Cain Velasquez served notice Sunday to every heavyweight in the UFC that he is here and here to stay.
At the main event for UFC 110 in Sydney, Australia, Velasquez dropped a legend in Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at 2:40 of the very first round.
A missile of a right hand landed square on the jaw of Nogueira, causing him to crumble to the canvas before the undefeated Velasquez finished the fight with a few more punches on the ground.
The fact that Velasquez (8-0, 7 KO) was able to handle a fighter on the level of Nogueira, and do it so easily, makes an enormous statement about where the Arizona State wrestler stands in the organization’s heaviest division.
With the dust now settled in Australia, the future of Velasquez is at the forefront of topics for the enigmatic heavyweight ranks.
Shane Carwin and Frank Mir will settle their dispute next month at UFC 111, so matching up Velasquez with one of them is not in the picture. The winner of Carwin-Mir will likely fight Brock Lesnar this summer.
Both Velasquez and dos Santos are on meteoric rises and have finished their opponents in dominant ways, so both have a say in the title picture.
What makes this fight all the more enticing is Velasquez’s win over dos Santos’ mentor at UFC 110.
Both Nogueira and dos Santos train out of, arguably, the best team in MMA, Blackhouse, and have vowed never to fight each other. Nogueira’s loss to Velasquez eliminates him from further pursuing a title but opens up a tremendous opportunity for dos Santos to make his push toward greatness.
To an extent, dos Santos can thank Velasquez for opening up a chance for him to try and compete for the title. Now, a "thank you" in the form of a right cross is in order.
This fight has the potential for fireworks from horn to horn. Both fighters are excellent strikers and have the knockout power to put down some of the largest athletes in the sport.
Velasquez showed his power by utterly knocking the senses out of Nogueira, while dos Santos gave Fabricio Werdum an uppercut he will never forget.
Two young competitors in a growing sport who are yet to reach their full potential. This is an excellent situation for everyone involved.
Looking ahead, one fighter losing to the other would not necessarily disrupt the climb of the defeated combatant.
Both warriors are very young and have yet to taste defeat while in the UFC. Even the best competitors in the sport lose fights somewhere down the line but find their stride again and learn from their misfortunes.
A loss for dos Santos would not take away any marketability for a future fight with a top-five heavyweight, and the same can be said for Velasquez.
This is a perk of being a stud in your 20s. Barring doing something illegal, no one is going to hold too much against you if you mess up at that age.
The growing hunger of a fighter like Junior dos Santos is one that needs to be fed wholesome protein, and, unfortunately, Gonzaga is not the five-star meal he used to be.
Common opinion is that dos Santos deserved to be in the title picture prior to Velasquez since he is more experienced and has stopped some bigger names. Of course, dos Santos already made his vow not to fight his mentor, Nogueira, and, as a result, not competing for a title was more his decision.
Refusing to fight members of your own camp has its drawbacks. When your teammate is in title contention and in your same weight class, the door is closed for you to proceed toward the top of the ranks.
No longer is this a problem for dos Santos, and now, presuming he takes care of Gonzaga, people can talk of what he can do against not only Velasquez but also Carwin, Mir, and Lesnar.
Nogueira is a legend in the mixed martial arts, and nothing will ever change that, but now the torch is passed to another Blackhouse fighter in dos Santos.
Look for him to carry the fire for years to come.