Not that long ago, Junior dos Santos was getting knocked around a cage in Texas on his way to losing a world title fight.
The champion, Cain Velasquez, defended his title in spectacular fashion, smashing Dos Santos violently and leaving people to debate how much punishment is too much in the world of prizefighting.
That wasn't quite two months ago, and most people who take a sustained beating from the most dangerous man on Earth wouldn't be too quick to make plans to head back to the scene of the crime.
Not Junior dos Santos though. He can't wait to do it again, and he's already got his list narrowed down to two guys he wants to get in there with: Josh Barnett and Travis Browne.
The two heavyweights will meet at next weekend's UFC 168, and Dos Santos wants one of them. Chances are, given his ugly loss last time out, it will be the loser. So he should be a serious Josh Barnett fan that night, as his goal is obviously to get himself back on track as soon as possible.
Barnett is a gritty veteran who has long been among the elite of the sport and is finally getting to prove it again in the world's biggest promotion. If Dos Santos ends up with him, it will be a test of his will and general fortitude in the same way the Velasquez fight was, with perhaps more concern for Barnett's strength as opposed to Velasquez's stamina.
Browne is the most underappreciated heavyweight on the roster, a bruiser with a diverse striking attack and capable grappling. He's a monster of a man and has proven that his spirit is equally sizable, overcoming long odds at a few points in his UFC run to secure highlight-reel stoppages.
The reason Dos Santos should be cheering on Barnett next weekend in Las Vegas is simple optics. He'd be a justified favorite against either man and stands a very good chance of beating either one, but beating Browne is far more likely to come in exciting fashion than beating Barnett.
Barnett is going to make you work like a dog to beat him. He's going to bully you, wrestle you and clinch you. You're going to eat a thousand short punches and elbows and spend the entire night carrying his 260 pounds on you against the cage. Even if you beat him, no one is going to tell you how good you looked doing it.
Browne, on the other hand, is far more likely to engage in a firefight. After stopping all-world striker Alistair Overeem once he survived everything the Dutchman could throw at him, he's—quite reasonably—as confident as ever in his standup. It's where he excels anyway, and the way he's going to approach the fight is a recipe for excitement that will certainly end with one very large man staring up at the lights.
It all boils down to the fact that, even though Dos Santos isn't going to get another title shot any time soon, he needs to win fights and win them in remarkable fashion if he's going to remain relevant. He can beat either one of Barnett or Browne, but he's far more likely to do it remarkably against Browne.
So at UFC 168, Dos Santos needs to be a big fan of Josh Barnett. It's sure to pay off for him down the line.
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