In spite of the ugly loss he just suffered, dos Santos has a clear path back to a title shot in 2013.
I have always been surprised by how large and fierce Junior dos Santos' fanbase is. Whenever an article suggested dos Santos' victory over Cain Velasquez at UFC on Fox 1 may have been something other than a resounding, amazing win, the comments section would be overrun with support for "Cigano."
That lot has to be quite disappointed with how UFC 155 panned out, because the champion was absolutely wrecked by Velasquez.
Even worse, he was wrecked in the exact way that Velasquez fans were expecting.
However, even with the crushing, resounding loss suffered by Junior dos Santos at UFC 155, he finds himself very close to another title shot.
According to Dana White, dos Santos is probably going to find himself in another top-contender matchup in the spring or summer of 2013. At the post-fight conference, White said: "If Alistair Overeem beats Antonio 'Bigfoot' Silva, he'll fight Junior dos Santos. That winner will face Cain."
Overeem is a big favorite to beat Silva at UFC 156. While "Bigfoot" is a huge, strong heavyweight, his striking is simply not refined enough to keep up with Overeem. Keep in mind, he was knocked out by Daniel Cormier, who, though quite good, is by no means a great pure striker.
So, the question on dos Santos' ability to return ultimately boils down to whether or not he can beat Alistair Overeem.
Really, that's an easy question to answer.
Dos Santos is very, very capable of beating Overeem and should open up as the favorite. Dos Santos, in spite of this loss, owns very strong boxing skills and is big and strong enough that he should be able to resist Overeem's bullying, clinch-and-knee-focused striking game.
Overeem's broad stance leaves him open to uppercuts and straights. What's more, his chin is not particularly steely, with six of his 11 career losses coming via knockout.
Now, much of this is hypothetical or simply too soon to call. While White painted a clear picture about what might happen among those top four heavyweights, things could easily pan out differently.
That said, dos Santos and his fans should be hopeful for the future.
The now-former champion finds himself with an exciting, potentially pay-per-view-headlining fight lined up perfectly for the summer, and, possibly, we could be seeing Junior dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez III lined up for the December 28, 2013 card that will undoubtedly be set up.
Dos Santos vowed in his interview with Joe Rogan after the fight that he would get his belt back (via UFC.com).
That is a very real possibility, and "Cigano" could very well find himself once again holding UFC gold inside a year's time.