Junior Dos Santos: The Real No. 1 Contender

Andrew McCluskeyCorrespondent IMarch 24, 2010

Over the course of the past few months we have looked at the UFC heavyweight division as being stacked. Many are calling it the best it has ever been. That is a pretty strong claim considering some of the great heavyweights that have passed through the UFC.

I've looked closely at all of the UFC heavyweights and their records. I have watched their matches and tried to find the guy that stands out.

Well, I found him.

Junior Dos Santos is the true No. 1 contender in the UFC heavyweight division. 

Yes, that means I am calling him more deserving than Frank Mir, Shane Carwin, and Cain Velasquez. I'm willing to go as far as saying that his record is more impressive than every single one of those fighters and maybe even Lesnar's. 

Don't agree? Let's look at the records. 

Brock Lesnar (4-1) 

Notable Wins: Frank Mir, Randy Couture, Heath Herring

Losses: Frank Mir

Now arguably Lesnar's loss could be summed up to inexperience. He came back to dominate Frank Mir at UFC 100 completely neutralizing his ground game. Brock did the same exact thing to Heath Herring and basically embarrassed him the entire match. Couture gave Lesnar probably the closest fight of his career, but Brock proved to be too big and too fast, as he overwhelmed Couture like he has everyone else. 

Randy Couture is by far his best win, but again Couture was 45 years old at the time and not what he used to be. Beating Frank Mir was a solid victory, but as I'll discuss later, he hasn't exactly proven much yet in his career. Herring was a respectable win, but one that any fighter who belongs in the top 10 should be able to beat easily. 

Lesnar is the biggest wait and see what we have. He shows all the physical abilities and tools to be a great fighter, but we need a bigger sample before we can make a fair judgement. 

Frank Mir (13-4)

Notable Wins: Brock Lesnar, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Tim Sylvia, Cheick Kongo

Losses: Brock Lesnar, Brandon Vera, Ian Freeman, Marcio Cruz

As mentioned above, Mir's win over Lesnar was due to Lesnar's inexperience rather than Mir's abilities. Brock had rocked Mir and was working on finishing him before he got caught in a submission. The rest of Mir's losses are fighters that are no longer in the UFC or no longer heavyweights. 

Mir has an impressive, quick submission over Tim Sylvia where he broke his arm. His win over Kongo is just a B-Level win comparable to Lesnar's win over Herring. It has also been well documented that Nogueira was not at 100 percent in his fight with Mir and as we all know, he is well past his prime at this point in his career.

Mir's record is full of B-Level or lower heavyweight wins. He has a few embarrassing losses on his record and I believe his mouth is the driving factor behind him getting another push for a title shot. I'll be interested to see where Mir's career goes if he loses to Shane Carwin.

Shane Carwin (11-0)

Notable Wins: Gabriel Gonzaga 

Losses: None

Carwin has built up his legend of being the giant knock out artist. Impressively he hasn't had a fight get out of the first round yet and all of his wins have come by knockout. However, looking a little closer, it might not be as impressive as it seems.

Carwin has one notable win over Gonzaga. He was rocked initially, but hung on and came back to knock out Gonzaga himself. Carwin's other two wins came against fighters that are no longer in the UFC.

The rest of Carwin's non-UFC opponents have a combined record of 38-43. While every fighter has fought their share of "cans", Carwin has one legitimate win in his entire career. This kind of record doesn't scream "future UFC champion" to me. 

Cain Velasquez (8-0)

Notable Wins: Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Ben Rothwell, Cheick Kongo

Losses: None

Cain Velasquez would be my runner up for most legitimate No. 1 contender. Velasquez has decent UFC wins over Jake O'Brien and Denis Stonjic before getting the bump in talent. However, neither one of those fighters could be considered anywhere close to top 10.

Velasquez has two B-Level wins over Ben Rothwell and Cheick Kongo. They are solid fighters that, as I have said, if you want to be a legitimate contender you should be beating. Cain's most impressive and recent win came against Nogueira who as stated before is no longer the force he was in Pride. 

Cain has a ton of potential. His striking is solid and he is great at wrestling. I certainly think he has the ability to become a future title holder, but I'm not ready to crown him as elite yet. 

Junior Dos Santos (11-1)

Notable Wins: Fabricio Werdum, Gabriel Gonzaga, Gilbert Yvel, Mirko Cro Cop, Stefan Struve

Losses: Joaquim Ferreira

In my opinion, Dos Santos has the best list of wins in the UFC heavyweight division's contenders. His one career loss came to Jaquim Ferreira in a match in Brazil where he was caught in an arm bar from the bottom. However, since joining the UFC he has torn through every competitor put in front of him.

Fabricio Wedum is a legitimate world class grappler that was once a favorite to win the UFC title. He has his share of B-List wins against Stefan Struve and Gilbert Yvel. Then two more solid wins against Mirko Cro Cop and Gabriel Gonzaga.

As I have said about Nogueira, Cro Cop is no longer the elite heavyweight that he once was, but I'd give Dos Santos heavyweight credit for beating either of these legends. The UFC has not fed one "can" to Dos Santos yet. Other than Cro Cop, he has stopped every one of these challengers in the first round.

The UFC heavyweight division certainly has its fair share of talent. I do feel that any one of these guys has a shot to beat one another. 

However, I feel Dos Santos is head and shoulders above the rest. 

He has faced no cans in the UFC. He has beat the B-Listers, he knocked off potential contenders, and he took down a legend.

If anyone deserves the hype in the UFC, it is Junior Dos Santos.


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