Cain Velasquez said for weeks leading up to his UFC 166 main event bout against Junior dos Santos that this would be the end of their rivalry and a third fight between the pair of heavyweight behemoths would be the last.
Velasquez was the better man Saturday night in Houston, stopping dos Santos in the fifth round to retain the heavyweight title he regained from dos Santos in their second fight.
The series was tied at one win a piece heading into Saturday night with each fight ending emphatically, leaving no doubt who was the winner. With a chance to cement his legacy as the greatest heavyweight champion in UFC history, Velasquez wanted to leave no doubt who was the best fighter in his trilogy with dos Santos.
It didn’t take long for Velasquez to showcase his dominance tagging dos Santos with heavy shots throughout the first two frames of the fight, punishing the Brazilian with relentless clinch work against the cage and unloading a barrage of punches any time he tried to breathe.
Dos Santos looked winded midway through the second round and continuously backed up against the cage, which played directly into Velasquez’s hand where he controlled the clinch and muscled his opponent around the Octagon.
In the third round, Velasquez smelled blood from an oxygen-deprived Dos Santos, and launched a monster punch that dropped his foe to the mat. Velasquez followed him to the canvas looking to pour on the damage, but dos Santos scrambled and caught just enough breathing room to get back to his feet.
It didn’t get any better for him there as Velasquez was like a hammer just pounding away at dos Santos, each punch leaving a fist imprint smothered in blood on his opponent’s head. Referee Herb Dean took a close look and almost stepped in to stop the fight, but realizing that dos Santos was still moving and not finished, he let the fight continue.
With his face covered in a crimson mask of his own blood, dos Santos tried valiantly to battle back but the pressure from Velasquez was like a vice grip and he wasn’t letting up until his job was finished.
The doctors cleaned up dos Santos as best they could while he struggled to see anything out of his left eye. The Brazilian was left with barely any vision and a mouth wide open begging for air with each gasp.
By the fifth round, Velasquez was firmly in control, savagely beating dos Santos to the punch with each and every exchange. The former champion tried to throw something back at Velasquez, but with exhaustion setting in there just wasn’t enough left in the tank to do any kind of damage.
The writing was on the wall that Velasquez was on his way to victory, but he didn’t want the judges to have any say in his second title defense. Velasquez stepped forward again and again, and he clipped dos Santos late in the fight and the Brazilian couldn’t handle any more.
Dos Santos dropped to his knees, hands laying in front of him as Velasquez cracked down with a few more punches before Dean stepped in to mercifully stop the carnage. A broken and bloody dos Santos stood and immediately grabbed Velasquez’s arm, raising it to the crowd, conceding the championship to the better man.
Velasquez (13-1) now ties the UFC record for most title defenses in the heavyweight division with another impressive performance. The former Arizona State wrestler has looked unstoppable in his three fights since losing to Dos Santos in 2011, and the rest of the division will have to put in some serious work to take that title away from him.
The loss for dos Santos (16-3) — and a second in a row to Velasquez — means that he will have to climb back up the ladder and hope for a change at the top of the division to get another shot at the belt. With two lopsided defeats courtesy of Velasquez, dos Santos will now have to sit on the outside looking in so long as the American Kickboxing Academy heavyweight holds onto the UFC gold.