fight against Roy Nelson. Cormier trains with Velasquez and is very good friends with the current heavyweight champ. He’s decided to pursue a light heavyweight title shot and avoid the prospect of facing Velasquez in the Octagon.
The UFC’s heavyweight ranks is lacking in depth at the moment and that shows in veterans Alistair Overeem and Frank Mir both still being ranked in the top 10. Overeem has been knocked out in two straight fights while Mir is on the first three-fight losing streak of his career. Both are believed to be fighting for their jobs when they meet at UFC 169.
All of these variables are reasons why I think the Velasquez-dos Santos rivalry could extend beyond three fights. These two fighters are in the prime of their careers and you know that the loser in Houston will be bound and determined to work their way back for another title opportunity. You would be hard-pressed to bet against either of them doing that.
As for this weekend’s latest installment of the Velasquez-dos Santos rivalry, there’s not much of a change in what to expect from their prior meetings. Velasquez will need to be wary of dos Santos’s immense one punch power in the opening round. That’s how he was victimized in their first fight.
However, if the bout does go beyond those first five minutes, Velasquez’s tremendous cardio and tempo should take over. The champion fights at a frenetic pace for a heavyweight and possesses strong wrestling and a serious ground and pound game. Velasquez also showed in the second fight that he could deliver some solid punches of his own as dos Santos tired and his defense became more penetrable.
We should be in for a thrilling affair Saturday night and when all is said and done it’s likely many fight fans wouldn’t mind at all if Velasquez and dos Santos were to meet for a fourth time down the road.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports