The trilogy is one of the more compelling aspects of mixed martial arts, and tonight's match up between heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos—the third meeting between the two—should catapult this rivalry well up the list of greatest trilogies in UFC history.
The heavyweight clash headlines UFC 166 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, as Velasquez looks to defend his belt against the man who took it from him in their first meeting back at UFC on FOX 1.
Before you sit down in your UFC man cave or head out to the bars to catch the fights, check out the three reasons to be excited for the third meeting between Velasquez and dos Santos.
Velasquez and dos Santos may be best described as 1A and 1B in the heavyweight rankings, respectively. Though I tend to believe Velasquez should distance himself from the Brazilian after tonight, these two truly are above and beyond the rest of the heavyweight division.
The lone loss handed to Velasquez was dealt by dos Santos' brutal power, while Cigano's only UFC loss came after a brutal 25-minute beating at the hands of Velasquez.
If you factor out each man's only UFC loss, both stand at an astounding 10-0 under the Zuffa banner. And they've accomplished that in a heavyweight division where knockouts are prevalent.
There's a widening gulf between the rest of the heavyweight division and the tier upon which Cigano and Velasquez sit. Whoever is dealt the loss tonight will almost certainly (and appropriately) remain in the No. 1-contender spot on the UFC official rankings. And he'll also be a quick bludgeoning away—against the likes of Travis Browne, Fabricio Werdum, or Josh Barnett—from legitimately earning yet a third rematch.
While we know the UFC won't automatically rematch these guys until a quality contender comes along, they should—if it means avoiding a Velasquez-Antonio Silva trilogy. Until then, simply enjoy as the two best heavyweights on the planet compete opposite one another.
There is nothing quiet about the knockout delivered at UFC on FOX 1, nor was the 25-minute battering at UFC 155 a subtle happening. But the rivalry between Velasquez and dos Santos, though fierce in the cage, doesn't involve much mic work.
Velasquez is a soft-spoken, focused and frightening individual whose almost apathetic demeanor and tone might make you believe he really doesn't care too much about this fight-business. He does, even if he won't say a single bad thing about Cigano.
Meanwhile, dos Santos, though a bit more lively at the dais, merely makes promises of bringing the belt back to Brazil—nothing insidious regarding Velasquez as a fighter or a person.
Perhaps that's the most mesmerizing aspect of this rivalry; it's one of the greatest we've seen yet void of trash talk.
Dos Santos and Velasquez have always been happy to let their in-cage performances speak for them, as opposed to taking shots at one another in a promo. With both fighters focused on business, this silent rivalry has a purity and realness to it, unlike those based on pre-fight digs and distasteful Photoshop contests.
The first meeting between these two heavyweight titans came at UFC on FOX 1 when dos Santos earned a quick knockout win to take home the title. The second meeting, a grinding beatdown delivered by Velasquez, lasted for all of the scheduled 25 minutes.
Heading into the rubbermatch, I'm not sure the fans or the two fighters will be left with a tremendous sense of closure; these two are so fiercely competitive that a fourth meeting almost seems inevitable at this juncture.
But that same competition between the two means this fight—just like the first two—will feature the absolute elite level of heavyweight action one can find these days. But the outcome could also be unexpected.
Few expected the first fight to end so soon, while, perhaps, less expected dos Santos to come out of the rematch a battered, unrecognizable mess.
The difference between winning and losing at this level is razor thin, and as we saw in the first two fights, that difference can make an enormous impact on the outcome of the rubbermatch. Regardless of the result, the end to this trilogy ought to be a wild one.