Cain Velasquez passed on a submission in last fight against Junior dos Santos to prove a point

The New Orleans Saints thought they had beaten the New England Patriots on Sunday. Clearly, the Patriots' fans felt so, as they began streaming for the exits at Gillette Stadium with several minutes left in the game.

Everyone, it seemed, save for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who proved correct, leading the Patriots on a stunning game-winning drive in the final seconds.

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It was proof yet again that in sports, a game isn't over until the final horn sounds.

That dramatic New England drive represents the risk that Cain Velasquez took when he regained the heavyweight championship from Junior dos Santos on Dec. 29 at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas.

From the earlier moments of that bout, it was clear that Velasquez on that night was the far better man.

Velasquez had several opportunities to end dos Santos' night early by grabbing a submission. Velasquez, though, eschewed the numerous submission opportunities that presented themselves during the fight.

This was no accident. Velasquez is an accomplished jiu-jitsu player and was recently awarded his black belt. He'll fight dos Santos for the third time Saturday in the main event of UFC 166 with the heavyweight belt again at stake in Houston's Toyota Center.

Velasquez, who had lost his title to dos Santos at UFC on Fox 1 on Nov. 12, 2011, made a conscious effort to skip the submission the last time out as a way of making a brutal and painful point.

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"My style of fighting, I'd rather end fights with ground and pound and stuff like that," Velasquez told Yahoo Sports. "I felt he took something away from me that was mine, and I figured I had to make him pay for that. That's why I didn't go for the submission."

It was a risky move – dos Santos is one of the sport's best boxers and could end a bout with one punch – but it sent a very loud statement.

That was not at all accidental. Daniel Cormier, a UFC heavyweight who fights Roy Nelson on Saturday's card, is Velasquez's wrestling coach. Cormier said that ignoring the submission and inflicting more damage on dos Santos would have a long-lasting impact.

Dos Santos' face was mangled after UFC 155, but he managed to make it to the finish.

It says a lot about his courage and his resiliency that he was able to finish the fight, but Cormier believes the memory of the beating he took won't go away so quickly.

"If Cain had submitted him, Junior gets out of that fight," Cormier said. "Cain beat on him for 25 minutes. You don't forget a beating like Cain put on him last time, especially in 10 months. It's only been 10 months, and you just don't forget that.

"As tough as Junior dos Santos is, the thought of going into that cage and going through that again can't sit well with him. By fighting him the whole way, Cain sent a message that, 'Hey, on your worst night, this can happen: You have to stay in there with me for 25 minutes, and I am going to beat on you and beat on you.' "

The scary part from dos Santos' viewpoint has to be that both Velasquez and Cormier say the champion can and will be better in the rubber match.

It's up to dos Santos, as the loser of the last fight, to cover the ground between the men, but if Velasquez is even better than he was last time out, it's a long road ahead.

"I don't think there is any doubt I can do better," Velasquez said. "We've watched the film over and over and there was stuff on the film I saw that shows things I can improve upon. That's how we learn and get better. We watch film, we pick out something that maybe wasn't right, and then we go out and drill it and practice it.

"It's important to keep progressing and getting better, because you never know what is going to happen in a fight. I know this: I'm not going in overconfident, regardless of what happened in the last fight. It's a new fight and we're starting from zero again and both of us have worked and trained and had experiences that make us different people than we were before. The last fight has nothing to do with this one."

Cormier is Velasquez's close friend, but he said he had to differ with the champ there.

"How do you not remember that beatdown?" Cormier said, chuckling. "I mean, really? That takes a long time to recover from, in my opinion, and it's not something that you easily, or ever, will forget."