Junior dos Santos: Cain Velasquez 'gave everything he had' and still couldn't finish me in the rematch

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

It was hardly a shock that Cain Velasquez defeated Junior dos Santos in their rematch in December to regain the UFC's heavyweight title.

Velasquez has, after all, been among a handful of the greatest fighters in the world for years.

It was the ferocity of the beating, the one-sided nature of the match, though, which was so stunning. It left jaws agape and prevented the squeamish from casting anything more than a sideways glance at dos Santos' battered face.

Dos Santos has more than come to grips with the defeat, only the second of his career, and actually managed to find a few positives in it. 

He'll meet Velasquez on Saturday in the rubber match with the belt once again the prize in the main event of UFC 166 at the Toyota Center in Houston.

The affable Brazilian, despite the punishment he took last time out, is just as optimistic of victory as he was before their first two matches.

There are some people with that ability to let mistakes clear their minds the moment they are made. All golfers have played with someone who hits an important tee shot 50 yards off line and into heavy rough between a few trees, only to instantly forget the bad swing and somehow knock the ball onto the green with the next shot.

Dos Santos is that way. He understands that he made mistakes in the fight, but he's aware that the third fight doesn't pick up where the second one ended. He's not dwelling so much on what happened in the past that it's crippling his ability to compete in the present. 

"I didn't lose because he's a better fighter than me, it's that I didn't react like I am used to doing," dos Santos said. "That was the worst part about it for me. As I watched the fight again, I was saying, 'That's not me in there.' I didn't react to situations that came up.

"That is very tough, and it's very frustrating for me. I knew what I should do, and I didn't do it when I wanted to."

Part of dos Santos' problem in that bout at UFC 155 is that he pushed himself so hard in training that he developed rhabdomyolysis. It is a condition which can become fatal under certain circumstances. Dos Santos' muscle fibers were breaking down and getting into his blood stream.

Part of it, though, is nothing more simple than a bad day at the office. Velasquez had a great night, and dos Santos had a terrible one. 

Everyone who works 40 hours a week for a living understands that some days are better than others when it comes to job performance. But most people don't do their jobs in front of a world-wide audience of millions and aren't scrutinized by reporters who want an instant explanation for every mistake.

That's the life dos Santos, chose, though, and he has no complaints.

"I'll be honest with you," he said. "I learned an awful lot from that fight. I know now that no matter what happens, I know how to react better to what is going on. It forced me to get better.

"I could see all the [mistakes] I made, and it wasn't a good time. Plus, give him credit, Cain Velasquez was very good in that fight. He did a great job. He put the pressure on me and he kept the pressure on me for the whole fight."

Velasquez seemed to have opportunities to end the fight with a submission earlier, but admitted to Yahoo Sports that he passed up several attempts in order to stick to his game plan of simply beating on dos Santos for five rounds.

Passing up an obvious chance to win is always a risky move, particularly against someone with dos Santos' boxing skill, because he has the ability to end a fight with just one shot.

But though dos Santos looked like a character from "The Elephant Man," by the time the bout ended, things weren't as bad as they seemed from his standpoint.

"I laughed a lot when I heard he said that," dos Santos said. "I've always respected him. But I gave him a lot of good positions where he could finish me, and he wasn't seeing them. One time, he caught my arm and he didn't know how to finish me with the arm bar. And this is the truth: He didn't finish me because he wasn't able to do that.

"He can say [whatever] he wants, but I know this: He gave everything he had to win that fight, and you could see at the end of the fight that he was really tired, and he tried to finish that fight very much, and he couldn't."

After all dos Santos been through since he lost the belt, it will mean a lot to have it back around his waist, he said. He learned who his true friends are after losing the title, and he's discovered some things about his limits and his abilities that he didn't know before.

He's utterly confident – "I just truly believe that I am the guy who is going to win this fight and I can't wait until Dana White puts that belt around my waist on Saturday," he said – and seemingly has erased the bad memories of the last outing versus dos Santos.

Nothing, though, will replace the first time, when he won it by knocking out Velasquez at UFC on Fox 1 on Nov. 12, 2011.

"The first time is always so special, and it was an amazing feeling," dos Santos said. "But this is going to be a different moment, but a great one, too. I'm a much better fighter now, because Cain Velasquez forced me to do that, and I'm ready to be the champion again. I want to have that feeling again and it's just going to be a couple of more days."

What to Read Next