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–Kenny Rice

Can you imagine baseball without the Yankees-Red Sox, the NBA minus the Lakers-Celtics or the NFL not having the Packers-Bears? And what if boxing had never had Ali-Frazier? It could certainly use another one like those legends.

Rivalry. The spice of sports life. Even if you don’t particularly care for the two teams (or persons) involved, the history of it all draws you into something magical. A reminder of great moments in the past that could yield exciting drama in the present.

The UFC needs another good rivalry what with Georges St. Pierre, Anderson Silva and Jon Jones dominating their divisions. Some potential showdowns in others whet the appetite but are they genuine must see confrontations? And in the constantly changing division of the big men, there might just be rivalry grabber.

Welcome Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos. They’ve been exchanging the UFC heavyweight belt for a couple of years. Each man deserving of the title and of how they got to the point. In a time where smack talk prevails in getting major spots on a card, the simply just smacked guys to get there.

Each man has a win in their series, each victory taking the crown from the other. Last weekend Velasquez successfully defended his title with a first round TKO over Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva not long after dos Santos KO’d Mark Hunt in the third. It’s as if dos Santos was saying ‘top this’ to Velasquez–and he did. Okay, at least matched it even though JDS got “Fight of the Night”. See debate already about these two slugging machines, who had the better win that night? Even when they aren’t fighting each other they make it interesting. And the wins rightfully put both back on course to meet for a third time. A third Title bout.

Throughout the history of UFC the heavyweights have been the ever revolving collection of stars and passers through. Maybe big men with big power and more knockout threat? Or men who were better built for light heavyweight? Or maybe a period when the competition was hard to find?

For whatever the reason, over a dozen in a rather eclectic group ranging from Bas Rutten, Randy Couture and Mark Coleman to Ricco Rodriguez and Brock Lesnar to Andrei Arlovski and Tim Sylvia, have held the belt.

Only Couture, Sylvia and Lesnar have had two straight successful title defenses. The rest were either one- and -done or they retired or moved to a different weight class. A dominant heavyweight has not been what the UFC is known for.

The top is truly lonely for the heavyweight king. This makes Cain-JDS III even more intense. The win over Silva was the first defense for Valasquez. Out of the entire UFC, repeat the /entire UFC, / only their two recent divisions–Flyweight & Women’s Bantam–have had so few successful defenses, and they aren’t a year old.

The heavyweight division has been the only one of “we hardly knew you” in the UFC. The champions haven’t usually been around that long. With former champ Josh Barnett getting a second chance he will bring flair and name recognition, though fighting for a title is still a question mark down the road. Two men with some solid history is right now in front of us, something to compare and contrast and get excited about.

So can Cain equal history with a second straight title defense? Will JDS prove that first round KO in their first meeting is more likely than losing another decision?

Who knows? But all fans care and can debate the strengths and weaknesses of both men until that moment of going back into the octagon. There will be passion from each front and there will be arguments of note about their guy.

Cain-JDS III, the rivalry.


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Watch Kenny Rice along with Bas Rutten LIVE every Friday night on Inside MMA, and check out Kenny’s new book “Not Hit Yet” an insider look at the MMA world, available at Amazon now

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