At UFC 108, Junior dos Santos walked to the Octagon for the fourth time in his career.
Two minutes and seven seconds later, “Cigano” had earned his fourth consecutive victory.
In 15 months, the 25-year-old Brazilian “gypsy” has laid waste to Fabricio Werdum, Stefan Struve, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, and Gilbert Yvel, only once going beyond the halfway mark of the first round.
Despite the obvious talent and impressive string of conquests, dos Santos somehow remains behind Shane Carwin and Cain Velasquez in the eyes of many fans and, more importantly, his bosses at the UFC.
The stance of the UFC is at least partially understandable.
Cain Velasquez is a young, American heavyweight prospect, who in addition to being undefeated thus far in his career, is of Mexican descent. The “Brown Pride” tattoo etched on his chest is not only a symbol of his passionate love for his heritage, but also something the UFC sees as highly marketable and potentially lucrative.
Over the last few years, the UFC has expanded into England, Canada, Ireland, and Germany, with UFC 110 announcing the company’s presence in Australia, and a trip to Abu Dhabi also slated for 2010.
Mexico, and its massive population of fight fans, has long been a target of the UFC, and the company envisions Velasquez as the heavyweight powerhouse to help them accomplish that goal.
Shane Carwin’s push has nothing to do with his ethnicity and everything to do with his power and pedigree.
A Division-II national wrestling champion at Western State College in Colorado, the 35-year-old Carwin is undefeated through 11 fights, including three straight in the UFC, all of which have ended by TKO inside the first round.
With the hyper-athletic, former Division-I national champion Brock Lesnar atop the heavyweight mountain, Carwin represented the best combination of wrestling ability and brute strength the UFC could find to match up against the champion.
While the logic behind both Carwin and Cain’s pushes makes sense from the UFC’s standpoint, what doesn’t make much sense is how some fans of the sport fail to recognize that the up-and-coming Brazilian has accomplished more than both his contemporaries thus far.
Revisionist and opportunistic history are two tactics often employed by fight fans to make the contender they’re backing appear like a more impressive fighter. For example:
Brock Lesnar hasn’t done anything to earn the title. Heath Herring is nothing more than a tomato can, Randy Couture was far too old and undersized to compete at heavyweight, and all he did was lay on top of Frank Mir, forcing the air out of him. The fight should have been stood up.
-Anonymous Frank Mir fan
The tactics are applied, in tandem and individually, when discrediting dos Santos’s accomplishments, and building up the resumes of both Carwin and Velasquez.
Fabricio Werdum, the first victim of Junior dos Santos in the UFC, has become a highly-overrated and altogether mediocre fighter with no standup since “Cigano” sent him packing with a vicious uppercut. At the time, however, Werdum was, and still is, a phenomenal grappler and a top 20 heavyweight, not to mention a substantial favorite coming off back-to-back wins over Gabriel Gonzaga and Brandon Vera.
The second member of the “I Got Smashed by Junior dos Santos” Club, Stefan Struve, was making his debut at the time and was completely overmatched. It was true then and is true now, just as Struve has proven in his last three fights—all wins—that he is an up-and-comer in his own right.
A legend from his days in Pride, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic certainly isn’t the same fighter who was once the most feared striker in the sport, and he hasn’t been through any of his fights with the UFC. Keep that thought fresh.
Most recently, Gilbert Yvel fell at the hands of “Cigano.” Before the fight, Yvel was viewed as an underdog with more than a puncher’s chance, as the Dutch striker is both dangerous and a little bit crazy. After just two minutes and seven seconds inside the cage with dos Santos, he morphed into an over-hyped creation of the UFC Marketing Department, which fooled a bunch of rubes into believing he was a threat.
Oh those silly rubes.
Sure, dos Santos has four wins in four attempts with the UFC, but who has he really beaten? Certainly no one near as talented as either Shane Carwin or Cain Velasquez has done away with.
Carwin is 3-0 with three first round stoppages.
Most recently, the Colorado native dispatched Gabriel Gonzaga. In this particular instance, Gonzaga is often referred to as a legitimate title contender at best, and a talented gatekeeper at worst. After all, the guy beat Cro Cop!
What no one ever mentions isthat he lost to Werdum back at UFC 80, by strikes, to the guy who has no stand-up, remember? Additionally, Carwin’s ability to finish the fight after being rocked by “Napao” is a testament to his power and determination, nothing else. It doesn’t raise any red flags whatsoever. None. Stop talking about it.
Before that, Carwin ran through both Neil Wain and Christian Wellisch. How could you have not heard of those two monsters? Wain’s tough as nails and never fought again, while Wellisch once fought Cheick Kongo, and that guy is a beast. After all, he beat Cro Cop!
Admittedly, next to Shane Carwin, Cain Velasquez looks like a killer.
The former Arizona State Sun Devil has five UFC wins to Carwin’s three, and dispatched the guy (O’Brien) who beat the guy (Wellisch) that Carwin beat in his debut.
As if that wasn’t enough, American Kickboxing Academy’s star heavyweight started his career in the UFC by stopping Brad Morris, before beating the aforementioned Jake O’Brien and Denis Stojnic.
Often left out of the conversation here are the facts that (1) Morris had all of one more fight in his career—a loss to Jason Brilz at light heavyweight, and (2) Stojnic next faced Stefan Struve, losing to the Dutch giant by submission.
To his credit, Velasquez took a step up in competition for his fourth fight in the UFC, facing off with French kickboxer Cheick Kongo at UFC 99.
Despite being handed a case of “The Jimmy Legs” by Kongo’s right hand a time or two, Velasquez persevered and claimed a unanimous decision victory, no small feat, considering Kongo is a Top 10 Heavyweight. After all, the guy beat Cro Cop!
Any reference to Kongo’s non-existent ground game are muted out by the sound of the Velasquez supporter shouting, “La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la” at the top of their lungs with their fingers jammed in their ears.
Don’t bother bringing up the whole “If Kongo beating Cro Cop is a major victory, why doesn’t dos Santos’ win over Cro Cop count for anything?” question either.
Apparently, September 2007 “Cro Cop” was still a monster, while September 2009 “Cro Cop” was an overrated bum who made a name for himself competing in a sub-standard organization and hasn’t really beaten anyone all that impressive.
From there, Velasquez went on to defeat Ben Rothwell, the former IFL Heavyweight champion. It’s generally agreed that Rothwell is a tough fight, and Velasquez looked impressive putting him away at UFC 104. No revisionist or opportunistic history necessary.
As it stands now, Carwin is locked in to an interim title bout with Frank Mir at UFC 111, and Velasquez is scheduled for what is widely believed to be a No. 1 contender match with dos Santos’s mentor, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 110 in Australia.
If it helps, the young Brazilian can take solace in the fact that by the time Nogueira and Mir each enter the cage, the Velasquez and Carwin fans will have the two former champions reduced to “a pair of mediocre veterans who each won titles by beating Tim Sylvia, the reigning champion of perennially overrated heavyweights.”
After all, it’s not like Tim Sylvia or anyone he’s beaten ever beat Cro Cop.
Junior dos Santos will meet Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC Ultimate Fight Night 21 on Versus in March.
Originally posted at FiveKnuckles.com