Junior dos Santos will be forced to battle back from the most damaging fight of his professional career. The beating that Cain Velasquez applied the former champion last night is the kind of beating that can leave a fighter impaired, potentially long term.
That said I don’t expect to see too many lingering affects the next time dos Santos enters the cage. He’s still a young man with sharp tools, and prior to UFC 155, he’d never actually taken much abuse as a professional. I think a gun shy, or “broken” version of JDS is a number of years and many, many battles distanced.
The man will be just fine. He may not feel terrific about his performance, and he may have taken a bludgeoning last night, but I’ve got a feeling his pride is aching far more than any part of his body today.
It’s profoundly important that JDS take no “warm up” fights. He made his UFC debut tussling with elite talent in Fabricio Werdum, and he’s done nothing but continue that trend having beaten Mirko Filipovic, Gabriel Gonzaga, Roy Nelson, Shane Carwin, Cain Velasquez and Frank Mir (to name a few) since. There’s no need to treat this man as a shattered commodity. He’s got to leap right back into the deep end of the pool, and start chewing through more sharks if he hopes to reach the mountain’s summit again in the next few years.
Now, knowing that I’m all for seeing JDS competing with extremely dangerous opposition immediately, it’s also important to keep him away from emerging number one contenders. If JDS returns, and eliminates the current number one in line, we’re left in a precarious situation, one which places JDS in line for a rematch with Velasquez that he’s likely not quite prepared for.
We’ve seen enough rapid-fire rematches as of late.
The UFC needs to enable Junior to regain full confidence, and they need to allow the former champion the opportunity to beat good opposition, not great. If he dives right back in and takes out the greats of the division, we’ll be staring at a rubber match with Cain far sooner than most would prefer.
Junior dos Santos will, more than likely earn the chance to meet Cain in the cage for a third time, but that doesn’t need to happen anytime soon. Let’s get the man back to his winning ways, beating the lower-tier of the top 10 rankings before fans find all legitimate challenges for Cain eliminated by his professional nemesis.
The loser of the upcoming UFC 156 heavyweight showcase that will see Alistair Overeem battle Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva sounds ideal to me. If Silva comes up short, JDS eyes a man he hasn’t beaten at this point, who’s fairly well-rounded with loads of experience. If Overeem happens to fall on February 2nd, we’ll see a grudge match of epic proportions, and one that will force JDS to compete at peak level.
A rematch with Fabricio Werdum is always an option down the line. But at this point, the best possible matchup for dos Santos is the loser of UFC 156’s featured heavyweight tilt. That fight keeps him in talks for top contention, but also leaves him resting on the outskirts of a title fight, with, hopefully, enough time to squeeze in the few more fights needed to regain his footing in the division.
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