The two best heavyweights on the planet met for the second time last night (Dec. 29, 2012) as Cain Velasquez looked to regain his title from Junior dos Santos in the main event of UFC 155 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Many analysts had speculated that the 64 second first fight between Velasquez and dos Santos did not showcase the Mexican American's true talents due to a bad knee injury suffered prior to the event.
They were right.
Velasquez returned to the Octagon a completely different fighter than the original bout, taking the fight to the Brazilian early and often in one of the most redemptive performances in MMA history.
Early on, the American Kickboxing Academy standout put significant pressure on dos Santos, attacking with takedown attempts, but he was perhaps overzealous as "Cigano" was able to escape.
Dos Santos never got a chance to breathe a sigh of relief, however, as Velasquez instead pressured him along the fence with clinch attacks, more takedown attempts and some heavy striking which seemed to really catch the Brazilian by surprise.
This was an entirely different Cain.
Perhaps most shocking of all was the massive right hand delivered by Velasquez which sent dos Santos to the canvas for the first time in his UFC career. Velasquez followed up with heavy ground and pound, but he couldn't put "Cigano" away by the end of the frame, although the champion was on seriously wobbly legs while walking back to his corner.
Both men expended a tremendous amount of energy in the first round, but Velasquez never turned off his relentless attack. Whether it was takedowns, ground and pound, clinch or regular strikes in the pocket, he never allowed dos Santos to get comfortable, blasting the Brazilian with heavy blows.
Both men slowed down as the fight wore on, but it was always Velasquez who initiated the aggression, putting dos Santos, a man who has spent 13 seconds on his back in his nine fight UFC career, down a total of 12 times with takedowns.
Every time dos Santos tried to get anything going, Velasquez had an answer with another clinch, another takedown attempt or more strikes along the fence.
To cap it off, Velasquez landed a vicious head kick at the end of the fifth round with both men brutally exhausted, although he couldn't put the Brazilian away.
Despite the inability to finish, Velasquez would walk away having won all five rounds on all three judges scorecards to easily win the fight and recapture his UFC Heavyweight Championship.
For Junior dos Santos, he has to be hurting right now both physically and emotionally. He suffered a tremendous beating at the hands of Velasquez and he just couldn't keep Cain off of him. He looked tired by the midway point of the first round, which led to his hands dropping and then Velasquez blasting him with the right hand in the first. Credit to him for not just covering up and calling it a night, particularly because this was a grueling battle and was likely incredibly disheartening. He managed to work himself back to his feet every time Velasquez took him down and despite taking a ridiculous amount of punishment, he still had enough left to fire back with some nice elbows, knees, uppercuts and hooks in the final few rounds. He showed the heart of a champion and he'll definitely be back.
Shame on the idiots who booed him during his post-fight interview.
Next up for dos Santos could be Mark Hunt if he comes up short to Stefan Struve. Another potential barnburner would be a fight against Alistair Overeem should he lose to Antonio Silva. After that, there aren't many options although Ben Rothwell would work regardless of what happens in his fight against Gabriel Gonzaga.
For Cain Velasquez, this was the type of performance fans were hoping to see the first time around on Fox. This was the explosive, devastating Cain that coaches and fighters were raving about after watching him in the gym. He showed up in a big way last night and made dos Santos look vulnerable for the first time in his UFC career. He didn't just win last night, he dominated in every facet, whether it was wrestling, striking, clinch or punches on the ground. He was all over dos Santos and he was relentless. He made me tired just from watching. It was one hell of a performance. Some have harped on teh fact that he didn't go for a rear naked choke when the opportunity presented itself, but Velasquez is a wrestler and ground and pounder first, although it wouldn't hurt to get more comfortable in the submission realm considering he went for an armbar during the bout.
Next up for Velasquez will be Alistair Overeem should "The Demolition Man" defeat Antonio Silva in his next fight. Also on the horizon are Fabricio Werdum and a trilogy fight against dos Santos if "Cigano" can get back to his winning ways. The future is bright for the heavyweight division.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Did you expect Velasquez to look so radically different last night? Do you think he could have finished dos Santos? How many times do you think these two men will fight each other before they're done with their professional MMA careers?