Who has potential to unseat dos Santos?

May, 27, 2012
5/27/12
7:54
AM ET
Gross By Josh Gross
ESPN.com
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Invariably one question echoes following a big fight night, when the shelf life for quality performances is on par with freckled organic bananas.

Who's next?

Having wrapped his first UFC heavyweight title defense in style, Junior dos Santos is halfway to tying the record for title defenses in the division. To do the deed and break the mark, he'll have to earn it against a high-class of challenger.

You know the names. Cain Velasquez. Alistair Overeem. Daniel Cormier. Others will emerge, but for now these three stand out as potential dos Santos foils.

Velasquez made a statement by savaging Antonio Silva the bout prior to the current champion's pummeling of Mir. Cain went back to his roots, capitalizing on a fast takedown to maul his mammoth opponent into a gory, ugly, bloody mess.

UFC president Dana White wouldn't go all-in, but he seemed to suggest postfight that a rematch between dos Santos, 27, and Velasquez, 29, will come next. It makes the most sense. While the result of their 64 second encounter in November might turn some fans off to the idea of a rematch so soon, I don't see it that way.

They competed, dos Santos connected, and the belt switched hands. That's reality. Yet in the immediate aftermath, and now still, it seems as if they didn't fight at all. I'm not taking anything away from the defending champion. Dos Santos (15-1) did his job with alarming efficiency. But aren't you curious to see if Velasquez (10-1) has much more for dos Santos than he showed last November? I am. I think he does, and I believe a rematch would bring out the best in both fighters.

Then there's Overeem, who should never be let off the hook for failing a drug test that cost the sport a historic match against dos Santos on Saturday. He'll return in 2013, this we know. And if dos Santos proves his point versus Velasquez, there isn't a fighter alive people would want to see challenge for the title more than the 32-year-old Dutchman.

The manner in which dos Santos has discussed performance-enhancing drug use -- he's against it -- weaves wonderfully into a compelling story arc, not that the UFC would be so open to selling a fight this way. But it still does, thusly positioning the defending champion and his potential challenger-to-be on opposite sides of an immensely important topic in MMA these days.
[+] EnlargeCormier
Ross Dettman for ESPN.comDaniel Cormier has the wrestling background to test Junior dos Santos' takedown defense.

Imagine dos Santos willingly submitting himself to voluntary doping tests and asking Overeem (36-11) to do the same? I have no sense that this will happen, but the mere potential adds complex layers to their fight. Sign me up.

Lastly, Cormier. He'll have one more bout in Strikeforce pending hand surgery. The opponent we do not know. But for the sake of looking ahead, let's say the 33-year-old two-time Olympian cruises, enters the UFC with all kinds of momentum, and falls in line for a title shot. Could he be the man to test dos Santos' takedown defense? Is there a better wrestler in the heavyweight division? I don't think so. Add to that his heavy hands, athleticism and apparent natural ability and we're looking at someone who could have the answer for "Cigano."

And then, of course, who's next?

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