Cain Velasquez will likely confront Fabricio Werdum next. | Photo: Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com
Cain Velasquez never looked more able to carry the mantle of “Baddest Man on the Planet.”
Velasquez retained his Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight crown with a fifth-round technical knockout against Junior dos Santos in the UFC 166 main event on Saturday at the Toyota Center in Houston, widening the gulf between himself and the rest of the division. The end came 3:09 into round five after a barely recognizable dos Santos struck his head on the canvas during a failed attempt at a guillotine choke.
Dos Santos fired his best shots, and though some of them found their mark, he could do nothing to slow the pace of his unyielding adversary. He was the china shop to Velasquez’s bull. The champion kept dos Santos bottled up against the cage for much of the match, torturing him with short punches to the head and knees to the body and legs. Velasquez nearly finished it in the third round, where he dropped the challenger with a right hand behind the ear and pounced with ground-and-pound. That the Brazilian survived the onslaught only served to prolong the gnarly beating. At times, it was difficult to watch.
By the time it was over, blood poured from a gash on dos Santos’ right brow, and his left eye was nearly swollen shut. Cut across the bridge of his nose, Velasquez shrugged off the blood, seeming to revel in the wound. He cared only that his hand was raised yet again.
With Velasquez having emerged from his trilogy with dos Santos as a stronger, more respected champion, attention turns to a potential showdown with Fabricio Werdum.
A two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist, Werdum has won all three of his fights since returning to the UFC in February 2012. The 36-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt last appeared at UFC on Fuel TV 10 in June, when he submitted Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at Paulo Sarasate Gymnasium in Fortaleza, Brazil. Widely recognized as one of MMA’s premier submission grapplers, Werdum has showcased improved standup skills in recent outings.
Dos Santos, meanwhile, figures to need a considerable amount of time to recover. According to preliminary FightMetric data, he absorbed 274 total strikes, 123 of them significant. When he returns to the cage, a battle against the loser of the forthcoming UFC 168 scrap between Josh Barnett and Travis Browne could be in order. No matter what direction the UFC takes with the 29-year-old Brazilian, he will likely remain a fixture as a top 5 heavyweight.
In the wake of UFC 166 “Velasquez vs. Dos Santos 3,” here are five other matchups that ought to be made:
Daniel Cormier vs. Phil Davis: Cormier took care of business in his final appearance before a planned move to 205 pounds. The 34-year-old American Kickboxing Academy export roughed up “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 winner Roy Nelson with his multi-pronged offensive repertoire, which included power punches, grueling clinch work, takedowns and a steady diet of kicks. Cormier will become an immediate person of interest when he arrives in the light heavyweight division, and he has already had words with reigning 205-pound champion Jon Jones. A four-time NCAA All-American wrestler at Penn State University, Davis registered the most significant victory of his career in August, when he captured a controversial unanimous decision over Lyoto Machida at UFC 163.
Gilbert Melendez vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov: Melendez emerged victorious from the most-talked-about UFC fight of the year, as he outdueled Diego Sanchez and earned a unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 1 winner. With his first Octagon win behind him, the former Strikeforce champion can focus on moving forward in the lightweight division. The unbeaten 25-year-old Nurmagomedov has compiled a 5-0 mark since entering the UFC, shedding his prospect label with victories over Kamal Shalorus, Gleison Tibau, Thiago Tavares, Abel Trujillo and Pat Healy.
Roy Nelson vs. Mark Hunt-Antonio Silva loser: Seemingly stuck in gatekeeper mode, the slimmed-down Nelson was no match for the all-around skills of the aforementioned Cormier. The 37-year-old Las Vegas native has now suffered consecutive losses for just the third time in his career. Still one of the UFC’s most bankable heavyweights, Nelson figures to catch high-profile bouts for the foreseeable future. Hunt and Silva will lock horns in the UFC Fight Night 33 headliner on Dec. 7 in Australia.
Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Frank Mir-Alistair Overeem winner: Gonzaga, who once challenged Randy Couture for the UFC heavyweight championship, has quietly rattled off five wins in his past six appearances. The 34-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt needed a little more than 90 seconds to put away Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts export Shawn Jordan with punches, putting him in position to pursue more meaningful prey. Mir and Overeem are scheduled to collide at UFC 169 on Feb. 1.
John Dodson vs. Ian McCall-Scott Jorgensen winner: Few flyweights inspire fear like Dodson. “The Magician” worked his magic on promotional newcomer Darrell Montague, as he flattened the Millennia MMA representative with a blinding left cross in his first appearance since failing to unseat 125-pound champion Demetrious Johnson. McCall will welcome Jorgensen to the flyweight class at UFC on Fox 9 in December.