The last time Junior Dos Santos was in the Octagon he pounded his way to the Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight belt…and many expect the same today.
Dos Santos (14-1) makes his first title defense on UFC 146 against former UFC champion Frank Mir (17-5) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The heavyweight themed fight card will also be televised on pay-per-view.
It’s the first time all five main televised fights will be comprised of heavyweights, the big guys.
Though Dos Santos may not be the biggest fighter size-wise, he definitely ranks at the top when it comes to pure punching power. Back in November he wrested the heavyweight crown from then champion Cain Velasquez with a number of clubbing punches that stunned the fight world with their ferocity and swiftness.
“Against Cain Velasquez I was ready to go all five rounds. You don’t walk in thinking you’re going to end a fight right away and yes I threw a really hard shot against Cain and it took him down. Even I was surprised that the shot landed as hard as it did and that he went down,” said Dos Santos during a conference call. “Ending the fight quickly – and the speed – it was really perfect, but it was the result of just paying 100 percent attention, seeing a moment and being able to capitalize on that moment. It wasn’t the strategy I walked in there with.”
Still, at any moment the Brazilian bomber can end a fight suddenly. Many of his former foes can vouch for that.
Las Vegas-based Mir likes how they match up style-wise. With his grappling skills and boxing expertise the former heavyweight champion feels that a well-planned strategy could allow him to find a weakness in the Brazilian’s armor.
“With Dos Santos it’s not so much that you have to worry about him taking you down or throwing a kick – I mean he does these things – but he basically concentrates on his stand up with his boxing,” says Mir, adding that it allows him to concentrate his defense on one major facet instead of many.
In the semi-main event recently deposed champion Velasquez (9-1) has a rather large obstacle when he meets Antonio “Big Foot” Silva (16-3) in the Octagon. This will be his first prizefight since losing the title to Dos Santos. It’s not an easy task.
“He’s (Silva) a tough guy and has been in a lot of fights with the top level competitors. He’s a guy that does everything well. He’s really well-rounded,” said Velasquez, who trains in Northern California.
Some of those top competitors Silva has clashed against were Fabricio Werdum, Andrei Arlovski and the great Russian fighter Fedor Emelianenko. This will be Silva’s first fight in a UFC MMA card.
“It’s a great opportunity that the UFC is giving me for my first fight in the UFC against one of the tops in the world and it doesn’t bother me at all. I’m the underdog on this fight and it takes a lot of responsibility off my back so I feel very comfortable with that,” said Silva, whose do or die mentality can end a fight abruptly. “So I try to come in a little bit lighter to be able to counter his speed and his lightness. I think that will be favorable to me.”
The winner between Silva and Velasquez hopes to jump back in the Octagon and fight the winner of Dos Santos and Mir.
Dos Santos openly believes that he can wear down Mir and break the challenger both physically and mentally.
“I feel that Frank Mir lacks heart and lacks the ability to proceed through rough spots in a fight,” says Dos Santos bluntly.
Mir openly believes that the Brazilian’s style of fighting suits his own brand.
“I've predominantly done better with people that use more striking or know the submission games,” says Mir. “I am so comfortable with the boxing and the kick-boxing aspects and also dealing with submission guys.”
Sounds like skill versus will.
Heavyweight MMA fighter Roy “Big Country” Nelson (16-7) out of Las Vegas meets Temecula’s Dave “PeeWee” Herman (21-3) in a three round bout. Undefeated Stipe Miocic (8-0) out of Croatia makes his third appearance on a UFC card when he faces Irvine, California’s Shane Del Rosario (8-1), making his debut UFC appearance. Stefan “Skyscraper” Struve (23-5) of Netherlands fights Lavar “Big” Johnson (17-5) of Northern California.