The first time Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez met inside the Octagon was November 12, 2011. The UFC, fresh from signing a seven-year deal with Fox, built a one-hour special around the fight as a way to introduce the Fox viewers to the sport. The fight filled a mere 64 seconds of that hour as Dos Santos knocked out Velasquez and claimed the UFC heavyweight title for his own.
Dos Santos entered that riding an eight-fight winning streak with six of those eight wins coming via stoppage, including two “Knockout of the Night” performances. He was also a fighter that wasn’t under the pressure of being the defending champion, something he will be during the rematch.
If you think that increased pressure is getting to the champ this time around, you’d be wrong, as Dos Santos said he’s feeling, “No pressure. This is what I want. This is where I want to be, in the main event of the biggest show.”
The question of pressure is one that always arises when fighters enter title fights; one inquiry that is rare is if a fighter feels that an injury to his opponent the first time around affected the outcome of that fight.
That question has dogged Dos Santos since he defeated Velasquez. Dos Santos dismissed that talk: “Cain was injured at that time, but I was injured at that time too. I’m not upset about [talk of Cain’s injury].”
If the words of the fighters are honest, injury is not something either of them will have to deal with when they face off on December 29, as Velasquez said he is healthy this time.
Dos Santos echoed those words: “I’m 100 percent now and ready to fight. I’ve got no injuries, and I’m feeling great. I had an excellent training camp here in Brazil, and I’m ready to fight.”
As for his game plan for the fight, Dos Santos didn’t sound like he was too interested in deviating from what has been working for him throughout his career: “[I’m going to use the] same game plan. I’ll keep the fight standing against him again. That’s what I like to do.”
With that being said, Dos Santos doesn’t expect the same Cain Velasquez he faced in November of last year: “I think he’s going to come different for this fight, hungrier for sure and try to improve his game. He’s going to try and take me down and use his ground-and-pound.”
No matter what game plan Velasquez uses, Dos Santos doesn’t feel the outcome of the fight will be any different than it was the first time: “I think I am going to knock him out again.”
Coming from another fighter, that confidence could be looked upon as cockiness, but that’s not a tag that’s ever been hung around the neck of Dos Santos—nor has it ever been associated with Velasquez.
When asked to give his opinion of Velasquez, Dos Santos didn’t hesitate to heap praise on the former champion: “I think Cain Velasquez is a professional. He doesn’t use trash talk to promote his fights. He’s a great fighter. I respect him a lot as a professional.”
Dos Santos then went on to say, “I prefer to fight against clean athletes and real professionals. Cain Velasquez is one of these guys.”
On December 29, these two professionals will see who will lay claim to the UFC heavyweight title at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV.
**all quotes obtained first hand