If you didn’t watch the fight that placed Miocic in the spotlight of the heavyweight division and all you saw was Junior Cigano Dos Santos’s face after the fact, you might think that he was once again bested and forced to rethink his climb back to the top of the UFC’s difficult heavyweight division.
Dos Santos’s performance was, at the very least, satisfactory. After being dominated by a powerful Stipe Miocic in the first two rounds of the five-round bout, it was in the third round that Cigano was able to demonstrate his reactionary capacity and some of the work by which we’ve come to know him. By connecting a powerful counter that dropped the rising Stipe Miocic to the mat, he was able to initiate a resurgence.
Over 25 minutes, Cigano connected 140 strikes to Stipe’s 102, while he mustered 123 significant strikes to Stipe’s 89. Like he did in his legendary trilogy versus Cain Velasquez, Junior Dos Santos showed that he’s got plenty of resilience and willpower to keep him on his feet. There aren’t very many people who can withstand the kind of knock-around Stipe brought to Phoenix on Saturday. Prior to his excellent performance against Dos Santos, Stipe was coming off three very important consecutive wins over Fabio Maldonado, Gabriel Gonzaga and Roy Nelson.
The Cigano we witnessed in Phoenix this past Saturday is a bit different than the person we’ve grown accustomed to. This year, Cigano started training under Dedé Pederneiras at Nova União. His striking looked as though it’s become more streamlined, and his boxing combinations were longer than usual. His takedown defense also looked good.
However, he’s still making mistakes that he’s been known to make before. Most of those mistakes came in the form of less-than-optimal protection. His hands were low, and he often found himself wide open to Stipe’s unforgiving counter attacks. If Dos Santos had found himself performing like he did on Saturday against someone like Cain, or even Werdum, he would be in a ton of trouble.
Junior Dos Santos has to start worrying about the amount of hits he can take, no matter how resistant to them he might be, and no matter how many times he wins. Time is not on anyone’s side, and it is especially not on the side of fighters in the UFC Heavyweight division, where the densest, most crushing strikes take place. There’s nothing planned for Junior Dos Santo’s immediate future. Dana White said fans shouldn’t expect to see him for a while, as he should probably take a step back for some time. After all, he’s the number one contender in the division, and Cain and Werdum won’t face each other until at least summer of next year, so there shouldn’t be any rush to fit in a fight before Dos Santos can challenge for the title once more.
In an interview after his win, Dos Santos said that, “I’m not thinking about the title right now, but anything the UFC wants me to do, whoever they decide to be my next opponent, I will be glad to face. I really believe this fight showed a lot of good things about both of us. Miocic is a great athlete. I try my best all the time. This time I won.”
What happens when he doesn't win the next fight that goes all rounds?
Junior Dos Santos’s current situation shares similarities with the recent discussion surrounding heavyweight Brendan Schaub’s last performance against Travis Browne, with the issue at hand being how long do these athletes have before they should really reassess where they stand and consider alternative career paths to sticking around for another night under the UFC’s banner.
Of course, Schaub’s status in the heavyweight pool is nowhere near the kind of status Junior Dos Santos enjoys. Dos Santos is, unlike Schaub, a contender through-and-through, a tried and tested challenger to anyone who claims a stake to the throne. But even having contender-status, how many more of the type of exchanges he went through with Stipe can Junior Dos Santos still take on?
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