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UFC 166: Dana White thinks Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos 3 should have been stopped earlier … and he's right

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Cain Velasquez had perhaps the finest showing of his career by beating the brakes of Junior dos Santos at UFC 166. Unfortunately, his championship performance was tarnished by the decision to let "Cigano" compete past the third round, despite being in no condition to fight.

Esther Lin for MMA Fighting

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez retained his 265-pound title with a four-and-a-half round ass kicking against Junior dos Santos in the main event of Saturday night's (Oct. 19, 2013) UFC 166 pay-per-view (PPV) event, which took place at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.

That's about one-and-a-half rounds more than most mixed martial arts (MMA) fans needed to see.

Even with the understanding that combat sports are violent by design, this was nothing short of a massacre, a protracted cage fight that started as a championship contest, but ended as a lopsided beatdown. Anything past the third round was not about seeing who was the best heavyweight in the world, but rather about how much punishment Dos Santos could take before collapsing into a bloody heap.

The answer was 23 minutes and nine seconds.

Stopping a fight can be a tricky business, even for a veteran referee like Herb Dean. Flash knockdowns early in a bout can cause a furor among fans and fighters who don't believe the downed combatant got a fair shake. Quite simply, down is not always out.

Cheick Kongo vs. Pat Barry comes to mind (GIF).

But when there comes a point in time when a fighter is no longer recognizable by his own family, then we have to start asking ourselves how much punishment is too much. Regrettably, it's hard to answer that question in a sport this young because most of the elder statesman are still in their forties.

Heck, some of them are still competing.

This shouldn't be confused with calling for a fighter's retirement, like the promotion's internal debate about how long it should have let Chuck Liddell compete. It's about recognizing when an individual bout is no longer fair, competitive or safe. Dos Santos was a pubic hair away from being stopped in the third round, but was allowed to continue for no other reason than he wasn't unconscious, which is a poor tool for measuring when a fighter needs to be saved.

Even UFC President Dana White had seen enough, according to his post-fight interview with Joe Rogan.

"I'm not a doctor, but that fight should have been stopped in the third round. I'm not a doctor, but let me tell you what I am: I've been around a lot of men who were too tough for their own good. And Junior dos Santos is one of those guys. I mean that with the utmost respect."

That's the story of this fight.

That's unfortunate, because the real story should be Cain Velasquez. Specifically, his championship performance that mirrored his drubbing of "Cigano" at UFC 155 and established him as the finest heavyweight fighter in MMA. The fact that he so easily dismantled the Brazilian -- who has run roughshod over the 265-pound division -- makes his accomplishment something to behold.

I hope Fabricio Werdum has a few tricks up his sleeve. He's going to need them.

Now that their triolgy is over, with the rubber match going to Velasquez, it's hard to know exactly where Dos Santos fits in the heavyweight puzzle. It's also difficult to determine how much this performance  -- coupled with the one last December -- has shortened his career.

Unfortunately, the only way to find out is the hard way, by playing the waiting game.

For full UFC 166 results and live play-by-play click here. To see more results and fallout from "Velasquez vs. Dos Santos 3," including highlights, videos, reactions and more, check out our live UFC 166 story stream by clicking here.