Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez know each other very well. Preparing to fight for the third time in less than two years, the heavyweights cannot, however, agree on one thing: whether their rivalry will finally be settled after UFC 166.
For the third consecutive calendar year, Junior dos Santos will look across the cage and see a familiar face, that of UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez. By now, the two know each other intimately. They have traded a pair of very different one-sided beatings, with dos Santos knocking out Velasquez in Nov. 2011, and Velasquez throttling dos Santos for five rounds in Dec. 2012. They have thrown hundreds of strikes at each other. They have studied each other thoroughly enough to write competing theses. You couldn’t blame one for being sick of the other, yet dos Santos isn’t ready to pull the plug on the rivalry, even though he fully expects to win the rubber match and the title at UFC 166 on Oct. 19.
“I don’t think it’s going to be the last one,” he told FOX Sports during a Wednesday teleconference. “I just don’t think so. I think we’re going to fight each other again in the future. Sooner or later, we’re going to be fighting each other again. I think Cain Velasquez is a great opponent and a great fighter. I think he’s going to keep himself in a good position all the time as a champion or in a good position in the rankings and I’ll do the same with myself, so I think we’re going to see each other again.”
If he’s right, that would make the duo the first rivalry to fight four times in a UFC Octagon.
For now though, they will join famous MMA trilogies including Randy Couture vs. Chuck Liddell, Matt Hughes vs. Georges St-Pierre, Tito Ortiz vs. Ken Shamrock and Wanderlei Silva vs. Rampage Jackson.
For his part, Velasquez disagrees with his opponent’s assessment. The UFC champ, who will be attempting his second title defense in Houston, was quick to dismiss any idea that the rivalry won’t have a definitive conclusion after they leave the cage.
“I think this being the third one and we’re both 1-1, this will kind of settle the whole trilogy itself,” he said. “I think that’s it. I think there will be other opponents that will be fun, and I think that will just be that.”
Despite two previous matchups, the duo are probably far more equipped than in the previous meetings to face down the other’s strengths. After all, the first match was so quick — just 64 seconds — that neither man was likely to left armed with any meaningful information about the other.
That changed dramatically in the second fight, which likely taught dos Santos most of what he needs to know about Velasquez’s suffocatingly grinding style, and Velasquez about dos Santos’ indomitable spirit, fighting off 22 takedown tries and getting back to his feet after 11 successful tries as well as a first-round knockdown.
Dos Santos said on Wednesday that largely because of the experience as well as increased wrestling training, that he is ready for the challenge of facing Velasquez’s never-ending series of shots. And despite the champion wanting to win and move past him, dos Santos said the two shouldn’t plan on putting each other in the rearview mirror anytime soon.
“I’m very confident too, but I think it’s going to be different. We’re going to fight each other again,” he said. “I’m going to win this time and we’re going to face each other again. It doesn’t matter. I’m going to keep myself in a good position all the time. It’s a sport. We have to follow the rank. I’ll be on top of the rankings all the time, and we’re going to fight.”