UFC 116 gave UFC fans the first match between two of the four fighters that have often been referred to as the four horsemen.
Shane Carwin, Junior dos Santos, Cain Velasquez and Brock Lesnar all made major impacts in the heavyweight division, distinguishing themselves from the other fighters by defeating great competitors such as Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira and Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipović, gatekeeper-type fighters such as Gabriel Gonzaga and Frank Mir as well as up-and-comers such as Stefan Struve and Roy Nelson, each in devastating fashion.
Then they started facing each other in much anticipated bouts, the first being at UFC 116 in June 2010 between heavyweight champion Lesnar and Carwin.
The fight's first round was immensely physical, and it was nothing short of a rollercoaster of excitement from Carwin absolutely dominating Lesnar, pummeling him into everything but submission only to have Lesnar weather the storm, come back and win by submission.
The next big fight was against Lesnar and Velasquez at UFC 121, and speculation leading up to the fight was no less intense than that between Lesnar and Carwin.
In this fight, Velasquez brought the competition to a whole new level as the smallest of the horseman easily dominated the largest, outwrestling and outstriking Lesnar to win by TKO in Round 1.
Recently, at UFC 131, Junior dos Santos faced Carwin after Lesnar had to suddenly pull out due to illness, and dos Santos was the first person that didn't even have to weather the storm and instead outworked Carwin in every aspect of the fight.
Now, dos Santos is set to face current heavyweight champion Velasquez for what is anticipated to be UFC 136.
People should remember that among the four horsemen, this is a tournament of sorts. Carwin is undoubtedly at the bottom after being beaten by Lesnar and dos Santos, and in a makeshift round robin style competition, he is out of the game.
Lesnar won one fight, but he lost to Velasquez, so Lesnar is clearly third in the ranks. Now we'll get to determine who is No. 1 and No. 2 between Velasquez and JDS.
So now the question is, who's going to be No. 1?
There are a number of factors to be taken into consideration with the fight between Velasquez and dos Santos.
For one, Dos Santos has not lost in the UFC, though he does have one loss on his record, one which he redeemed by beating the same person a bit later in his career. Velasquez, on the other hand, has not only gone undefeated in the UFC, he hasn't lost period.
Another factor is Velasquez's time off. Velasquez hasn't fought since October 2010, and given that UFC 136 isn't ancitipated to take place until October 2011, that's quite a long layoff for such an elite level of competition.
Velasquez's injury involved a shoulder injury which required surgery, and striking is something he needs to really have ready to take on someone of dos Santos's caliber.
Wrestling is something Velasquez clearly holds an advantage in. Not only is he a decorated wrestler, he defending a brutal takedown against Lesnar after taking a big knee and essentially outwrestled the Division I champ.
That's something nobody had done in the Octagon prior to that point, and it should be taken with serious consideration.
One thing to point out is that dos Santos was swept by a spent Carwin and even though the chances of pulling off a last second submission would be pretty rare, Carwin had the perfect position to work a guillotine.
More important than anything though, ought to be the fact that Carwin, having been outdone in every aspect of the fight, was able to even get something close to a dominant position.
Granted Velasquez has a better wrestling arsenal than dos Santos, both fighters typically win in the same respect: by KO or TKO. One could say dos Santos has heavier hands, but the way each fighter approaches his opponent is different.
Dos Santos undoubtedly has confidence in his striking, and considering his victories over Cro Cop, Carwin and even Roy Nelson, he has reason to feel he's the top dog in any given fight. Velasquez, on the other hand, will attempt to throw punches with even the toughest strikers, such as Big Nog and Cheick Kongo, but if he's bested, such as with Kongo, he quickly takes the fight to the ground where he knows he can win.
Thus, in considering objective factors and avoiding subjective ones such as time off, power, etc..., one can assume from empirical evidence that Velasquez will likely test dos Santos's striking (similar to banging it out with Big Nog), and if he doesn't succeed, he will probably try to take it to the ground.
Dos Santos will undoubtedly try to keep this standing, so it really comes down to a matter of dos Santos's defensive wrestling.
Victory will likely be determined by whether or not dos Santos avoid Velasquez's takedown. He has sufficiently avoided it so far in the UFC, though he has mainly dodged it from elite strikers and not elite wrestlers.
This could pose a significant problem for him against Velasquez as the champ doesn't mess around when it comes to the ground phase of combat.
Velasquez clearly has more tools and is more well rounded, and even though dos Santos had
This is, of course, assuming that Velasquez will be fighting with the same power, intensity, skill and edge that he had during his fight against Lesnar. But the layoff is something to take into consideration.
Although we can't measure the effect of ring rust, as they differ from fighter to fighter, it's still a realistic variable, one that could work against him. No matchup exists in a vacuum.
Given what we can know, though, it's safe to say that Velasquez has more tools, but depending on dos Santos's defensive wrestling, it could be a long night for the champ.
I would say on paper, Velasquez has the advantage, but then again, that's just on paper. This is the UFC, and anything can happen.
What say you? Feel free to put your prediction in the comment section.