When Cain Velasquez's hand was raised at UFC 155, it marked the seventeenth time that the heavyweight belt has changed hands since its inception at UFC 12.
For five full rounds, Velasquez dominated Junior dos Santos, constantly taking him down and lighting him up with combinations in order to regain mixed martial arts' most coveted piece of hardware. But as we've seen over the years, keeping the belt is a lot harder than getting it.
Unlike some of the other weight classes, the heavyweight division has never really had that dominant, reigning champion. The middleweights have Anderson Silva, the welterweights have Georges St-Pierre and now the 205ers have Jon Jones, but the big guys don't really have that guy.
Dos Santos seemed to be that invincible force following his utter destruction of Frank Mir at UFC 146, but Velasquez blew that notion out of the water Saturday night. And the current champ knows all too well how quickly that title of the baddest man in combat sports can be taken away.
It would take an almost Herculean effort for a UFC heavyweight champion to keep the title when you take into account that every hardest hitting and most skilled fighters in the world are all vying to knock you out.
Getting to the level of a championship MMA fighter already requires an immense amount of athleticism and having the well-rounded skillset to deal with an array of precarious situations. But when you have all these skills and add in the size and power of the heavyweights, the chance of either fighter landing that one-punch knockout goes up immensely.
Take the current champ, for example. He has a fine-tuned skill set, is well-rounded in all the aspects of the game and is a natural athlete with freakish cardio. Even he's susceptible to that KO punch.
Or, for instance, the Gabriel Gonzaga and Mirko Cro Cop fight. The Pride legend was clearly the better technical striker, but when that shin hit his face, the amount of power behind, which is obviously way more than smaller fighters, was just too much to bear.
These guys are just really big and strong, so if they are lucky enough to connect with a punch or kick, it's not likely that the receiver will stay conscious.
And that's why it's so hard to stay the heavyweight champ. No fighter can stop every single strike from landing, so when it's a big guy, you better watch out.
Some guys can just take shots: the Roy Nelsons and dos Santoses of the world. In that case, it's back to the technical matchup. "Cigano" simply didn't have the right game plan and was just outworked, outwrestled and even outstruck. Velasquez was just the overall better fighter and one again displayed the skill set of a champ.
As MMA keeps evolving, it will be even harder for a heavyweight to dominate the division because the level of athleticism and skill will just keep getting higher with that one-punch KO always looming in the background.
Who knows if we will ever see an Anderson Silva-like champion in the heavyweight division. Jon Jones, should he move up, may be the man, as he has a skill set that's probably better than anyone in that weight class right now. But we'll have to see him take some punches from the big boys in order to see if Jones has the chin for it.
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