With a barrage of punches to the covered head of Junior "Cigano" dos Santos, Velasquez atoned for his only UFC defeat and forced a stoppage in the fifth round to retain his UFC Heavyweight Championship. As dos Santos' face gushed with blood on the canvas, Velasquez's arms and his opponent's (and his) sanguine fluid served as a Rambo-like warpaint of triumph.
In typical Velasquez fashion, he had used the first four rounds as a pulpit to enact his will. Executing takedowns in each of the first two rounds, Velasquez methodically wore down dos Santos early—making the final three rounds but a mere display of dominance.
Referee Herb Dean looked on the verge of stopping the fight multiple times, especially in the third round. Velasquez landed a flurry of punches in that round, one knocking dos Santos square to the ground and leading to a series of strikes on the ground. A similar feeling crept over the proceedings when Velasquez had dos Santos against the cage in the fourth round.
Although the champion was somewhat sheepish after the fight, it was clear to everyone at the Toyota Center that this bout was one between two different classes of fighters.
"It was a pretty tough fight," Velasquez said, via the Associated Press. "It was very difficult. It was a tough night. I give him a lot of credit, he is a tough fighter. We were ready for everything. We trained hard in camp and prepared for everything. I tried to get him down this time. I was trying to throw crisper punches this time. I love the competition."
The win brought Velasquez's record to 13-1, his fourth straight victory. It also gave him a 2-1 series advantage in his trilogy with dos Santos, which began when Cigano shockingly knocked out Velasquez at UFC on Fox on Nov. 12, 2011.
That KO was a career-defining moment for dos Santos. The 29-year-old Brazilian fighter reached an unexpected height in popularity with that win, and he's still unquestionably one of the best heavyweights in the sport.
But we now have 10 rounds of data showing just how superior Velasquez really is. Their second bout wasn't even close—a unanimous decision if there ever was one. And Saturday's rubber match was the Velasquez manifesto, the "Act of Obliteration." There were stanzas and punctuation points, pugilistic soliloquies delivered by a man who, yes, is just that damn much better.
With that manifesto came the conclusion of a rivalry. Dos Santos won't and shouldn't get another fight against Velasquez for a very long time—if ever. After nights like Saturday, even the capitalistic Dana White wouldn't sentence his fighter to the fate of Joe Budden.
What's next for Velasquez, in fact, already seems set in stone. White spoke to reporters after the conclusion of festivities in Houston, indicating that Fabrício Werdum would get the next chance to run through the impenetrable wall:
"His whole game has improved," White said, speaking of Werdum (h/t MMA Junkie's Steven Marrocco). "The guy's a big, strong, durable guy. And his jiujitsu, he's going to want to go to the ground—which makes this fight very interesting."
In a stylistic vacuum, Velasquez-Werdum does seem interesting. Velasquez's takedowns versus Werdum's ability to submit an opponent at any moment is a nice contrast that could make for an interesting fight.
But Werdum is 36. He's improved, yes—from a guy who was cut from UFC a few years ago. Stylistic differences can so often play a bigger difference than anyone even gives credit, but this is still going to be like throwing Macklemore into a rap battle with Eminem.
Velasquez will dominate. Again. With the same precision with which he took down dos Santos on Saturday and with the same ease that he's defeated all other oncomers since joining the sport.
The heavyweight division presents almost zero challenges to Velasquez. Opponents come in hoping to land that one punch the same way dos Santos did, but knowing their odds are somewhere between Amanda Bynes winning an Oscar and Chief Keef winning a Grammy.
Velasquez has reached that rarefied air in pugilism, where his competition is not the man staring him in the face but other fighters outside his weight class. Jon Jones and Georges St-Pierre are the only two in Velasquez's strata on the male side, and it's arguable that no one is more dominant than female champion Ronda Rousey.
But those are the four names that define UFC at the moment: Jones. St-Pierre. Rousey. Velasquez. I like Jose Aldo as much as the next guy; I'm only discussing those who I'd set my house ablaze if they lost: the rare place in the sport that Anderson Silva started—until right about the time Chris Weidman stopped it.
That's where Velasquez stands right now—at the top of his division, his only blemish discarded, consigned to the midcard and vanquished from his purview.
Well, at least he will be. Right after Velasquez wipes dos Santos' blood off his face.
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