Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013 | 2 a.m.
HOUSTON — Before Cain Velasquez could leave the Toyota Center to treat the red pepper-resembling welt above his right eye, he had to fulfill one last request.
This was unlike the calendar’s worth of media obligations or the hordes of fans awaiting every corner the 31-year-old turned ahead of UFC 166. A fellow veteran fighter, 35-year-old welterweight Hector Lombard, held out a pen and asked Velasquez to sign his program.
And who could blame him? That signature is going to be worth hanging on to.
If Velasquez didn’t secure his place as the greatest heavyweight champion in the history of the UFC Saturday by finishing Junior dos Santos via TKO at 3:09 of the fifth round, he came darn close.
“Cain is the best in the game,” said heavyweight Gabriel Gonzaga, who knocked out Shawn Jordan on the main card before Velasquez and dos Santos took to the octagon. “He has the skills, the movements and everything a heavyweight needs to have.”
Velasquez became only the fifth fighter to ever successfully defend the heavyweight belt twice. More importantly to the ephemerally minded Velasquez, he broke the tie with dos Santos that had up to the point defined his reign.
His goal over the last five months — ever since he brutally finished Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva at UFC 160 — was validating his previous win over dos Santos, which would in the process avenge his previous loss for once and for all. Velasquez spoke of wanting to close the dos Santos chapter of his career.
Instead, Velasquez burned the book altogether and erased any memory that the two were ever seen as equally matched by beating dos Santos even more savagely than he did at UFC 155 last December.
“I’m definitely satisfied,” Velasquez said. “Hopefully, no more excuses on his part. That’s it.”
As dos Santos stood in the octagon and shrugged his shoulders up towards his rearranged face, he didn’t appear to have many excuses. Dos Santos all but admitted Velasquez was the overall superior fighter, and by extension the best in the world.
There wasn’t much else he could say. Positive moments in the bout for dos Santos were as rare as spots on his mug without blood or bruises afterwards.
Velasquez took control from the start, pressing dos Santos up against the cage for the first two rounds and barely giving him space to breathe. At the behest of his cornermen in the third, Velasquez began breaking out of the clinch more and punishing dos Santos with strikes.
Velasquez rocked his rival repeatedly in the frame, making a referee stoppage look imminent as dos Santos stumbled around disjointedly.
“I’m not a doctor by any means, but I think that fight should have been stopped in the third round,” UFC President Dana White said. “I’m a guy who has been around this sport for a long time and boxing. I’ve seen a lot of guys too tough for their own good and I think Junior dos Santos is one of those guys.”
Dos Santos took nearly 10 more minutes worth of punishment before finally succumbing to Velasquez. The fight ended with the Brazilian desperately attempting to cover himself on the ground.
A few minutes later, dos Santos was back on his feet showing some of the characteristics White alluded to by asking for more.
“I’ll train harder, come back and face him again,” dos Santos vowed. “I’m going to come back.”
Not for a while, though, if at all. Velasquez wants to start building his post-dos Santos legacy.
White is in agreement, and confirmed Velasquez’s next defense would come against Fabricio Werdum.
“I have a lot of respect for him,” Velasquez said of Werdum. “He’s a good champion. He has good stand-up. He has good jiu-jitsu.”
Sure, but dos Santos also once defeated Werdum in 81 seconds. Many expected Velasquez and dos Santos to meet upwards of five times because they were so far ahead of all other competition.
Turns out Velasquez was just as far ahead of dos Santos.
“Who’s to say, in five years, we won’t fight again,” Velasquez asked. “But I think, for a while, we’re done.”