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Now healthy, Junior dos Santos out for defining moment in UFC 155 rematch

Dos Santos details why he wanted to fight Cain Velasquez again

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Leila Navidi

Junior Dos Santos speaks to the media during the press conference for UFC 146 in the lobby of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Thursday, May 24, 2012.

Junior dos Santos received the belt he’d dedicated his entire professional life to winning, earned arguably the most significant title in combat sports and became a worldwide star at the inaugural UFC on Fox card last year.

None of that is what the UFC heavyweight champion first thinks of when recalling the night he knocked out Cain Velasquez in the first round. Dos Santos’ lasting memory from the whole experience is the pain in his knee.

Ten days before, dos Santos severely injured his knee in training to the point that he had to use crutches right before what the UFC billed as the biggest fight in promotional history.

“It was very frustrating for me,” dos Santos said in a recent interview. “It’s what I remember the most.”

Velasquez could say the same, as he also reportedly tore up his knee in the preceding training camp. It’s part of the reason a rematch scheduled barely more than a year later makes sense.

Dos Santos (15-1 MMA, 9-0 UFC) will attempt to defend his heavyweight title for the second time and renew his rivalry with Velasquez (10-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) in the main event of UFC 155, scheduled for Dec. 29 at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

“I want this rematch because I’m the champion and he’s the challenger,” dos Santos said. “The injuries are not excuses for us.”

Dos Santos disregards his first meeting with Velasquez. In his mind, the former heavyweight champion is clearly the second-best heavyweight in the world.

Dos Santos described reports that he wanted to fight Alistair Overeem instead as inaccurate. He’s eager to beat up Overeem, who’s continued to talk trash despite serving a suspension, but doesn’t believe the kickboxer deserves the opportunity.

Velasquez can push dos Santos in ways no one else can, according to the champion.

“This is the perfect fight to end 2012,” UFC President Dana White said when the bout was announced.

The UFC has taken extra precautions to make sure dos Santos and Velasquez are healthy and at their best for the rematch. The promotion decided against rushing the fighters back into the octagon after they both notched victories in the headlining bouts of the UFC’s annual Memorial Day weekend card.

More than seven months will have passed by fight night. Although that prevents dos Santos from maintaining his desired three fights per year schedule, he understands why the matchup wasn’t set for September as originally rumored.

“I would have liked to fight sooner,” dos Santos said. “But this time was good for me to take some time off and recover from some things I was feeling.”

Dos Santos hopes neither he nor his opponent deal with any obstacles outside of each other. He’s looking for a signature moment — one that could only come against the man whom he considers his greatest challenge.

“He’s unpredictable,” dos Santos said of Velasquez. “He’s good at everything. But I’m feeling more comfortable, for sure. I think I’m going to do better than last time. Maybe not as far, but I’m going to do really well for sure.”

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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