Dos Santos’ most recent triumph was also one of his most important. At the time, Mark Hunt was on a four-fight winning streak and had the type of stand-up many felt would serve as a stiff test for “Cigano”, while Dos Santos was coming off a one-sided beatdown to Cain Velasquez. However, Dos Santos’ boxing proved to be vastly superior. He popped Hunt early in the first and kept the pressure on, eventually landing a Spinning Hook Kick putting “The Super Samoan” down for the count. It was a beautiful finish and a big victory for a man whose confidence could have been at rock bottom after his performance against Velasquez.
While his opinion might have changed since his second encounter with Cain Velasquez, Dos Santos has referred to Roy Nelson as the toughest fight of his career. Like Dos Santos, “Big Country” has boxing skills and power, plus an underrated ground-game often forgotten about in the wake of his looping knockout blows. Though Dos Santos was never in trouble in their tilt, it took all the effort he could muster to keep Nelson at bay for fifteen minutes. Still, he didn’t back down, and ultimately came away with a deserved decision nod.
Former champion Frank Mir has a way of getting under opponents’ skin with his trash-talk, reducing their focus on the skill he’s shown over a career featuring victories over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Roy Nelson, and Brock Lesnar. Though he attempted to do the same with Dos Santos, the Brazilian brawler didn’t take the bait and came out as crisp as ever against Mir. JDS blasted him right off the bat and made an otherwise game adversary look like he was still wet behind the ears, knocking Mir out a little after the midway point of the match-up.
When Dos Santos debuted against Fabricio Werdum he was written off as little more than a newcomer signed to serve as an easy win for the then-contender. Werdum apparently agreed with the general public’s assessment, showing up for the scrap in subpar shape. Of course, nobody told Dos Santos he was supposed to lose, and he knocked Werdum out in less than 90 seconds. Instantly, “Cigano” made his stamp on the world of MMA and he hasn’t looked back since.
There haven’t been many more-anticipated meetings at heavyweight than Dos Santos’ first duel with Cain Velasquez. The bout pitted the #1/#2 fighters from the division against one another with the added excitement of occurring on free television thanks to the UFC’s new deal with FOX. A lot of build ultimately turned out to produce a short scrap, as Dos Santos landed a looping right and put Velasquez away less than a minute into the match-up. Dos Santos would go on to defend his belt a single time, beating Frank Mir, before handing the belt back over to Velasquez in their rematch. If the gold will once again find a new home in their third tilt remains to be seen.
UFC heavyweight has faced a murderers’ row since making his Octagon debut in 2008 but you wouldn’t know it from looking at his 10-1 mark under the organization’s banner. Along the way “Cigano” has established himself as one of the top big men in Mixed Martial Arts thanks to his powerful, precise striking, as well as laid claim to divisional gold as he’ll hope to do again next weekend in Houston when he collides with champion Junior dos Santos at Cain Velasquez to complete a trilogy between the two talented competitors. (Photos by USA Today Sports Images) UFC 166