My curmudgeonly friend Alan was skeptical today when the topic of UFC 155 came up in conversation. Skeptical not just of the heavyweight title fight between Cain Velasquez and champion Junior dos Santos, but of my excitement to see a rematch of the bout that lasted only 64 seconds last year at the UFC's Fox debut.
Wasn't there, he wondered, the chance of the fight once again ending quickly? Or worse still, dragging on and on, a potential 25-minute slog that would test the patience of everyone watching?
The answer to both questions, of course, is a huge yes.
An emphatic yes.
A yes bigger than the combined girth of Scott Ferrozzo and David "Tank" Abbott when they set the standard for bad heavyweight fights at UFC 11 one muggy night in Augusta, Ga.
But to me the potential pain is worth risking because of the wondrous things that might happen once the steel cage closes. The yin to disaster's yang is the very real possibility that the fight provides the kind of moment that will go down in history, both recorded and mental. A moment so magical that it melts the heart of even the fiercest flyweight fan.
Here's the hard truth: The heavyweights will always be special. Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez aren't just fighting for a gold belt. They are fighting for something much bigger than that. They fight for an idea, for a concept, for a chance to be more than a champion, but rather to be the toughest man on the planet. It's why this fight, despite both men being charisma-less pits of despair and ennui, will still demand and receive the sport's undivided attention.
There are plenty of other great fighters in the UFC and in the sport of mixed martial arts. You don't need me to list them. Their deeds and their actions speak loudly. And yet they fight in the shadow of the heavyweights because we know, deep down, that they exist merely because some sensitive soul created weight classes to allow it. We list "pound-for-pound" greats with the unspoken assumption that every fighter in a lower weight class would be systematically destroyed against the best heavyweights without this fictional hand up.
As great as Jose Aldo is, as much fun as it is to watch Demetrius Johnson scamper around the cage, we all know that Brock Lesnar uses weights bigger than either man, not at the bench press, but to perform a simple bicep curl. It's this sheer enormity that makes the division so compelling, the sense that the competitors could literally move mountains if they so desired.
One of the great things about the heavyweight class is the sheer unpredictability, even at the top of the division's ranks. Since the UFC belt was created in 1997, no champion has defended his title successfully more than twice. Most champions haven't even managed a single successful bout as the division's kingpin. Great power mixed with four-ounce gloves gives almost anyone a puncher's chance.
That's why it isn't smart to discount Velasquez's chances against dos Santos because he was so brutally destroyed in their first fight. Heavyweight MMA is like that. This time it could be Junior on the wrong end of a haymaker. Anything can happen—and that's why we can't help but watch.