Junior dos Santos challenges for Cain Velasquez' heavyweight title on Fox on November 12th...
UFC 90 - TKO 1 Fabricio Werdum
The lasting image of Junior dos Santos’ first week in the UFC (well, in addition to the highlight reel knockout) may have been the clip from UFC President Dana White’s video blog where he showed off the Brazilian newcomer hitting pads before his debut bout
against former PRIDE star and then-UFC contender Fabricio Werdum. White couldn’t be more impressed with “Cigano,” and then dos Santos delivered in the Octagon with a blistering right uppercut that put his countryman down on the canvas face first. The fight took only 80 seconds, and a star was born.
Quotable - “I was raised to be humble, there is no way to change the way I am. I am in the UFC and I want to go very far, and I want to be the best.”
UFC 103 - Wsub3 Mirko Cro Cop
Despite what the internet may say, among pro fighters, especially those who are about to fight him, former PRIDE star Mirko Cro Cop still commands a significant amount of respect, and dos Santos counted himself among those not counting him out of any bout held inside the Octagon. That respect didn’t carry into their 2009 bout in Dallas though, and dos Santos made it three in a row in the UFC (he had taken just 54 seconds to beat Stefan Struve in his second bout at UFC 95) with a third round finish of Cro Cop that ended when he broke the Croatian’s orbital bone and forced a verbal submission. Yeah, this dos Santos kid was scary.
Quotable – “This last year was great for my career; even though I only fought twice, I was victorious in the fight that I was most worried about in all my career, which was the fight against Cro Cop. I was a big fan of his even before I started training, and I already feared him back then, just watching his fights.”
UFC LIVE - TKO1 Gabriel Gonzaga
Winner of three of his previous four bouts, Gabriel Gonzaga was approaching the form that got him a world title shot in 2007 when he agreed to face “Cigano” in a March 2010 fight in Colorado. And with this being an All-Brazil showdown, there was even more on the line for both fighters. But dos Santos was in frightening form once again, taking less than four minutes to finish his opponent. It was time for a move up, and he was ready for it.
Quotable - “Gonzaga is a great fighter, he is powerful and dangerous, has very good Muay Thai and excellent Jiu Jitsu. I have to be very careful in this fight, but I like to surprise my opponents, and I am training to surprise him in this fight. I am sure that with this victory I will be closer to the title, which makes me very happy.”
UFC 117 - W3 Roy Nelson
Known for his ground game, Roy Nelson added “knockout puncher” to his resume after his appearance on season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter, taking out Brendan Schaub and Stefan Struve in brutally efficient fashion. And to his credit, “Big Country” didn’t shy away from standup exchanges with dos Santos at UFC 117, but he paid for each one, as the Brazilian pounded away for three one-sided rounds en route to a unanimous decision victory.
Quotable - “I didn’t feel any pressure from the anticipation of the fight. I was anxious to step in the Octagon as usual, because you never know what is going to happen. But I always say that when I step in the Octagon, I want to make my fans’ hearts beat hard with excitement.”
UFC 131 - W3 Shane Carwin
After the Nelson bout, dos Santos was introduced to an entirely new audience as a coach on season 13 of The Ultimate Fighter, and new fans immediately gravitated to him thanks to his affable personality and ever present smile. The prize at the end of the six weeks of taping was going to be a UFC 131 bout with Brock Lesnar, but another bout with diverticulitis took Lesnar out of the bout. In stepped heavy-handed former interim champ Shane Carwin, but what was expected to be an explosive encounter that wouldn’t get out of the first round instead turned into a bloody and one-sided decision win for dos Santos, who left no doubt as to who the number one contender in the heavyweight division was.
Quotable - “I am here to conquer a spot among the best of the best. I know it’s a rough road, but I am not afraid and I will keep going forward.”