SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Almost a year ago to the day, Cain Velasquez fought and defeated Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva. It was Velasquez's first bout since losing the UFC heavyweight title, and it wasn't even close.
Now, 12 months after exiting the Octagon bathed in his opponent's blood, Velasquez is once again the UFC heavyweight champion, and once again has his sights set on Silva. The hasty rematch just goes to show the volatility of heavyweight MMA, but if Silva expects Velasquez to be taking their sequel lightly, he's in for a rude awakening.
"I know what I'm doing it for. It's to protect the belt and that's all that matters," Velasquez told MMAFighting.com.
"He's on a two-fight streak. He's fought two tough guys. He knocked out Overeem. So he's tough, he's dangerous. He's always been that way. We can't look past him in this fight. We know what he can do, so it's all about defending the title. I'm definitely up for it."
Realistically, Silva was never supposed to be here. His title shot belonged to Alistair Overeem, the towering Strikeforce, DREAM and K-1 champion who dismissed the Brazilian's chances at every opportunity.
Of course, such flippancy is a dangerous road to go down in mixed martial arts, as Silva proved with his stunningly violent, video game-esque third-round knockout.
"That was a weird fight," Velasquez noted. "They both weren't really active on their feet. I guess Overeem didn't respect Bigfoot enough. That's not what I'm going to do."
In the year since their first meeting, "Bigfoot" has consistently diminished his first-round loss to Velasquez, underscoring how significantly the massive cut inflicted across the middle of his face hampered his performance.
To his credit, Velasquez understands Silva's perspective.
"Of course he would've done better without that cut," Velasquez said. "But I've got to think of this as a whole new fight. I'm not thinking about the last fight between us. I'm definitely thinking about a whole new ‘Bigfoot.' He could come out with a better strategy, he can throw whatever at us.
"Our strategy will be the same thing. We didn't get to show much of it last time because the fight was so short. Be ready for him, be ready to see if he'll come out more aggressive this time. We know we need to be quicker than him. That's our main goal in this fight."
The pair are set to meet May 25, 2013 in the main event of UFC 160. Underneath the card's headlining act is a powerhouse co-main event featuring former champion Junior dos Santos against surprise contender Mark Hunt.
It seems appropriate that dos Santos and Velasquez once again share the stage, just as they have for much of the past two years. Dos Santos, after all, was the one who dethroned Velasquez in 2011, before Velasquez brutally repaid the favor a year later.
Velasquez mauled dos Santos for 25 straight minutes at UFC 155, molding dos Santos' once cheery face into nightmarish prop from a horror movie. Yet despite the dominant performance -- only the second judges' decision of Velasquez's career -- a few scattered whispers bemoaned Velasquez's inability to finish his world-class rival.
"Some people have natural power in boxing and stuff. I don't," Velasquez admitted. "When I first started, I wasn't hitting very hard, and it was a thing of having to build up my technique. I've always been in that situation, to where I need to score more points, stuff like that. Once the power started coming along because my technique got better, and everything else, I've always had the same mentality that I need to score points, just keep doing what I'm doing in the fight to win it."
Decision or not, Velasquez's systematic revenge left little doubt as to who deserved the mantle of ‘Baddest Man on the Planet.'
"He's a tough dude, but I was just focused," Velasquez reflected. "I'm never expecting to finish a fight. I'm always expecting a war, worst-case scenario type of fight. So even though I was beating him up and everything else, in my head I'm not thinking I'm going to finish him. I just want to keep doing the same thing I'm doing the whole time. If it happens, it happens. But if it doesn't, then I need to keep doing my job. I need to keep pressure on him, I need to keep active.
"I can't get caught by a big shot or whatever because it could be all over at that moment. So all of those things were running through my head."
With the score knotted up at one apiece, it seems inevitable that Velasquez and dos Santos will meet again to settle their trilogy.
UFC President Dana White already announced that dos Santos will receive the next title shot with a victory at UFC 160. However Hunt, the 39-year-old general of the ‘Army of Doom,' and owner of mixed martial art's most surprising and endearing success story, may have something to say about the matter.
"It's possible," Velasquez acknowledged. "Both Junior and Mark have heavy hands, have good stand up. [Hunt winning] could happen. Either one could win in this fight just because of both scenarios, both guys having good hands and being good on their feet. If he beats Junior, or Junior beats him, both of those guys deserve the shot at the title."
Velasquez is as low-key of a champion as they come, so it's not surprising that when asked for his choice of opponents, he'd prefer to "fight the better guy." But what if he had to put money on it?
"Junior," Velasquez flatly predicted. "He's more well-rounded. I don't know, I just think he's more skilled in the stand up a little bit."
It's obvious Velasquez respects the Brazilian who once stole away his title on national television, but that respect only goes so far. Many expect that when it's all said and done, the two titans will have fought upwards of five times throughout their careers, creating the next great heavyweight rivalry in combat sports.
Mention that notion to Velasquez, though, and the champ's eyes narrow to deliver one short, ominous message.
"Not if I beat him again."