Among the biggest winners from Saturday night was Javier Mendez. The AKA head coach watched as his pair of star pupils dismantled their opponents back-to-back at UFC 166, beginning with Daniel Cormier's outclassing of Roy Nelson then culminating with UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez's bloody five-round beating of Junior dos Santos.
In the eyes of both Velasquez and Mendez, the champ's main event performance, one eerily reminiscent of his brutal UFC 155 victory over dos Santos, put a definitive stamp on this era's premiere heavyweight trilogy.
"For the most part, [Velasquez] did what him and I had discussed for months on end," a happy Mendez said on Monday's edition of The MMA Hour.
"He actually executed it to a tee. The only thing he didn't do is the part I mentioned about if we're going to change things, then we're going to change. Because there was an area there in the third round where we wanted him to separate when he knew dos Santos was ready to go, and Cain still stuck to the plan. He didn't separate long enough to add more punches."
While Velasquez later secured a fifth-round TKO finish as dos Santos' head collided with the cage floor and the Brazilian turtled up in exhaustion, several observers -- including UFC President Dana White -- believed the violent bout should've been stopped much sooner, either by referee Herb Dean, dos Santos' corner, or the cageside doctor.
"I would've been torn, to be honest with you. I might've stopped the fight," Mendez admitted when asked if he would've thrown in the towel had the two sides been switched.
"But I would've been like, ‘Man, I don't know, because my fighter is such a great warrior, he takes good shots, he still has a chance to win.' Man, it would've been a tough call."
Just as he had during the pair's second fight, Velasquez set the tone early and stifled dos Santos with relentless pressure from the outset. Yet in retrospect, one of the night's most indelible images may've come before the fists ever started flying.
Instead of standing idly by as dos Santos performed his customary pre-fight ritual of ‘throwing down of the gauntlet,' Velasquez stormed out to meet dos Santos and stand nose-to-nose in the center of the cage. Even Mendez admits, he didn't see that coming.
"I didn't have any idea," Mendez said. "But I did frame it like this. I said, ‘Look, this is what I want you to do. Remember, if he puts his fist in front of you, you do one better. Whatever he does, you do one better.' And while they were walking back and forth, Cain was looking down and JDS was mad-dogging him, and I was yelling at him, ‘Look back at him! Give it back to him!' So then, if you guys watch the tape, you can see all of a sudden Cain looks at him. From that point, Cain was going to do one better."
Following the fight, which tied Velasquez at two for most consecutive defenses of the UFC heavyweight title, White announced that Brazilian grappling savant Fabricio Werdum will be the next man in line for a shot at Velasquez's belt.
Mendez admits that he still believes dos Santos is the second-best heavyweight in the division, but acknowledges that Werdum presents his own challenges and is a formidable opponent in his own right.
"Fabricio's been getting better all the time," Mendez said. "He's got new tricks all the time, and he's got incredible -- he's probably got the best jiu-jitsu out of all the heavyweights in the world. He definitely can pose a different kind of threat for Cain, so Cain needs to be up for him like he was for Junior, otherwise we could be in trouble. He's definitely a worthy challenger."
As for the other half of Mendez's night, the AKA coach grades Daniel Cormier's performance against Nelson a perfect "A+."
Competing at the lowest weight of his career, 224 pounds, Cormier outclassed the much larger Nelson from pillar to post to claim an easy unanimous decision victory. Though afterward Nelson derided Cormier for a conservative approach, stating that the former two-time Olympian didn't engage throughout all three rounds.
"I don't know what fight he was at," Mendez scoffed. "When you get tattooed the way [Nelson] was, I mean, you shouldn't be complaining about ‘the guy didn't come to fight you.' He outhit you, he outstruck you, he outwrestled you, he outsmarted you. You didn't come to fight. He came to play checkers when [Cormier] came to play chess."
While Cormier may not have made an explosive statement against Nelson, his victory was unquestionably dominant and serves well to set up Cormier's entry into the UFC's light heavyweight division.
Cormier and Mendez both acknowledge that an immediate title shot against Jon Jones isn't a likely possibility considering the way the division is presently set up. However they're in agreement about what's next, as Cormier spoke about fighting Alexander Gustafsson at Saturday's post-fight press conference and Mendez echoed the thought on Monday's show.
Both men concur, a win against Gustafsson would prop Cormier up for a long-awaited grudge match against Jones.
"I don't think he'll win (against Jones) easily, and I'm not 100-percent sure he's going to win. I'm 100-percent sure that it's going to be a hell of a fight and it's going to be the biggest challenge of [Jones'] life. That I'm 100-percent sure of," Mendez said in closing.
"[Cormier's] going to meet an individual who's got the height and knows how to use it, knows how to use it really well. But what Jones is going to meet, he's going to meet a wrestler like he's never faced before. Someone of that level. Now Jones has got to be concerned about going on his back. He can't be thinking about, ‘Okay, it's going to be difficult to take me down.' Now he's 100-percent has a legit reason to be careful what he does, because he's going to be on his back whether he likes it or not."