There always seems to be an inherent finality to a trilogy in combat sports: Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier, Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Roberto Duran, Randy Couture vs. Chuck Liddell, Georges St-Pierre vs. Matt Hughes, and numerous others have settled the score with a trio of fights.
UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and challenger Junior dos Santos meet for the third time this coming Saturday at UFC 166 at the Toyota Center in Houston. They are currently deadlocked at one victory apiece.
Velasquez has the momentum, having defeated dos Santos in a five-round drubbing in their last bout, which took place in December of last year. Their first fight, in November of 2011, was all dos Santos, however, with the Brazilian finishing the fight with a stunning 64-second knockout.
Saturday’s match-up is the rubber match. The winner has bragging rights. The winner has the UFC heavyweight championship belt. The winner settles the score.
Or does he?
Velasquez believes so.
“I think this will be the last one, yes. I think this is the one that settles it all so obviously you have to wait and see, but yes, I think this will be the end of it,” said Velasquez recently.
“I think with this being the third one and then we’re both one and one, being the third one this will kind of settle the whole, the trilogy itself. I think there will be other opponents that need to be fought and everything else and I think it will just be the end.”
As long as the outcome is conclusive, Velasquez is correct. The victor will need to move on to other opponents and defend the belt against other challengers. Fighters like Fabricio Werdum, Josh Barnett, Travis Browne, and others are knocking on the door and deserve a shot at the belt.
It’s also not out of the question that whoever loses could quickly be back in the title picture, despite the lengthy list of potential challengers. There will be some necessary regrouping, but neither fighter is at an age where he would be forced out to pasture.
Velasquez is 31 years of age, while dos Santos is only 29.
The former champion, dos Santos, believes that regardless of the outcome, he and Velasquez will remain two of the top heavyweights on the planet, and could become one of the longest running rivalries in combat sports.
“I don’t think so, I don’t think it’s going to be the last one,” said dos Santos. “I think we’re going to fight each other again and in the future or soon or late we’re going to be fighting again.
“I think Cain Velasquez is a great opponent and a great fighter. He is going to try to keep himself in a good position all the time or as a champion or in a good position in the rank and I’ll do the same with myself. So I think we’re going to see each other again.”
With the Velasquez vs. dos Santos trilogy coming together in a two-year span, and with neither man looking like his skills are fading, don’t be surprised if dos Santos is correct.
And, realistically, who is going to complain if we get to see further Velasquez vs. dos Santos match-ups down the road?