UFC.com is calling Saturday’s Cain Velasquez vs. Junior “Cigano” dos Santos heavyweight title bout at UFC 166 “the final chapter,” but what’s to say the loser won’t deserve another rematch once this one is over?
Cigano is going to regain his title on Saturday. His chin is stronger, and his athleticism and determination will have him prepared and ready to win. He has thwarted 74 percent of the attempts to take him down in the UFC. Although Velasquez had some success against Dos Santos in stand-up in their last meeting, his best bet is to take Cigano to the mat.
If he can't get him there, it is hard to imagine Velasquez winning another stand-up battle.
The third meeting in their rivalry takes place on Saturday in the Toyota Center in Houston.
Cigano flattened Velasquez in their first fight in 2011, but Velasquez used a big first round to coast to a unanimous decision over Dos Santos in their 2012 rematch. Velasquez landed a couple of titanic punches on Cigano, but he couldn’t finish him. Dos Santos will carry that redeeming value into this fight.
Right now, Dos Santos and Velasquez seem to be head and shoulders above the rest of the heavyweights in the world. Roy Nelson and Daniel Cormier could have something to say about that, but both men would be underdogs in a match against Dos Santos or Velasquez.
The winner of the Nelson vs. Cormier co-feature will have the right to challenge the man who emerges from UFC 166 as champion. However, if Nelson or Cormier can’t take advantage of the opportunity, where does that leave the heavyweight title picture?
Fabricio Werdum is ranked third, but he’s almost exclusively a submissions fighter whom fans won’t love. While he defeated an old and seemingly disinterested Fedor Emelianenko in Strikeforce, he’d be a big underdog against Dos Santos or Velasquez.
Travis Browne is somewhat interesting because of his size and height, but he needs a big win before anyone believes he can become champion.
Lastly, there is Josh Barnett, who is a former champion but long in the tooth. He’s looked good in his return to the UFC, but he hasn’t faced the likes of Dos Santos and Velasquez.
It is easy to expect both men to separate themselves from the pack again. Assuming the loser of Saturday’s main event remains active, will Dana White play keep-away with a fourth fight simply because we’ve seen them clash three times?
The second fight between the two men came about when Velasquez smashed his way through Antonio Silva to earn a rematch. Likewise, Dos Santos knocked out Mark Hunt to prove he was ready to meet his archrival again.
Even if Dos Santos loses but proves again that no other heavyweight can handle him, wouldn't he deserve another shot?
In other weight classes with more parity, this may not be an issue. In the heavyweight division, however, there aren’t enough good fighters to make Velasquez or Dos Santos wait his turn for too long. If the UFC is to adhere to a standard of excellence in regard to matchmaking, we’ll likely see Dos Santos vs. Velasquez IV somewhere down the line.
Statistic references per FightMetric.com.
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