The two first met at UFC on Fox: Velasquez vs. dos Santos in 2011. Dos Santos scored a quick, 64-second knockout over then champion Velasquez. Shortly thereafter, Velasquez defeated Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva at UFC 146 on his journey back to the title.
Velasquez then faced Dos Santos once again for the UFC Heavyweight Championship at UFC 155. This bout resulted in a one-sided beating of "Cigano." Shockingly, the matchup lasted five rounds, with Velasquez wresting away the title from his Brazilian counterpart.
Their meeting on October 19 will close out an epic trilogy that will redefine the heavyweight division and give light to one of the greatest rivalries in mixed martial arts.
Unfortunately, Dos Santos’ one-dimensional fighting style may lead to a second loss to the current heavyweight champion, which would put his legacy at risk.
Boxing: Dos Santos’ Double-Edged Sword
Dos Santos is a highly skilled striker. The Brazilian is heavy handed and sports a 75 percent knockout rate.
He has knocked out talented fighters as well as former world champions. His list of victims include Fabricio Werdum, Gabriel Gonzaga, Frank Mir, Mark Hunt and, of course, Velasquez.
However, at UFC 155, it was evident that the Brazilian lacked the overall game to beat Velasquez. The 31-year-old champion used his high-level grappling/wrestling skills to attempt takedowns, which thwarted much of Dos Santos’ offense.
As the rounds wore on, Dos Santos became increasingly slower and unable to adjust to the champion’s explosiveness, grappling and footwork. He was beaten to the punch, seemingly, from all angles. He lost on all the judges’ scorecards.
One official even scored the bout a dismal 50-43 in Velasquez’s favor.
Immediately following the loss, Dos Santos vowed to reclaim the UFC heavyweight title. He stated in a post-fight interview, “Cain Velasquez, like you said, ‘I’m gonna come back, and I’m gonna take my belt again.’”
Dos Santos vs. Velasquez II occurred less than a year ago. It will be interesting to see how Dos Santos modified his game in an effort to contend with the champion’s versatility, speed, power and world-class grappling skills.
Losing the Trilogy
Historically, losing twice to a champion has proven to be devastating to one’s career. Multi-division contender Chael Sonnen and former lightweight champion Benson Henderson understand the grave implications of losing to the champion multiple times.
Former middleweight champion Anderson Silva triumphed over Sonnen at UFC 117 and again at UFC 148. This forced the “American Gangster” to flirt with the light heavyweight division, where he defeated Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC Fight Night 26. Sonnen will most likely remain at 205 pounds, pending the outcome of Silva vs. Chris Weidman II at UFC 168.
Henderson suffered the same fate after losing to the current lightweight champion Anthony Pettis at World Extreme Cagefighting 53 and at UFC 164, respectively. After his last bout against Pettis, talk in the world of mixed martial arts suggested that Henderson might move up in weight to face other worthy opponents.
As long as Pettis remains champion, the chances of Henderson fighting at lightweight appear slim. This is mainly a result of UFC president Dana White’s comments following UFC 164. Regarding turning down a third matchup between Henderson and the champion, White stated, per MMA Weekly:
Definitely. That is definitely the case. We had the fight with Ben and Frankie (Edgar) where some people thought (it was a questionable decision); there’s no (expletive) denying who won this fight. It was a first-round annihilation. Kind of like the Vitor/Anderson thing.
In the same vein, the loser of Velasquez vs. Dos Santos III will be forced to evaluate his career within the heavyweight division, with the winner donning the championship title. On UFC Primetime: Velasquez vs. Dos Santos 3, the Brazilian stated:
I don’t think Cain Velasquez is able to do what he did last time. He got the belt right now, but I really think I am the No. 1. I believe I’m a better fighter, ‘cause I finish fights, and I’m gonna finish him again.
At UFC 166, Dos Santos plans on reclaiming the heavyweight title and becoming a two-time UFC champion. More than anything else, his legacy depends on it.