Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos will meet for the third time in two years. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Quick, name the best Ultimate Fighting Championship trilogy of all-time. You might say Frankie Edgar-Gray Maynard, Chuck Liddell-Randy Couture or maybe even Georges St. Pierre-Matt Hughes. The point: no trilogy sits unquestionably atop the throne.
Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos are two-thirds of the way to joining those ranks and staking their claim as the greatest three-fight series to date, which brings us to their latest rematch in the UFC 166 main event on Saturday at the Toyota Center in Houston.
To Trilogy and Beyond: With thousands and thousands of MMA fighters in the world, it seems like a waste of fresh ideas to have the same two fighters battle each other more than three times. However, in the case of Velasquez-JDS, it may be the best option. The heavyweights are unquestionably the top two fighters at UFC 166, but who stands out as a credible challenger for the winner? Cormier plans to drop to light heavyweight, win or lose against “Big Country.” Fabricio Werdum will likely be next in line, but he will undoubtedly open as a massive betting underdog. Josh Barnett, Travis Browne and Stipe Miocic can all find themselves in title contention soon, as well. What if the guy who walks out of the cage after UFC 166 as the No. 1 contender never relinquishes his spot as the No. 1 contender? It is entirely possible that Velasquez and dos Santos are that much better than everyone else in the division. A fourth showdown between these two relatively young and still-improving heavyweights seems like a distinct possibility. Would anyone really mind?
Useless Fact: If you are a 250-pound athlete with a mean streak, you are probably playing linebacker in the NFL. There is plenty of demand for large men with athletic ability, which probably explains why the UFC heavyweight division is one of its shallowest from a talent standpoint. Think about this: there are 76 active lightweights on the UFC roster, compared to only 32 heavyweights. This makes our useless fact all the more remarkable. Though Velasquez and dos Santos have both spent roughly five years with the company and fought 11 times apiece, they share no common opponents.
Say What: Rather than focusing on pre-fight banter, Velasquez prefers to spend his time dishing out knuckle sandwiches to top-10 fighters. No problem. Javier Mendez, his trainer at the American Kickboxing Academy, fills the gap just fine. He told Sirius XM Fight Club that he was tired of hearing dos Santos’ excuses about why he lost his second matchup with Velasquez: “Enough’s enough. You lost already. Give it a break. You go out and do whatever you can to win, but quit talking about why you lost. That’s all he seems to be doing. It’s like, ‘Oh, he hits like a girl.’ Come on. You’re a great fighter. Cain’s a great fighter. Respect Cain. Cain respects you. Just say, ‘I’m fighting a great champion. This is what I’m going to do.’ You don’t see Cain talking about why he got knocked out and this and that. He doesn’t talk about it. You guys bring it up. He doesn’t.”