Mark La Monica is the deputy sports editor for cross media at Newsday and writes about mixed martial
When eight UFC fighters sat on stage at the Beacon Theater in July, one of the biggest rounds of applause came when heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez stared down . . . light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.
Jones has since defeated Alexander Gustafsson in an incredible fight at UFC 165 that generated just as much excitement afterward as it did beforehand. Then there's UFC 167 in November with champion Georges St-Pierre, the biggest pay-per-view attraction in mixed martial arts, and his drug-testing "he said, he said" with challenger Johny Hendricks.
And of course, there's the UFC 168 rematch with new champion Chris Weidman and new challenger Anderson Silva, plus Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate in their rematch coming off coaching the current season of "The Ultimate Fighter."
Wait, something's missing. The math is off.
Ah, yes, UFC 166 and the heavyweight championship fight between Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos set for Oct. 19 in Houston. This is the third time these biggies will fight each other for the title . . . and it's quite possibly the least talked-about fight of late.
The hype will pick up a bit now since after Wednesday's fight night in Brazil, UFC 166 is next on the calendar. It will grow a bit more next week, as it typically does during fight week. That's basic business and promotion. But Velasquez-Dos Santos III has flown well under the radar to this point. Far lower than any of the final four pay-per-view cards of 2013.
"I think me and 'Jun' got it easy where there isn't much trash talking between us," Velasquez said. "We're respectful of each other."
Velasquez (12-1) is a soft-spoken guy and always polite about his opponent. He rarely throws verbal haymakers. Dos Santos is much the same way. Neither one of them typically gives the Internet a reason to rewrite whatever they say seconds after they say it. The closest thing to saying something derogatory on Wednesday's media call came when Dos Santos said this about Velasquez: "He thinks he's going to win."
In the pantheon of trash talking, that's sage and citrus scented potpourri.
Perjorative words shouldn't always be needed to sell a fight. Sometimes they help, sure.
The history of Velasquez vs. Dos Santos is more than enough to remain interested in their third go-round, even in the short-attention span world of 140-character quips and six-second video loops.
In their first meeting -- way back in November 2011 -- Dos Santos knocked out Velasquez in 64 seconds to win the title.
In their second meeting -- December 2012 -- Velasquez avenged his first pro defeat with a five-round beatdown of Dos Santos to win back the title.
Both fights gave fans things they hadn't seen before. Velasquez was undefeated heading into their first bout. No one had seen Dos Santos get manhandled like he was in the second bout -- 11 takedowns, five rounds of punch-eating.
How Dos Santos managed to make it through all 25 minutes astounds as much now as it did that night. That alone should keep you interested for UFC 166.
You don't need incendiary headlines and sound bites to buy into this bout.
There was a time in American sporting culture when the heavyweight champion in boxing was revered. A time when everyone knew it the second the heavyweight champ entered the room.
That time has passed, or at least those bigger-than-life personalities have worked their way down to smaller bodies.
But Velasquez-Dos Santos shouldn't have to rely on antiquated pop culture concepts to generate interest. Those two names are big enough.