Junior dos Santos is set for the co-main event at UFC 160 this Saturday. He will take on feared striker Mark Hunt with a potential title shot hanging in the balance.
The former UFC heavyweight champion will try to come back from the loss that cost him the crown. UFC 155 saw Cain Velasquez dominate JDS with a complete performance. The champion was battered, bruised and beaten down.
Hunt has had a career resurgence, and he hopes to keep the knockouts coming against JDS on Saturday. The highly anticipated battle between strikers is one of the key selling points to the PPV.
Here are four reasons JDS really needs to take it to Hunt and get his hand raised at UFC 160.
This slide could have been used as the capstone slide, but it's the obvious reason he needs to win at UFC 160 so lets just get it out of the way.
JDS is the official No. 1 ranked heavyweight, and a win on Saturday would likely earn him the trilogy against Velasquez later this year. It is currently the most anticipated trilogy on the market.
There are a couple other contenders that could be waiting in the wings for a shot if JDS does not win impressively, but it seems as if this is JDS' shot to lose. A victory will make for a compelling story heading into their third meeting.
In prize fighting, the purses are much needed and appreciated, but the straps with the gold plates are what most seek. For JDS' next crack at the gold, he needs to dispatch of Hunt and make a statement just prior to the heavyweight championship tilt in the evening's main event.
Some of the same names, Minotauro Nogueira and Frank Mir, line the UFC rankings, but the division is continually getting deeper behind them.
Young studs like Travis Browne and Stipe Miocic are joining the ranks every day.
A loss to Hunt would drop JDS down the rankings and into the muddled middle of the division. Other young fighters are contenders on hot streaks that will earn them higher spots on cards and title shots before JDS.
Roy Nelson, Fabricio Werdum and Daniel Cormier are just a couple of the contenders looking to take JDS' spot at the top of the rankings. JDS has a lot more to lose than win at UFC 160.
There are four names that come up when talk of top-level heavyweight strikers comes up: Cain Velasquez, Junior dos Santos, Alistair Overeem and Mark Hunt.
The latter two are former K-1 champions. They have the striking pedigree that they bring in to MMA while the former two have continued their striking development in the sport.
While standing atop the division, JDS was viewed as the division's top striker. Velasquez's dominance put a lot of question marks to that. Add in the two K-1 veterans, and JDS' striking has dropped in that conversation. A win over Hunt, utilizing his excellent boxing skills, would go a long way to repairing that.
Hunt is a very good striker, but he was even touched up by Stefan Struve. While Struve has long stems he is not considered to be one of the top strikers in the division. JDS will have his opportunities to tag Hunt in this fight. We will have to see just how often.
Most losses are mere blemishes on one's record. No one is going to give JDS grief for losing to Cain Velasquez. Losing to Mark Hunt, however, would be a stain on JDS' career as an elite heavyweight.
Hunt's resurgence in the past year has been incredibly fun, but those wins have not come against the upper echelon heavyweights. Furthermore, Hunt's skills as a mixed martial artist are questionable at best. His takedown defense has been shoddy at times, and his submission defense rudimentary.
If JDS failed to pick up a win it would highlight one of two things: his fight IQ or his lack of other skills.
He may do well standing with Hunt, but we won't know until UFC 160. But conventional wisdom says it's much easier to take him down and submit him. That's the smart thing to do. Standing with Hunt and possibly eating one of his monster punches would not speak highly of having a great fight IQ.
If JDS is unable to take down or submit Hunt, it would speak to his oft talked about submission skills. We know the former champion trains with legendary grappler Minotauro Nogueira, but we have yet to see those skills come to life in the Octagon. If he tries and fails, it won't look good on JDS. Hunt shouldn't have the skills to stop him.
Losing to Hunt would stand out like a sore thumb on JDS' record. He can't afford that.