In the most memorable fight trilogy the UFC has ever seen, two of the most decorated champions of all time went toe-to-toe over the course of three fights when Randy Couture fought Chuck Liddell for the light heavyweight title.
Couture won the first time out, and in his years looking back on the subsequent fights—both Liddell wins—he often noted that it’s easier for the guy who loses the first fight to come back better in the second. There are more adjustments that can be made, more to be learned from a loss than from a win.
Velasquez was knocked out by dos Santos a little over a year ago when the UFC made its debut on Fox. He saw the best that dos Santos has to offer, being finished by the Brazilian’s best tool in a minute. You know he’ll be better prepared for that possibility this time around.
There’s also the fact that the champion never saw the best of Velasquez in their first meeting. Be it due to injury or some other circumstance, dos Santos never had to deal with the relentless takedowns and utterly destructive ground-and-pound of his foe.
No one is more ruthless and more capable of doing damage at an unyielding rate than Velasquez, and thanks to a quick knockout last time, dos Santos didn’t have to worry about that prospect.
Don't discount hunger as a factor here as well.
Velasquez has been heralded as the first great heavyweight in modern MMA since he was a neophyte in the game, and while he's not known for being wildly animated or talkative, any man with "Brown Pride" tattooed on his chest is a guy who knows a thing or two about being proud.
His championship train was derailed, and it was derailed in explosive fashion. On the biggest night in UFC history, he lost an embarrassingly quick title fight and is now on Junior dos Santos' highlight reel forever as a result. If you don't think that burns him up—along with the fact that he gets to strike back at UFC 155—you're out of your mind.
There is no doubt that this fight will be one for the ages. Sure, it could end quickly and violently like the first meeting did (or as any heavyweight tilt can, really), but with the two best, young heavyweights in the world getting ready to throw down, it's hard not to be excited about what lies ahead.
Just look for Cain Velasquez to have the edge when the bell finally rings.