Fortunes changed for five at UFC 160

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

UFC 160 solidified who the top two fighters in the heavyweight division are now, and looking into the future, it could remain this way for years to come.

If there was any doubt going into Saturday that Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos were the two best heavyweights in mixed martial arts, it was gone when both men scored decisive wins in the big two fights at UFC 160 in Las Vegas.

The wins set up a third meeting between the two, likely barring an injury, for sometime in the fall. What's notable about each man's wins on Saturday is neither showed any indication of what would happen in a third meeting.

Velasquez wasn't able to take Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva down, but his hand speed was such that he was able to crack him in the jaw, the key blow that led to the end of the fight in just 81 seconds. Going in there relying on boxing as he did with Silva would put Velasquez at a disadvantage against Dos Santos, the best pure boxer in UFC's heavyweight division.

Dos Santos laid back, picking away at Mark Hunt, and keeping a pace up that led to Hunt tiring as the fight wore on. At that point Hunt took several solid shots, and was knocked out with a spinning wheel kick. Laying back against Velasquez and countering is likely to see Velasquez keeping Dos Santos on his heels while putting on pressure. That's essentially the same losing fight style Dos Santos fought in his second meeting with Velasquez. Waiting for Velasquez to tire would be playing the wrong game.

Velasquez has been virtually untouched aside from his knockout loss to Dos Santos. Dos Santos was untouched going into his second fight with Velasquez aside from an armbar loss back in 2007, long before he hit his prime.

If you take away his last fight with Velasquez, Dos Santos hasn't even lost a round in UFC competition. Ditto, taking away the knockout loss by Velasquez in the first meeting between the two, Velasquez hasn't lost a round his entire career.

With Velasquez two months shy of his 31st birthday, and Dos Santos a little more than two years younger, a question needs to be asked. Will three fights ended up deciding it?

The reality is there needs to be a regular schedule of heavyweight title bouts, two a year, perhaps three. While there is always the puncher's chance, there is nobody in the UFC heavyweight division who will be anything but a significant underdog against either. And looking to the future, the idea this next fight will be their last against each other looks unlikely.

The long-term question is will one of the two end up dominating the other in the series. And how long will it be until injuries and age, the ultimate ending of every great fighter, rears its head.

But while the two were the stars of Saturday's show, their fortunes didn't really change. Both were expected to win, and they did in impressive fashion. But others saw major career changes.

T.J. GRANT - Nobody's stock went up more on Saturday than the native of Eastern Canada. Grant, formerly a journeyman welterweight, has made a convincing case to get the next lightweight title shot at Benson Henderson.

Even though the Grant (21-5) vs. favored Gray Maynard (12-2-1, 1 no contest) fight was billed as the winner getting the next shot, after the fact, Dana White said he was looking for something impressive. White noted that Josh Thomson had also been under consideration for a title shot after his win over Nate Diaz on April 20 in San Jose, Calif.

But there was no denying Grant as the top contender. He became only the second fighter to finish Maynard, battering him with punches, scoring two knockdowns, as well as landing a vicious knee, before it was stopped at 2:07.

It was Grant's fifth win in a row since moving down. Grant is a big lightweight, bigger than Maynard, whose size and power led him to success in the division. He's also bigger than lightweight champion Benson Henderson.

White said Henderson vs. Grant was one of four fights under consideration for the first show on Fox Sports 1 on Aug. 17 from Boston. But even if it's not the headliner for that show, there are so many shows between early August and early September on the UFC schedule that it's likely to headline one of them.

GLOVER TEIXEIRA - Teixeira (21-2), now has 19 wins in a row, dating back to 2005. He was expected to beat James Te Huna. It was the way he did it that opened yes. He out struck his opponent, grabbed a standing guillotine, went to the ground while holding the move to add leverage, and getting a submission in 2:38.

Teixeira's management was talking about wanting to face the winner of the June 15 fight between Dan Henderson and Rashad Evans. Since both Alexander Gustafsson and Lyoto Machida are ahead of Teixeira when it comes to getting the next shot at light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, that direction looks to make sense.

While Teixeira got a high-profile win over Quinton "Rampage" Jackson on FOX, he's still trying to make himself famous. Henderson and Evans have names big enough that a win over either would be a big step in building his name.

The question in the division is twofold. The first is, does Jon Jones move to heavyweight, as he's talked about, in 2014, before the earliest point Teixeira gets a shot? The second revolves around Daniel Cormier, who with training partner Velasquez as heavyweight champion, is cutting to 205 and could be an immediate force in the title picture.

GRAY MAYNARD - At 34, Maynard's loss to Grant may be difficult to rebound from. Maynard in many ways is the quieter version of the Chael Sonnen career path. An outstanding wrestler from his youth, winning a high school national title in 1998, his goals of an NCAA title and going to the Olympics never transpired. Then he went into MMA, and came as close to winning a title as anyone possibly could, without actually tasting gold.

Maynard gave Frankie Edgar one of the worst beatings anyone in UFC ever survived in round one of their Jan. 1, 2011 title fight. But Edgar recovered and the fight ended up a draw. After delays, a rematch started out the same way, with Maynard having Edgar as close to defeat as possible in round one. Once again, Edgar came back, and won via knockout in the fourth round.

It's now been three years since Maynard's last win where he looked like a future champion, a dominant win over perennial contender Kenny Florian. Since then, he looked great in two opening rounds with Edgar but didn't do enough to win either fight from there. With so much depth in the division, his road back to the top isn't going to be one to easily navigate.

DONALD CERRONE - A perennial lightweight favorite, Cerrone (20-5, 1 no contest) scored a unanimous decision over K.J. Noons, rebounding from a devastating loss to Anthony Pettis.

Cerrone fought a smart fight against Noons, combining punches and kicks with takedowns, taking Noons out of his game. After the fight, the name Josh Thomson was battered around, since Thomson wasn't getting the next title shot. That's where Cerrone's popularity comes into play. He's had losses to Pettis and Nate Diaz. But with Pettis having moved down to featherweight, a win over Thomson would get him in at least shooting distance of contendership.

KHABIB NURMAGOMEDOV - Nurmagomedov (20-0) has as impressive a record on paper as any fighter in the promotion. He put on a takedown clinic in beating Abel Trujillo. Depending on what you consider a takedown, over three rounds he finished somewhere between 21 and 28 takedowns, breaking the listed company record of 16 set by Sean Sherk, in a five-round fight UFC lightweight title win over Hermes Franca on July 7, 2007, in Sacramento.

Setting the record wasn't well received. Dana White made a reference comparing him to Fitch, a former welterweight star who had a great winning record but was known for not having exciting bouts.

There is another aspect of Nurmagomedov's rise to the top. For years, there was frustration on the UFC side, and to a degree with fans, when Josh Koscheck and Jon Fitch were two of the top welterweights. They were teammates, close friends and said on a number of occasions they would never fight each other.

The American Kickboxing Association camp in San Jose now has not two, but three of the top lightweights in the world, in Thomson, Maynard and Nurmagomedov. This can create havoc when it comes to matchmaking, particularly since it is very conceivable all three could be in the top 10 at the same time.

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