Cain Velasquez mauled Junior "Cigano" dos Santos on Saturday night in Houston's Toyota Center at UFC 166. In winning the rubber match of their trilogy and retaining his title, he has put himself in position to do what no other heavyweight in UFC history has done.
In the 16-year history of the title, no man has ever defended it more than twice. The next time Velasquez takes the Octagon, he'll be on the cusp of doing just that. Who will stand in his way?
More than likely, it'll be Fabricio Werdum. The 36-year-old Brazilian veteran is the No. 1 contender. He told Fight Hub TV in the interview below that he would submit Velasquez if the champion took him to the mat.
Werdum submitted Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in his last fight in June. He's also won eight of his last 10 bouts dating back to 2008. In that span, he's only lost to dos Santos and Alistair Overeem. He's defeated the likes of Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva, Fedor Emelianenko, Gabriel Gonzaga, Brandon Vera and Roy Nelson.
With Daniel Cormier defeating Nelson in the co-main event in Houston, but expressing an interest to move down to light heavyweight in his next fight, Werdum is the only real option for Velasquez.
It could be an interesting battle between two fighters who do their best work on the mat.
Cigano's Future is Muddled
It would seem clear that Velasquez is simply a better all-around fighter than dos Santos. Still, the question remains: What other heavyweight can beat the second-best heavyweight in the world? Nelson was made to look rather ordinary against a quicker and more-skilled wrestler in Cormier.
His chances of besting dos Santos seem slim. Cigano's takedown defense was solid against Velasquez on Saturday. He stuffed 11-of-13 takedown attempts from Velasquez, per FightMetric.com. The champion's cardio was perhaps his best quality. While Nelson is a skilled grappler, he doesn't have the same stamina as Velasquez.
Cigano would likely catch him or out-strike him.
Who should dos Santos face next?
Werdum has his sights set on Velasquez. Further down the heavyweight rankings, there are names like Travis Browne and Josh Barnett that could create some interest.
These two will battle each other at UFC 168 and the winner could likely be one step away from getting a title shot. That one step could be dos Santos. It would seem unfair to make Cigano go to the end of the line considering his resume.
However, UFC head man Dana White may do just that to prevent another relatively quick turnaround engagement between Velasquez and dos Santos. At the end of the day, both may just plow through their competition and leave White with no other choice but to hype a fourth fight.
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