Throughout the past three years, UFC champion Cain Velasquez and former titleholder Junior dos Santos have ingrained themselves as the two best fighters in the heavyweight division.
The fighter who occupies the top spot has flip-flopped more than either man would prefer, but now that the scoreboard is tied at one apiece, Velasquez is ready to decide the true victor once and for all.
"I think this'll be the last [fight between us]. Obviously this is the one that settles is all," Velasquez said on Wednesday. "Obviously you have to wait and see, but yeah, I think will be the end of it."
When pressed for the rational behind his thought, Velasquez went on to elaborate.
"I think with this being the third one, we're both one and one, this'll kind of settle the whole trilogy itself. That's it," he said matter-of-factly. "I think there'll be other opponents that need to be fought."
As both men are still well within their fighting prime, Velasquez's comments seemed to catch dos Santos by surprise. Almost immediately the Brazilian jumped in to disagree with his rival's assertion.
"I don't think it's going to be the last one. I just don't think so. I think we're going to fight each other again in the future," dos Santos said.
"Sooner or later we're going to be fighting again because I think Cain Velasquez is a great opponent and a great fighter. He's going to try to keep himself in a good position all the time, as a champion or a good position in the ranks. The same with myself. So I think we're going to see each other again."
Dos Santos reiterated his belief that the pair's second fight, a brutal one-sided beating at the hands of Velasquez, was a "good experience."
The stark contrast between the 25-minute blowout and the pair's initial 64-second showdown on FOX taught dos Santos much about his rival. It's knowledge which dos Santos now believes will reshape the rubber match.
"This third fight is going to be completely different from the other fights," dos Santos promised. "Because now Cain Velasquez knows more about me. I know more about him, and we are more prepared to fight each other. That's where my motivation comes from. I want to fight with the best, and right now, I feel like I'm going to fight with the best. I want to beat this guy."
While dos Santos remains complimentary of the American, there's been one mantra he's repeated several times over the past year, including on the UFC's recent Primetime preview series -- the jab that Velasquez "hits like a girl."
Daniel Cormier is Velasquez's wrestling coach and primary training partner at AKA, and dos Santos' continued dismissiveness of Velasquez's vast abilities has lead Cormier to question whether the Brazilian is taking his opponent as seriously as he should be.
"You wont even recognize the guy that fought last December to the guy that's going to fight next week," Cormier said.
"Cain prepared for a better Junior dos Santos. I hope that they've taken that approach for him. I watched the (UFC 166) Primetime, and I just think that there are a lot of mistakes being made over in Brazil if they're not preparing for a better, stronger, hungrier, harder punching Cain Velasquez. Because if he didn't hit hard in December, when [dos Santos] gets hit on October 19, it'll feel like he's fighting a completely different person."
Velasquez has never been one to trash talk his opponent, so it's not surprising that he prefers to stay out of the conversation.
Nonetheless, even the normally reserved champion admits that, considering the immense ramifications at stake, this fight feels different than all those before it.
"If we're both one and one, you obviously want to win the third one and kind of end it there," Velasquez said. "It seems like every fight is my toughest fight and the most important, but I think this one has a little extra behind it."