Cain Velasquez has cemented his place as one of MMA’s dominant champions. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
In the weeks leading up to their ballyhooed rubber match at UFC 166 on Saturday in Houston, there was plenty of talk about how reigning Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight boss Cain Velasquez and former champion Junior dos Santos would meet four, five or six times before their careers were over. It was inevitable, or so everyone thought. After watching Velasquez thoroughly dominate and eventually stop his rival, a simple question must be asked. Do MMA fans even want to see them lock horns again?
As was the case in their second bout in December, the Mexican-American was far too much for dos Santos to handle, and this time, he put him away via fifth-round technical knockout. Velasquez mixed in some takedowns, but the path he chose to victory revolved around relentless pressure in the clinch, applied through short punches and sneaky elbows. Dos Santos had no answer for the offense Velasquez threw his way, and it soon became clear the Brazilian needed to find the mark with one or two crushing right hands just to have a chance to win. That one concussive punch never reached the champion’s jaw, however. Though dos Santos wobbled Velasquez a few times early in the match, he was in over his head almost from the start.
Dos Santos without question remains the world’s No. 2 heavyweight. Seeing how badly he was thrashed, you would be hard pressed to think of someone who could give Velasquez a realistic run for his money. That is where the conundrum begins.
The most deserving contender -- Daniel Cormier -- is moving to 205 pounds in hopes of eventually challenging Jon Jones for his title. Former champion Josh Barnett lurks in the shadows, and Fabricio Werdum can also be found hovering near the top of the division. In all honesty, neither of those men poses enough of a threat to wrest the title from Velasquez, which leaves dos Santos as the de facto No. 1 contender. Whether that is a testament to Velasquez’s magnificence or further evidence of the shallow state of the heavyweight division, the last thing we need to see is a fourth bout between the American Kickboxing Academy ace and dos Santos.
There is no reason to think Velasquez will not replicate his performance in another rematch. In fact, he was even more dominant in their third meeting, so it stands to reason that he would look even better the fourth time around.
Simply put, the distance between MMA’s No. 1 and No. 2 heavyweights can be measured in figurative miles.
However, a rematch between Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez would be a welcomed treat for all those who consider themselves MMA fans.
While Melendez clearly won the first meeting, it was such an unforgettable battle -- both men were on the verge of being stopped -- that a return bout seems certain at some point. Expectations were high, and “El Nino” and “The Dream” delivered a fight that was actually better than anticipated. Sanchez jockeyed for a five-round rematch afterward; he is on the right path. World title at stake or not, a second match between the two lightweights would make for an excellent main event in the not-too-distant future. While UFC commentator Joe Rogan went a little overboard in declaring it “the greatest fight he had ever seen,” the Melendez-Sanchez war at UFC 166 quickly emerged as the frontrunner for the 2013 “Fight of the Year.”
I wrote many years ago that Sanchez would someday become a UFC champion. While that has yet to happen, it is not unreasonable to think it still could. Reigning lightweight titleholder Anthony Pettis will defend his crown against Josh Thomson at UFC on Fox 9 in December. If Thomson emerges victorious, he could conceivably find himself paired with Melendez for a fourth time. If Melendez then topples Thomson and Sanchez can string a handful of victories together, the world might see rounds four through eight of one of the greatest fights in UFC history. If that were to happen, everyone wins.
Miscellaneous Debris: There is no telling how far Adlan Amagov will go in the UFC, but all signs point to a long and sensational career inside the Octagon. He has trounced virtually everybody he has faced and made ultra-talented grappler T.J. Waldburger his latest victim with a violent first-round knockout. Amagov barely broke a sweat, and, at just 26 years of age, it is scary to think how dangerous he could become once he reaches his full potential ... John Dodson reinforced his position as one of the world’s premier flyweights with a thrilling stoppage of Darrell Montague. It is only a matter of time before he challenges for 125-pound gold again ... After being shut down by Cormier, it would not be unreasonable to suggest Roy Nelson’s tenure in the UFC could be nearing its end. He was sluggish and uninspiring, as he was thoroughly outclassed by “DC.” Do not be surprise if Zuffa cuts ties with “Big Country” in the coming weeks.
Follow Mike Sloan on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mikesloan19.