Junior dos Santos might be wearing UFC 166 on his face for quite some time.
For 23 minutes Saturday night, the former champ and current second-best MMA heavyweight on the planet survived a merciless multifaceted onslaught from reigning champ Cain Velasquez. The referee nearly stopped the assault on more than one occasion, though he always demurred in the final possible instant.
For Velasquez, the third meeting between these two was a more violent and somehow even more dominant continuation of the rematch last December, and it ended with a TKO victory at 3:09 of the fifth and final stanza.
Though its outcome was never seriously in doubt, the main event still managed to live up to its billing.
Dos Santos landed a heavy punch in the fight's opening seconds and appeared to have the champ in trouble, but Velasquez regrouped and the rout was on. A tireless worker, Velasquez flattened Dos Santos against the fence and tired him out with unrelenting pressure.
Punches and knees began to flow more and more freely, until Dos Santos finally broke in the final two minutes of the contest, head in his hands and in no shape to continue after the champ followed up a heavy takedown with even heavier ground strikes.
The win puts Velasquez (13-1, 11-1 UFC) in rarefied air.
At UFC 166 he became only the fourth fighter to defend the UFC heavyweight belt on two consecutive occasions. By the time his next fight rolls around, he will have held the belt for more total days than anyone else besides Hall of Famer Randy Couture.
Though nothing is set in stone, it appears Fabricio Werdum is the clear favorite to face Velasquez next. A top-notch submissions ace with an improving stand-up game, Werdum (17-5-1, 5-2 UFC) is undefeated in his current stint in the Octagon.
The future for Dos Santos (16-3, 10-2 UFC) is much less clear. The only UFC fighter to beat him is Velasquez, though Velasquez has now done so convincingly and consecutively.
Did you miss the action Saturday night? Never fear. We've got you covered with the highlight package below, courtesy of our friends at Fox Sports.