Former heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos will get an opportunity to regain his title on May 13 when he battles Stipe Miocic in the main event of UFC 211 in Dallas, Texas. So how did “Cigano” get here? Read on to find out.
UFC 90 - TKO 1 Fabricio Werdum (watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
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.
UFC 103 - Wsub3 Mirko Cro Cop (watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
Despite what the internet may say, among pro fighters, especially those who are about to fight him, former PRIDE star Mirko Cro Cop always commanded 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.
UFC LIVE - TKO1 Gabriel Gonzaga (watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
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 frightening once again, taking less than four minutes to finish his opponent. It was time for a move up, and he was ready for it.
UFC 117 - W3 Roy Nelson (watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
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.
UFC 131 - W3 Shane Carwin (watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
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.
Cain Velasquez in 2011 to claim his first UFC heavyweight title" align="center" />
UFC on FOX – KO1 Cain Velasquez I (watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
Placed in one of the most important events in UFC history, the organization’s debut on the FOX network, the pressure was on for Dos Santos and his opponent, Cain Velasquez, to deliver an epic and explosive performance fitting of a world heavyweight championship fight. And it certainly was explosive, though Dos Santos made sure it wasn’t epic thanks to the right hand that sent Velasquez crashing to the mat, ending the bout in just 64 seconds. A new champion was born that night in Southern California, and his name was Junior Dos Santos.
UFC 146 – TKO2 Frank Mir (watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
Dos Santos expected to take on Alistair Overeem in May of 2012, but licensing issues kept “The Reem” from making the trip to Las Vegas. In stepped local hero and two-time heavyweight boss Frank Mir, but despite having a vastly different style than Overeem, Dos Santos adjusted seamlessly, keeping the bout standing until he ended it via knockout in the second round.
UFC 160 – KO3 Mark Hunt (watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
After losing his title to the man he took it from, Cain Velasquez, at UFC 155, Dos Santos got back in line for a shot at the belt with a Fight of the Night win over Mark Hunt that ended with a spinning heel kick knockout in the third and final round. If you needed any more proof that “Cigano” was back and ready for a third meeting with Velasquez, this certainly was it.
UFC on FOX – W5 Stipe Miocic (watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
Dos Santos got his rubber match with Velasquez in October 2013, but was on the wrong end of a punishing fifth-round stoppage. More than a year later, JDS returned against rising star Stipe Miocic. Somehow, after taking copious amounts of each other’s thunder for 25 minutes, these two stalwarts remained standing, leaving us with an instant classic won by Dos Santos via decision, proving once more why the world loves heavyweights.
UFC Fight Night – W5 Ben Rothwell (watch on UFC FIGHT PASS)
Eager to get back into a title fight, Dos Santos returned a year after the win over Miocic to finally meet up with Overeem in December 2015. The bout didn’t go his way, as he was stopped in two rounds, but when he returned in April of last year to face top contender Ben Rothwell, Dos Santos showed some of his best form to date, as he decisioned “Big Ben” and put himself in line for a rematch with Miocic that will earn him another championship belt should he emerge victorious.