SPECIAL FEATURE BY: Jade Sanchez
The MMA world would have been fine kissing 2012 goodbye with a Team Carwin vs. Team Nelson Finale as the final event to complete a year that provided many exciting fights and events. But to put an icing on the cake, the UFC is throwing in one more card that will surely satisfy: A rematch between the current heavyweight champion, Junior Dos Santos, and the former champion, Cain Velasquez, will surely set off pre-New Year's Eve fireworks to close another great year for MMA.
It is important to remember that their first bout, which marked UFC’s debut on the Fox network, pulled together a staggering 8.8 million viewers, as two of the world’s best heavyweight fighters squared off in the octagon on November 12, 2011. The writing was on the wall that the fight would end sooner than later as both fighters entered the cage carrying impressive knockout records. So when referee John McCarthy gave it a go, all it took was a minute and 4 seconds after for him to step in and put a halt to the bout.
Dos Santos – Velasquez 1 (November 12, 2011)
Cain Velasquez, the champion, initiated the fight throwing leg kicks to keep a safe distance against Dos Santos while the challenger was cautious with his strikes. Both fighters looked good and confident throwing occasional punches measuring the distance clocking when to pull the trigger. At 55 seconds into the fight, Dos Santos let go a brutal overhand right to the left temple of Velasquez that sent the champion to the floor woozy. Dos Santos then dropped killer blows not giving Velasquez the chance to regain his senses. The referee stopped the bout and Dos Santos became the UFC heavyweight champion.
It was revealed then that both fighters were actually injured when they fought. Aside from the open-and-shut fact that the rematch is a good move from a business stand point – Dos Santos with his gigantic fan base in Brazil and Velasquez with his exceedingly large Latino fan base of his own, the argument about their injuries is an added impetus that makes this rematch even more interesting. Would Velasquez have performed well if he wasn’t injured? What difference could he have done?
A shock of realization haunted the former champion when the belt that he worked hard to get has been stripped away from him with just a blink of an eye. Working his way up again, Velasquez returned to the octagon on May 26 this year and fought Antonio Silva. Velasquez reminded the fans why he was once the champion by being all-fired aggressive from start to end. He took Silva down to the ground immediately and beat him up with his vicious ground and pound and elbow strikes that made the canvas looked like a kill floor for animals. Silva was completely overwhelmed that the referee put a halt to the bout when he was brutally battered by the former champion.
That victory was Velasquez’ ticket to get back the belt that he once held and now that the opportunity is here, he is not going to let it slip away without a fight.
Dos Santos First Title Defense
Dos Santos was successful in his first title defense by demolishing Frank Mir in just 2 rounds. Mir chose to trade punches with the heavy-hitting champion while waiting for the perfect timing to take the fight to the ground but when Dos Santos’ powerful right straight landed, Mir was decked to the floor and Junior Dos Santos swarmed in until the fight was stopped.
Junior Dos Santos prospered in the competitive world of mixed martial arts by showcasing his dynamic striking ability and excellent take down defense. Now that the belt marks his status as the world’s best in his weight division, losing it is the last thing he’d want to do.
Both fighters finished their last opponents. Their battle scars are fresh and they are ready to go to war once again. A fight of this caliber, they cannot afford to let down their guards because one single mistake can be capitalized by the other and before we know it, the fight is over.
Their impressive victories before this rematch will carry over come fight night. Will Velasquez rise to the occasion and dethrone the king? Will Dos Santos impose his will once again and defeat Velasquez the second time? On December 29, the world of mixed martial arts will find out.
Follow Jade on Twitter @jdsanz.