Although Cain Velasquez now leads their series 2-1, a closer look at the UFC heavyweight champion's round-by-round results with Junior dos Santos shows a much more dominant picture.
For the second straight time, Velasquez (13-1 MMA, 11-1 UFC) dominated the former titleholder and emphatically won the duo's rubber match, which headlined Saturday's UFC 166 event at Houston's Toyota Center.
After a night of violent knockouts and contentious judges' decisions, the pay-per-view headliner proved to be a remarkably one-sided affair, and a late-fight TKO ultimately halted the drubbing of dos Santos (16-3 MMA, 10-2 UFC).
Velasquez lost his title and suffered his only career defeat in a 64-second knockout loss in the duo's 2011 meeting. But he made the third meeting look much like the second. In that late-2012 rematch, Velasquez dominated for five rounds and took back the title.
At UFC 166, the champ continued the dominance for another four-plus rounds by closing the distance, pinning dos Santos against the cage, and leaving the challenger's face a bruised and bloodied mess.
Early in the fight, Velasquez was willing to trade punches, and he nearly paid for it. Staggered early by dos Santos and then game to trade haymakers, Velasquez ultimately settled in and opted to close the distance.
"Junior came out stronger," Velasquez said. "I tried to beat him to the first punch, but it seems like he beat me. So it was a battle of that. So I tried to get him down."
Velasquez got his first takedown midway through the round, and even after dos Santos go to this feet, the champ mixed in some solid dirty boxing from the clinch.
In the second round, Velasquez stuck to what was working and again closed the distance. After landing a few solid blows, including a number of knees to the legs, he worked for takedowns while pinning dos Santos against the cage. More knees and short punches interrupted the takedown attempts, which left dos Santos primarily on the defensive.
Although dos Santos continued to avoid takedowns and opened the third round with a solid right, Velasquez's relentless work from the clinch continued to dictate the pace of the fight. Dos Santos attempted escapes, short elbows and knees to the gut, but Velasquez refused to give him any distance for more than a few fleeting moments. Once he finally gave dos Santos some room, it did little good. Velasquez dropped dos Santos with a right hand and then continued with a dozen follow-up blows. Referee Heb Dean nearly halted the fight as dos Santos covered up on the mat, and he nearly stopped it again as the Brazilian miraculously got back to his feet. But Velasquez continued connecting on significant blows that battered and bloodied the challenger.
With dos Santos on wobbly legs, the fourth round offered much of the same. Velasquez pinned him against the cage and looked for takedown attempts, and he wrecked the fighter's face and body after allowing the slightest bit of space. A timeout was called as dos Santos' face squirted blood from multiple cuts and as his left eye swelled shut, but the cageside physician allowed the abuse to continue.
By the final round, dos Santos' exhaustion was evident. In fact, it forced a stoppage. As Velasquez unloaded power shots from both hands, a desperate dos Santos tried a takedown, only to slip and drive his own head into the mat. Clearly dazed and unable to protect himself, the ref halted the bout at the 3:09 mark of the round.
After the fight, Velasquez thanks teammate and UFC 166 co-headliner Daniel Cormier, who defeated Roy Nelson via unanimous decision, for pushing him through camp. He said it made him a better fight.
"But (dos Santos) got better as well," he said.
Dos Santos, meanwhile, was left a bit speechless from the beatdown.
"He's very – what can I say? He neat me up," dos Santos said. "That's what I have to say."
With two lopsided wins over the world's No. 2 heavyweight and 10 knockouts in 12 career wins, No. 1 Velasquez could soon be chasing the title of greatest heavyweight in MMA history.