UFC 146: Junior Dos Santos' Path to UFC Heavyweight Greatness
“Cigano’s” journey will be an arduous and testing one if he’s to surpass the heavyweight apogee he now resides in—the Brazilian standout is well aware that a plethora of green-eyed heavy-hitters await their turn to both ambush and wrestle the Holy Grail from his heavyweight holiness, and thus assume his lofty position.
With that being said, his trajectory to glorification and immortalization in the UFC’s heavyweight ranks starts here.
NB. Randy Couture, Tim Sylvia and Brock Lesnar are the only heavyweights in the history of the UFC to have ever successfully defended the title on two occasions.
5. Frank Mir
For Cigano’s first defense of his coveted crown, he gets the honor of locking horns with the assemblage’s foremost submission maestro, Frank Mir.
In his last outing—en-route to acquiring the veritably aforementioned title—Mir, by way of vicious kimura, literally took the arm off of Brazilian submission’s wizard Antonio “Minotauro” Nogueira.
Santos himself is adept at BJJ (brown belt), but he has nothing on Mir in that department. Furthermore, his only authentic submission took place almost six years ago—submitting Eduardo Maiorino via guillotine choke.
Still, the only way Mir can dethrone Santos is if he takes proceedings to the mat, and the chances of that happening are between slim and none, as Cigano has great takedown defense.
This will leave Mir (16-5 MMA, 14-5 UFC) in a quandary—how does he stand toe-to-toe with the division’s elite striker and survive?
He doesn’t and he won’t.
To date, Santos (14-1 MMA, 8-0 UFC) has 10 stoppages on his résumé, and if that doesn’t whet the appetite, the aforesaid T/KOs ended in the opening stanza.
For Cigano, UFC 146 is in the books.
Next stop—a trip down memory lane.
4. Cain Velasquez
Cain Velasquez, the division’s No. 2-ranked fighter, desperately wants back the title that was so cruelly and systematically ripped from his grasp in 64 seconds, courtesy of a Junior dos Santos blitzkrieg in November of 2011.
Assuming he gets past Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva in the co-main event at UFC 146, that desperation will manifest into a reality.
However, even though the Mexican-American annihilated the beast that was Brock Lesnar to attain UFC glory, and notwithstanding his undefeated streak (9-0) heading into his fateful matchup against Santos, it will suddenly dawn on the AKA-trained fighter that Cigano is really too hot to handle.
This has déjà vu written in blood.
3. Fabricio Werdum
At UFC 90, Junior dos Santos made his debut for the Zuffa-based promotion, and repaid Dana White and company with a first-round slaughter of Fabricio “Vai Cavalo” Werdum (“Go Horse”).
Now that Werdum is back in the UFC mix, and to boot wrecked shop on Roy “Big Country” Nelson via unanimous decision, a rematch with the man who effectively sent him packing to Strikeforce is more than likely on the cards, especially if he takes care of Mike Russow at UFC 147.
Werdum is an accomplished BJJ, Judoka and Muay Thai exponent, and holds the distinction of being the man that started the rot to the once-thought-of-invincible Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko’s career.
However, with all the WMDs at his disposal, expect fellow Brazilian Santos to re-enact a similar pasting to their first encounter.
Now for some sterner stuff…
2. Daniel Cormier
To some observers, Daniel “DC” Cormier was nothing more than an afterthought. However, all that changed when he destroyed Fedor Emelianenko’s conqueror Antonio Silva to progress to the Strikeforce Grand Prix Heavyweight Finale.
At the aforementioned event, he defeated Josh “The Warmaster” Barnett via unanimous decision to be crowned probably the last ever Strikeforce heavyweight champion.
He has one fight left with the San Jose-based promotion, but that is neither here nor there—DC could be a UFC resident sooner rather than later, which doesn’t bode too well for Junior dos Santos let alone any heavyweight in MMA.
The former Olympic and NCAA Division-l wrestler—and stable mate of former UFC titlist Cain Velasquez—has been fine-tuning his all-around skill set, especially in the realm where Cigano excels best.
Cormier (10-0 MMA, 7-0 SF) will take the fight wherever Santos wants it and for added measure, throw everything including the kitchen sink at the Brazilian.
If this fight should ever transpire, it’d be too tough to call. Nevertheless, if Cigano should prevail, he’d be steps away from greatness.
1. Alistair Overeem
Junior dos Santos vs. Alistair Overeem was the fight the MMA world had waited with bated breath for.
However, it never came to pass, as their original headline act at UFC 146 was thrown into utter disarray following reports that the Dutch denizen had failed a pre-drug test sanctioned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
The former Strikeforce, K-I and Dream heavyweight champion won’t be in any sort of MMA mix until early-to-mid 2013.
Once the waters have passed under the bridge and the UFC hierarchy has forgiven him for his infraction (it’s more than likely that they will), a matchup against Santos would reverberate tenfold.
Here we have “The Demolition Man,” a kick-boxing phenom, and whose overall standup is superior to that of Santos. In addition, he’s undefeated in his last 12 outings.
Conversely, Cigano is MMA’s top boxer—incorporating speed and power with great efficacy.
This will be a stand-and-bang affair for as long as it lasts—one perfectly timed punch or kick and this barrage is in the books.
If this fight ever gets off the ground—and with three or more successful title defenses in the bag—an emphatic victory over “Reem” would definitely cement Cigano’s place in the annals of UFC as its greatest heavyweight champion.
UFC 146 is scheduled for May 26, 2012, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nev.