Junior Dos Santos: The UFC's Forgotten Star

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Junior Dos Santos: The UFC's Forgotten Star
Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

Uh, guys? Guys?

Aren't we all forgetting something here?

It's pretty important, actually. Not, like, water and food important, but at least as important as remembering to turn off the stove after using it.

Well, at least in MMA terms it is.

What is it?

Well, it's the fact that Junior Dos Santos is still the second-best heavyweight on Earth, a proper star in Brazil with some crossover appeal in North America, and he'd probably be holding the title of "baddest man on the planet" in a world where Cain Velasquez didn't exist.

See what I mean? It does seem kind of important, doesn't it?

Dos Santos is the only man who can claim to have bested the current world champion, and though he paid for that win by taking 10 straight rounds of relentless beating from Velasquez in rematches, no one can take that one positive result from him.

No heavyweight in the promotion is particularly close to him in terms of his stand-up game, which has evolved to include wheelkicks (!!!), his defensive wrestling is pretty good when it's not Velasquez pursuing the takedowns and even his largely unseen submission game is buoyed by a Yuri Carlton black belt.

The guy is, by almost any imaginable metric, pretty awesome.

And yet, with nearly a year of his prime taken away by recovery and injury now, he's kind of become a forgotten commodity. If a fight between him and anyone on the roster was announced tomorrow, it would be met with excitement thanks to the knowledge that he's guaranteed to put on a show, but no one seems to be actively pondering what his return may look like.

Could it involve Travis Browne, the type of athlete the Brazilian has never seen opposing him before?

How about, should he fail in his November title bid, Fabricio Werdum, who Dos Santos starched in 2008 as a means of announcing his own arrival to the world?

Maybe Stipe Miocic, a preposterously exciting matchup of sluggers who know only forward momentum?

What about the long-gestating blowoff between he and Alistair Overeem, the culmination of a feud simmering for literally years?

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All of those are incredibly enticing fights for Dos Santos, each one slightly different than the other but all standing on the common ground of being about as exciting as any matchup heavyweight can produce these days.

There's been plenty made of the lack of star power the UFC calendar offered in the first half of 2014, and while the argument mostly centered around names like Velasquez, Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva, Dos Santos has been missed as well.

That type of explosive, thrilling heavyweight—one who doesn't greatly lose pace in 25 minutes of combat, who can take shots that would stop a polar bear dead and keep coming—is rare, and when he's in the cage, people are paying attention.

Weirdly, though, perhaps because of so many big names being sidelined with him, the Dos Santos absence hasn't been focused on so much. It's just kind of happened, and his return has become something fans aren't even pondering anymore.

Well, start pondering.

With a degree of depth at the top of the heavyweight division and a number of incredibly exciting matchups for him when he returns, there's plenty of reason to be enthusiastic about the former champ's eventual return to the Octagon.

 

Follow me on Twitter @matthewjryder!

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