It has been more than a year since Junior Dos Santos climbed to the top of the UFC heavyweight division by defeating then-champion Cain Velasquez in 64 seconds. The native of Santa Catarina, Brazil, went from contender to king just like that, knocking out Velasquez with those fists that have become legendary among MMA fans.
On Saturday, the 28-year-old will enter the octagon to do battle with the same opponent and prove to the critics and naysayers that his life-changing win in November 2011 was more than just a lucky punch against a cold fighter.
“I’m excited to show the world that I can beat Cain Velasquez once again, and dominate him,” Dos Santos told The Miami Herald. “Whether it’s by knockout, submission, or decision, I will beat Cain and defend my title. It doesn’t matter much to me that I’m fighting Cain. I come into every fight hungry, and now I’m ready to defend my title for the second time.”
Since winning the title, Dos Santos has added a dominant victory against former champion Frank Mir, and has won the love and affection of many fans across the world. Being recognized more often is satisfying to Dos Santos.
“It shows me that I’ve made it when fans come up to me and say hello, or take a picture with me,” Dos Santos said. “I’ve gotten a lot of support from the fans, and I love it.”
A lot of those fans are firm believers that Dos Santos is not only the best heavyweight in mixed martial arts, but they also think that he could also be the best heavyweight inside the ropes. With 11 knockouts in 15 fights (three of them being knockouts of the night), and some of the best stand-up skills in the sport, regardless of weight category, some envision Dos Santos entering the boxing ring one day, some even going so far as thinking he could beat heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.
“My main objective is to defend my title for many, many years. I love being the UFC champion, but every now and then I need a challenge, and I think I have success as a boxer,” Dos Santos said. “A fight between myself, the UFC champion, and Wladimir Klitschko, the boxing champion, would be great for the UFC, for boxing and for sports in general. I would love to box one day. I love boxing.”
Even though he would like to fight him someday, Klitschko is among his favorite fighters of all time.
“I love the way Wladimir fights,” Dos Santos said. “He makes it look so easy with his straight punches, and he’s very powerful. Also, like many, I admire Muhammad Ali. He was one of the greatest, as was Mike Tyson. Tyson was so powerful, and a knockout artist.”
Whether he ever enters the squared circle remains to be seen. One certainty is that he will step inside the cage against Velasquez to cap off the UFC 2012 calendar. With the memory of the quick knockout on both fighters’ minds, Dos Santos expects Velasquez to go for the early takedown and use his wrestling expertise. Dos Santos welcomes the challenge, and said he’ll be as ready for it as he was 13 months ago.
“I prepare for every fight the same way, and that night I just found an opening and I took it,” Dos Santos recalled. “I thought he’d immediately go for the takedown in the first fight, even though he didn’t, and I believe he will go for it in this fight. If I knock him out that would be great, but if it goes to the ground, I’ll be ready with my jiu-jitsu. At the end it doesn’t matter how I win, only that I go home with my belt.”