Dos Santos vs Velasquez 2: Analyzing the Strengths of Junior Dos Santos
Junior dos Santos may smile like an innocent child, but inside the Octagon, he's a dangerous man. The UFC heavyweight champion will be making his second title defense in the main event of UFC 155 against the man he took the belt from, Cain Velasquez.
Although dos Santos is primarily known for his boxing, and rightfully so, the Brazilian has a number of tools at his disposal when defending his belt. We've seen JDS utilize some kicks, wrestling and have heard about his jiu-jitsu game from a number of people in the MMA world.
He will need all of those tools and perhaps a bit of luck in order to defend his title against the dangerous Velasquez at UFC 155.
Although we haven't seen much in the way of grappling from Junior dos Santos, by all accounts, it's pretty solid.
One would expect dos Santos to be well versed on his back after spending countless hours training with the Nogueira brothers. To go along with that training, dos Santos received numerous tips and tricks from other Team Blackhouse teammates like Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida and Jose Aldo.
I know nobody is expecting dos Santos to pull guard and slap on an arm-bar, but if/when Cain Velasquez secures a takedown, dos Santos will be prepared for either setting up a submission or getting back to his feet as quickly as possible.
Wrestling is another area we've rarely seen from the UFC champ—at least as far as an offensive weapon. The only time we've seen JDS use his wrestling skills as an offensive weapon was in his bout with former interim champion Shane Carwin.
He spent the better part of 15 minutes rearranging Carwin's face as he saw fit, but switched the game up in the later rounds. Already ahead on points, dos Santos, shot in for a takedown on the former Division-II wrestling standout.
The Brazilian nailed both takedown attempts, and it showed that opponents do in fact have to be ready for anything from dos Santos.
The main area in which we've seen dos Santos' strength in wrestling comes from his takedown defense. Numerous opponents have tried wrestling dos Santos to the ground in order to avoid his punches, but it has yet to work.
Dos Santos resembles a dominant Chuck Liddell in that he has the striking prowess to knock anyone out at any moment, but also has the defensive wrestling ability to keep the fight on the feet.
While I'm sure Junior dos Santos' ground game is decent, let's not get ahead of ourselves and expect him to turn any of his fights into a grappling match.
Rather, dos Santos will look to keep it on the feet, where he has the advantage over every fighter in the division save for Alistair Overeem.
Dos Santos' punches are not only extremely powerful, but they're also very crisp. The way he is able to rip a flurry of punches in a short sequence is almost beautiful to watch.
Dos Santos also showed in his contest with Shane Carwin that he's adept at throwing kicks as well. He'll never reinvent himself as a kickboxer, but at the least JDS should throw some just to keep his opponents off-balance.
Keeping opponents off-balance is something he's pretty good at due to his punching power. All of his UFC victories have ended before the final bell, except for his contests with Carwin and Roy Nelson. Even his "submission victory" (Franklin McNeil still thinks it's a submission victory) was the result of JDS blasting Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipović with punches for the better part of three rounds.
Every fight starts on the feet, and that's just where dos Santos will look to keep it.
Perhaps the area where Junior dos Santos has grown the most is in his fight IQ. Since entering the UFC, dos Santos has made a habit of knocking out nearly everyone in his path.
But not everyone of his opponents will be so easily cast aside, and JDS has no doubt learned this. Besides learning to pace himself and not anticipate a one-punch KO every time he steps into the Octagon, the UFC champ has displayed his knowledge of avoiding his opponent's strengths.
Against Frank Mir, dos Santos had the opportunity to jump into Mir's guard to look for a finish after securing a knockdown and avoiding a takedown attempt. It's an easy mistake that many fighters make after knocking down their opponent. They'll rush in looking for the finish, only to find themselves caught in the spider's web of a jiu-jitsu player's guard.
Dos Santos was smart enough to simply back away and force his opponent back to his feet. It shows that although dos Santos is still relatively young in the MMA game, he's learning and becoming a smarter fighter each time he steps into the Octagon.