Fun fact: UFC heavyweight champion, Junior Dos Santos, was actually severely injured when he beat Cain Velasquez to take possession of the heavyweight title at UFC on Fox 1 back in November last year.
He was hobbling on crutches back stage and later admitted that going for the quick knockout, the strategy that worked quite well for him as you may remember, was actually brought about by the knee injury which he knew wouldn’t last the full length of the fight.
Velasquez was also far from 100 percent when he entered the cage too; according to recent reports he damaged his knee in lead up training.
Apparently this was why the then champ seemed so sluggish and was unable to utilise his normally explosive takedowns on the night.
In the end the first Dos Santos v Velasquez fight was one of the UFC’s biggest anti-climaxes in recent memory.
Billed as the UFC’s mainstream TV coming out event, even a one punch knockout finish, so often a crowd pleasing and resounding end, felt hollow and empty. Dos Santos celebrated hard but honestly it all felt like he had gotten lucky.
This is why this weekend’s fight is so important for the future of the UFC heavyweight division.
These two combatants have set themselves apart from the heavyweight pack, Velasquez with perhaps the greatest all round skills set ever seen in the division and Dos Santos with unmatched stand-up ability and punching power.
Velasquez’s explosive wrestling base is complemented by some heavy hands and speed and cardio that could well match his welterweight training partners.
When he ascended to the top of the heavyweight pile and dethroned Brock Lesnar in 2010 ,many thought his unique athletic skills could make him the first real dominant champion in the division’s history.
He blew away the likes of Antonio Nogueira, Cheick Kongo and Ben Rothwell on his way up the ranks, before completely dominating Lesnar in his first title fight. So far his only loss is that knockout to Dos Santos.
The Brazilian similarly powered his way up the ranks, making Shane Carwin, Roy Nelson, Mirko Cro Cop and Frank Mir look like punching bags.
His boxing is without peer, he has a left and right that could stop a Rhino.
He has also shown he can defend the inevitable take downs that come his way, a skill that allows him to stay on his feet and keep looking for the knockout instead of being left stuck under a heavyweight truck.
After their first, rather inconclusive, fight neither will be lacking in motivation to set things even either.
To put it simply, the champion will want to show his first KO wasn’t a fluke and the challenger is out for revenge.
The bloody beating Velasquez gave ‘Bigfoot’ Silva at UFC 146 and lack of any notable celebration showed the title ‘former-champ’ does not sit well with the Mexican.
However, both will have to look beyond their emotions to deal with their opponent’s unique skill set.
Dos Santos has never face someone with such a quick and explosive wrestling game and will have to work his takedown defence like mad, so he doesn’t end up underneath Velasquez’s fists and elbows.
Velasquez faces up against not just another heavy-handed heavyweight slugger but a boxer who uses angles, smart combinations and silky footwork to simultaneously deliver punishment but also evade his opponent.
The former champ will have to be prepared to cop numerous solid combinations if he wants to take back his title.
In the end if Velasquez takes this one out and evens the ledger, a potential blockbuster of a final trilogy fight beckons for both men.
However if Dos Santos takes it out, he clearly moves to the head of the heavyweight pack with the only obvious challengers being the suspended Allistair Overeem and Strikeforce champ, Daniel Cormier.
A loss could see Velasquez stuck in the awkward position of being the second-best guy in the division but years away from a title shot, a place former Roar expert E.Spencer Kyte has accurately dubbed the ‘Rich Franklin’ zone.
Furthermore having such a nasty gatekeeper in the division could make for some awkward booking decisions for the UFC.
Regardless of the ending though, this weekend will be one to savour as the two best heavyweights in the world match-up once again and finally deliver on the explosive promise made over a year ago.