Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos will fight for the third time on Saturday night in the main event of UFC 166 in Houston to determine once and for all which of them is the top heavyweight in the organization.
Velasquez, the champion, and former champ dos Santos disagree on whether this friendly rivalry will remain a trilogy or if the series could continue.
“I think this will be the last one. I think this is the one that settles it all,” said Velasquez, who pummeled dos Santos for five rounds to win a unanimous decision and take the heavyweight belt in December. “I think with this being the third one and then we’re both one and one, this will kind of settle the trilogy. So I think that’s it. I think there will be other opponents that need to be fought and everything else, and I think it will just be the end.”
Dos Santos disagrees.
He won the title by knocking out Velasquez in the first round of the first meeting between the two in November 2011, still the only loss of Velasquez’s career.
Dos Santos feels he and Velasquez are clearly the top two heavyweights and their paths are bound to cross again.
“I don’t think it’s going to be the last one. I think we’re going to fight each other again and in the future. Sooner or later, we’re going to be fighting again,” dos Santos said.
He believes the fighter who is not champion will continue to win, making a future confrontation unavoidable.
“We have to follow the rankings, and I’ll be on top of the rankings all the time, and we’re going to fight,” dos Santos said.
Saturday’s fight tops a pay-per-view card that also features a heavyweight bout between Daniel Cormier and Las Vegan Roy Nelson.
■ BENAVIDEZ TONES DOWN TITLE FOCUS — Joseph Benavidez still has high hopes of winning the UFC flyweight title, but he’s no longer letting that goal drive his career.
He will get a second shot at flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson on Nov. 30 at Mandalay Bay. Benavidez dropped a split decision to Johnson in September 2012 and believes part of the reason may have been just how much he wanted to win.
“I just got this huge obsession (with how important that fight was),” Benavidez said. “I just brought in too much emotion, and that’s something I don’t want to do again. I always have fun in a fight, and it just wasn’t fun for me. I usually can’t wait to get in there and have a good time.”
Johnson has defended the title twice since that fight, while Benavidez has won three straight, including two consecutive knockouts.
Benavidez believes he has a better mindset going into the rematch.
“I realized you can’t control the result of being the champion. You can’t put a picture on your mantle and just say you were meant to do this,” he said. “I didn’t want to do that again. You can’t control the result. All you can control is trying to get better every day. That’s my goal.”
Benavidez and Johnson were in Las Vegas this week promoting tickets to their fight going on sale. The event will serve as the season finale for “The Ultimate Fighter,” with a male and female season champion being crowned.
■ PALHARES CUT — The UFC announced welterweight Rousimar Palhares was released from the organization following his first-round submission victory over Mike Pierce on Wednesday night’s card in Brazil. Palhares failed to release the ankle lock in a timely manner after Pierce tapped several times and appeared to scream in pain.
Palhares was previously suspended in 2010 for a similar violation against Tomasz Drwal.
The UFC also withheld a $50,000 bonus for submission of the night, and Palhares was suspended four months by the athletic commission in Brazil.
UFC president Dana White said during an appearance on ESPN that Palhares will never fight in the UFC again.
■ OKAMI SIGNS — Former UFC middleweight title challenger Yushin Okami has signed with Las Vegas-based World Series of Fighting less than two weeks after being cut by the UFC.
Okami, 32, is expected to make his WSOF debut in early 2014.
“We’re extremely excited to announced that Yushin Okami as the newest member of our middleweight division,” World Series of Fighting president Ray Sefo said in a release. “MMA fans around the world know Yushin has long been among the best 185-pound fighters in the sport, and we’re happy to have him as a member of the World Series of Fighting family.”
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.