With one title defense under his big, shiny belt, Junior dos Santos is having more accolades and prophecies thrown at him than the last guy who didn’t defend the title a single time.
But he’s still got a long way to go.
A win over Frank Mir is an accomplishment, to be sure. But what would have been a bigger story was if Mir had managed to drag dos Santos to the floor. If he had, chances are Mir would be the man walking around Vegas with a smile on his face.
So far, we’ve learned dos Santos is an excellent stand-up fighter with knockout power and good takedown defense. His ground game is a mystery, as is his chin, because it really hasn’t been checked yet.
Yet still, many are predicting that he will be the man who breaks the curse and defends the title a record three times.
As good as dos Santos is, Mirko Cro-Cop was better in his prime. He was a much more accurate striker and possessed possibly greater KO power than dos Santos.
The point is, dos Santos is not an era yet, nor is he really poised to be the man to wear the crown as long as Randy Couture, Tim Sylvia or Brock Lesnar, let alone longer than any one of them.
I love watching dos Santos because I love his style of fighting; sprawl and brawl has long been the natural style for strikers who love to scrap. But the simple truth is that there are as many questions about dos Santos as there are answers.
He’s an unknown quantity with a high degree of quality, and while that makes for a compelling, likeable champion, it does not make a world beater.
Lurking outside the door is a rematch with Cain Velasquez, Daniel Cormier and Alistair Overeem. All three of these men could lift the title from dos Santos on any given night.
Still, he has undeniable promise, and if he is anything like his teacher, the great Antonio “Big Nog” Nogueira, he could set a high standard for the division.
But let’s take it one title defense at a time.