13 months out of action due to injury and Junior dos Santos' (14-1 MMA, 8-0 UFC) right hand proved too much for Cain Velasquez (9-1 MMA, 7-1 UFC) to overcome inside Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
At 1:04 of the opening round, dos Santos floored Velasquez with a devastating right hand that perfectly landed behind the former champion's left ear and follow-up strikes finalized the victory for the talented Brazilian.
While dos Santos now knows that he'll face the winner of next month's UFC 141 main event between Brock Lesnar (5-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) and Alistair Overeem (35-11 MMA, 0-0 UFC), Velasquez is left to climb back up the heavyweight ladder.
However, the climb may not take that long.
Prior to his 13-month layoff leading into the inaugural UFC on Fox main event, Velasquez competed on an average of four months between fights.
With victories over Brock Lesnar, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Cheick Kongo during that span, Velasquez was able to capture the heavyweight championship.
That being said, the key for Velasquez as it is for most athletes is to stay healthy, but it's certainly important for him if he has aspirations of reclaiming the title.
Velasquez' amateur wrestling pedigree combined with his vastly improved kickboxing makes him one of the division's most dangerous fighters.
The American-Kickboxing-Academy-trained Velasquez is widely known for having a tremendous work ethic, which will pay dividends in the preparation for his next bout.
As for who that bout should be against, many will say the loser of Lesnar and Overeem, which takes place on December, 30 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
But with a division full of exciting and dangerous fighters in the likes of Cheick Kongo, Roy Nelson, Travis Browne and Shane Carwin, there are plenty of options for Velasquez.
Given the fact that Velasquez has previously defeated Kongo, the UFC may shy away from a rematch.
Browne's likely another solid win and performance away from facing a top contender, so Nelson (16-6 MMA, 3-2 UFC) or Carwin (12-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) in the first quarter of 2012 are the most logical choices.
Nelson most recently defeated Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic at UFC 137 by third-round knockout to claim his third victory inside the Octagon.
Carwin was last seen at UFC 131 this past June, being defeated by dos Santos by decision, but overall, the massive heavyweight has claimed four first-round knockouts since joining the UFC roster.
Considering that history has proven Velasquez best performs with an average of four months between fights, one should expect to see the former champion back in action sooner rather than later.
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