On October 19, 2013, at UFC 166 in Houston, Texas, Junior dos Santos will attempt to reclaim his title and become a two-time UFC heavyweight champion. At UFC 155, former heavyweight champion dos Santos lost his championship title in a one-sided beating at the hands of his archrival, Cain Velasquez.
Considering the five-round thrashing given by Velasquez during their last encounter, there are a great number of questions that surround dos Santos. UFC 166 will answer many of these questions, as the world of mixed martial arts bears witness to one of the most heated trilogies in combat sports history.
Junior dos Santos Grounded by Cain Velasquez at UFC 155
Despite their first matchup ending in a 64-second knockout of Velasquez at UFC on Fox: Velasquez vs. dos Santos, their second bout ended quite differently. Less than a year ago, Velasquez battered dos Santos for five rounds en route to a unanimous decision.
Upon reflection of the fight, it appeared that the two combatants were in different leagues. Velasquez/dos Santos II illustrated the complete package that is the current heavyweight champion. He was faster than dos Santos and consistently beat him at every angle. Velasquez’s takedowns were swift. His grappling, footwork and head movement were impeccable.
Historically, Velasquez has demonstrated a game that is far more diverse than that of dos Santos. The latter fighter possesses knockout power that could put down anyone in the heavyweight division. However, the versatility that underlines the champion’s game may be overwhelming and present too much of an obstacle for dos Santos to overcome, just as illustrated at UFC 155.
Junior dos Santos Getting Mauled at UFC 155
Immediately following his devastating loss at UFC 155, reports surfaced that dos Santos suffered from rhabdomyolysis. This condition consists of damaged skeletal muscle tissue that breaks down. Damaged muscle cells are then released into the bloodstream that may cause kidney failure.
Dos Santos attributed the acquisition of this condition to his excessive training regimen. Exertion is a common cause of rhabdomyolysis, which more than likely played into his one-sided loss at UFC 155. When asked if fighting was worth the health risks, dos Santos stated:
You know, I think it's worth it. This is my life. This is everything I have. People don't know how hard we [work] and what we sacrifice to [be successful]. MMA athletes train so much, you know. I would continue to [do what I'm doing]. I want it so badly. I want to give everything I have to this. This is everything to me.
Dos Santos also stated that Velasquez hit “like a girl” during their last matchup and noted that although sick, the heavyweight champion failed to finish “Cigano.” In an interview with Yahoo! Sports, dos Santos stated:
I gave him a lot of good positions where he could finish me, and he wasn't seeing them. One time, he caught my arm and he didn't know how to finish me with the armbar. And this is the truth: He didn't finish me, because he wasn't able to do that.
It appears that dos Santos is not just physically healthier for his UFC 166 bout against the current heavyweight champion, he exudes confidence and poise like no other. It will be interesting to witness the adjustments made to dos Santos’ game, now that he has recovered from a condition that, in all likelihood, assisted in his downfall at UFC 155.
Junior dos Santos Victorious at UFC 160
Following his demoralizing loss at UFC 155, dos Santos adamantly stated his intentions of reclaiming the title. He said: “Cain Velasquez, like you said, ‘I’m gonna come back, and I’m gonna take my belt again.’”
However, regaining the title may be a daunting task for the former heavyweight champion. Dos Santos’ illness may have contributed to his demise at UFC 155. Conversely, the Brazilian has built a career off his one-dimensional style of fighting. He has consistently bullied his opponents with his size and superior boxing. Cigano sports a 75 percent knockout rate and has beaten MMA veterans and former champions alike.
At the same time, although he fell victim to dos Santos' power in just 64 seconds during their first meeting, Velasquez proved that a technical, methodical and versatile game plan could conquer high-level boxing and immense power.
Nevertheless, despite the one-dimensionalness of his fight game, dos Santos’ conviction regarding his taking of the title on October 19 remains intact. In his interview with Yahoo! Sports, dos Santos continued:
I didn't lose because he's a better fighter than me,…
I just truly believe that I am the guy who is going to win this fight, and I can't wait until Dana White puts that belt around my waist on Saturday.
At UFC 166, dos Santos plans on ending the rivalry between he and Velasquez with a win that would cement his standing among the heavyweight division. Without doubt, Velasquez/dos Santos III will address many unanswered questions and serve as one of the greatest trilogies in all of mixed martial arts.