COMMENTARY | There's more than just the UFC heavyweight title on the line Oct. 19th at UFC 166, when Junior dos Santos meets Cain Velasquez in a trilogy fight. The winner will have the belt; the loser may be shut out of title contention for the foreseeable future.
Dos Santos won their first fight in the second minute of the first round with a devastating knockout punch. Velasquez stunned JDS early in their second fight, and grinded him out in a dominant five round decision.
While both fighters are in their prime, and are decisively the two best heavyweights in all of mixed martial arts, one of them will have the dreaded two losses to the champion after this bout.
The UFC has done many trilogy matches, but the company has never done four fights between the same fighters. There are a variety of reasons for this, including a lack of interest in seeing the same fight four times, and that there has never been a unique circumstance that has definitively warranted a fourth bout.
However, there is a precedent in the UFC to match up opponents three times, despite one fighter losing the first two bouts. This was done with Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock, a series of fights that did big business. There's also plans for a third bout between BJ Penn and Frankie Edgar. In both of these trilogies there was a level of controversy in at least one of the fights, but a third match was not necessary to settle the score.
A fourth match between JDS and Velasquez seems probable for a number of reasons. The UFC is short on heavyweight contenders; there doesn't appear to be any other heavyweight capable of beating these two, and a fourth fight would be a draw.
However there are no guarantees the UFC will want to put together a fourth match, and the path to that fight would be a lot longer and more difficult for the loser than the path to the first two rematches. The likelihood of a fourth bout would go down significantly with a second dominant win by Velasquez. A second quick knockout by dos Santos would also decrease the chances. Other factors include the PPV buyrate, and the emergence of future contenders. UFC president Dana White has expressed interest in another rematch given the right circumstances in the third bout.
This is a career defining fight between two dominant heavyweight superstars. Whichever fighter walks out of the Octagon the loser at UFC 166 may not be battling for the title anytime soon.
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