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Junior dos Santos: Rivalry with Cain Velasquez has made me a better fighter

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Junior dos Santos enters the cage on Saturday night to try to reclaim the UFC heavyweight title, and he looks ready to repeat history.

"Cigano" is the only fighter to ever defeat the current UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez, and he did that with a huge right hand at UFC’s debut on FOX in 2012. The Brazilian is already in Houston, Texas for UFC 166, and he believes his trilogy with Velasquez has made him a better fighter.

"It’s very important to me," dos Santos told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of "The MMA Hour". "I’m competing in another level because I have a great opponent in the other side. I really appreciate that. I’m happy to fight Cain Velasquez again. The rivalry between us is a great thing to make me a better fighter and person. It brings a lot of good things, and I appreciate that."

In his last appearance inside the Octagon, dos Santos finished Mark Hunt with a spinning back kick, and he plans to do some special tricks if he sees some openings during UFC 166’s main event.

"I can do anything," he said. "I have no limits. I like to think like that. I can do anything. If I see some opening to do something different I will. And I hope it works. I use to train a lot, including different moves. Anything can happen in a MMA fight and I’m ready for everything."

"Cigano" has said many times in the past that Velasquez "hits like a girl" because he couldn’t finish him after a 25-minute fight in their rematch. After that, he claimed he was just joking. However, the Brazilian repeated the "joke" during UFC’s Primetime.

"All my phrases were way longer than that," he explains. "The Primetime show, they are very creative in editing videos. That’s it. I did say that, but I was explaining. I don’t have more to say. I don’t like to disrespect my opponents, especially Cain Velasquez, because he’s a true warrior and it’s great to have him as an opponent. I’m training hard to beat him. I’m glad to compete with him.

"He’s a heavyweight and all the heavyweights hit really, really hard," he continued. "It’s the most dangerous division in the UFC. When you talk about the heavyweights, you talk about the baddest man on the planet."

However, dos Santos believes Velasquez's chin is not that hard.

"I think he has a pretty good chin," "Cigano" said. "He showed that in the Cheick Kongo fight, but he doesn’t have that very hard chin. Maybe, I don’t know. Maybe because I hit really hard too. He’s a very complete fighter, but this is my division and in my division, I’m the champion."

Velasquez’s head coach Javier Mendez believes the current world champion has an advantage for having a guy like Daniel Cormier, a former Strikeforce heavyweight champion, as a training partner.

Junior dos Santos doesn’t disagree.

"Daniel Cormier is the number two in the rankings, so I don’t know (if Velasquez has an advantage) because he’s a really good Olympic level wrestler," he said. "I don’t think he’s that great as a fighter. It’s good for Cain Velasquez to have a sparring like him, especially in the heavyweight division because it’s hard to find good heavyweight sparrings to train with.

"But I have good guys to train with," he continued. "I use to bring the same people to train with me because I already know them and I know they will be there to help me and not try to do something stupid. It’s hard to find good people to train with."

Junior dos Santos was promoted to a jiu-jitsu black belt weeks before his second fight with Velasquez. Last week, Leandro Vieira gave Velasquez the jiu-jitsu black belt.

"I never saw (his ground game) that much but if he got the black belt, probable it’s good," he said. "But jiu-jitsu is different. Jiu-jitsu is one thing, but during a MMA fight is very different. You have to train a lot to do this. Well, congratulations to him. Maybe if the fight goes to the ground we can do some jiu-jitsu in the fight."