Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos in a Class All Their Own

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Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos in a Class All Their Own

If the UFC 160 performances of Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos proved anything at all, it's that both men are in a league of their own in the UFC's heavyweight division.

There were no surprises, save for dos Santos and his stunning spinning wheel kick knockout win.

Analysts expected both to beat Antonio Silva and Mark Hunt, respectively. They did just that, with Velasquez mauling Silva in an even quicker manner than he did during their first meeting and dos Santos scoring the aforementioned knockout over Hunt.

The only thing truly proven at UFC 160 was that Velasquez and dos Santos are the kings of the heavyweight division. They're No. 1 and 2, and everyone else is fighting for a distant third place.

Truth be told, it's not even all that close.

Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Daniel Cormier could be an interesting contender, but his friendship with Velasquez and their understandable refusal to fight each other dictate that he drop down to light heavyweight. Cormier confirmed during a Q&A session on Saturday that he's planning just such a move.

Josh Barnett? We've already seen what Cormier did to him, and he doesn't present any kind of challenge for Velasquez or dos Santos. He doesn't have the cardio to keep up with the heavyweight champion, and if he can't get dos Santos to the ground, he'd be picked apart standing.

Alistair Overeem? We know he has cardio issues. And it's a small sample size, but he didn't appear to be the same fighter against Silva as he was prior to his failed PED test in 2012.

In my mind, the only interesting challenger for either man is currently fighting at light heavyweight. Jon Jones has stated that he intends to move up to heavyweight at some point in the future. When he does make the move, Jones instantly becomes the most intriguing challenger for whomever holds the belt at that time.

Until that happens, however, the top of the division will continue to be ruled by Velasquez and dos Santos.

There will be fans who don't want to see them fight for a third time in two years. To them, I say this: You better get used to it, because before Cain and Junior wrap up their careers, it's very likely that they'll compete against each other five or six times. Perhaps even more, especially if dos Santos is successful in wresting the title away from Velasquez in their third meeting.

We're heading toward what appears to be the deciding fight in a respectful yet highly competitive series. Dos Santos won the first meeting quickly, and Velasquez utterly wrecked dos Santos for five rounds in the rematch.

The winner of the third fight will have bragging rights over his opponent, but those bragging rights won't be permanent. Even if the loser is required to win two or three consecutive fights before earning another shot at the championship, it's inevitable that a fourth and fifth fight will happen, because Velasquez and dos Santos are simply that much better than everyone else.

In my mind, however, Velasquez will earn himself some breathing room in the next fight.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

I truly believe that, despite his first loss to dos Santos, Velasquez is a much better fighter. He's incredibly well-rounded, and his off-the-charts cardio allows him to consistently pressure dos Santos. We've seen in the past that dos Santos, despite his effective counter-punching style, does not perform well when he's under constant pressure

Velasquez is the only man in the heavyweight division who can actually go in the cage and keep hounding dos Santos, to fluster him and force him to make mistakes. Dos Santos may not have many weaknesses, but that pressure game is certainly one of them. As long as Velasquez can avoid the big punches from dos Santos, he'll have an advantage in the cage every time they meet.

But these being heavyweights, you never really know for sure what's going to happen once that cage door closes

Velasquez could make a mistake. He could leave his head exposed just long enough for dos Santos to land the kind of punch he did in their first meeting. Or perhaps dos Santos will continue to expand his game, to add new wrinkles like the wheel kick that shocked the world and knocked out Hunt.

Despite the uncertainty that comes with two big men in a cage fight, one thing is for sure: I don't care how many times Velasquez and dos Santos face each other. I'll be intrigued every single time, simply because both men are absolutely excellent at fighting. I'll be just as hyped for their eventual fifth fight as I am for the third.

Who wins the third fight?

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Heavyweights have almost always been one of the biggest drawing cards in combat sports. Fedor Emelianenko became a legend by ruling the PRIDE heavyweight division with an iron fist. Brock Lesnar was the biggest-drawing card in UFC history when he sat atop the UFC heavyweight mountain.

But neither Emelianenko nor Lesnar came close to being as well-rounded and gifted as Velasquez or dos Santos.

We're living in a time when we're not just treated to one outstanding heavyweight fighter; we have the chance to see two of them, in the prime of their careers and with plenty of winding road left in front of them.

Velasquez and dos Santos may be opponents, but they're traveling that road together. We're just lucky to be along for the ride.

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