Junior dos Santos will await the winner of Brock Lesnar-Alistair Overeem. | Photo: Sherdog.com
A single clubbing right hand from Junior dos Santos shifted the balance of heavyweight power from San Jose, Calif., to Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. Power and technique can move figurative mountains in the cage.
The 27-year-old dos Santos blitzed Cain Velasquez in a first-round technical knockout, as he captured the heavyweight crown in the UFC on Fox 1 main event on Saturday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. An overhand right sent Velasquez to the canvas with dos Santos in pursuit and promotional gold hanging in the balance. Follow-up blows from the Brazilian ended the battle just 64 seconds after it began.
Undefeated inside the Octagon, dos Santos has won nine consecutive fights. His ascent to the top of the heavyweight division complete, he has finished five of his eight UFC wins inside one round.
In wake of UFC on Fox 1 “Velasquez vs. Dos Santos,” here are seven fights we want to see made:
Junior dos Santos vs. Brock Lesnar-Alistair Overeem winner: By throttling the previously unbeaten Velasquez, dos Santos had to have given pause to anyone thinking about standing and exchanging with him. A 6-foot-4, 239-pound juggernaut of power, technique and timing, he has ripped through the heavyweight division since arriving on the scene at UFC 90 in October 2008 with a first-round TKO over two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist Fabricio Werdum. One-sided wins against Stefan Struve, Mirko Filipovic, Gilbert Yvel, Gabriel Gonzaga, Roy Nelson and Shane Carwin followed, setting up his showdown with Velasquez. Barring injury, dos Santos will next face the victor of the Lesnar-Overeem matchup at UFC 141 on Dec. 30. No matter who emerges, dos Santos figures to be heavily favored to retain his title.
Cain Velasquez vs. Overeem-Lesnar loser: Velasquez will face a myriad of questions following his first professional defeat, some of them inward and some of them from the public. However, he will not fall far in a division that has become decidedly top heavy, especially with Carwin injured and sidelined again. Velasquez remains in his prime at 29 and will have the chance to put himself in position for a rematch with dos Santos. The two-time NCAA All-American’s road back could begin with the Lesnar-Overeem loser sometime in early 2012. Another option would be to pit Velasquez against former heavyweight champion Frank Mir, provided he takes care of business in his rematch with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 140 on Dec. 10.
Ben Henderson vs. Frankie Edgar: Many already view the Edgar-Henderson lightweight title tilt, ticketed for Feb. 26 in Japan, as a frontrunner for “Fight of the Year” in 2012. Henderson, a John Crouch protégé who seems to improve with each outing, denied Clay Guida in a riveting three-round encounter, earning a unanimous decision and the right to challenge for 155-pound gold. Armed with perhaps the game’s best guillotine choke, Henderson has become one of the most consistently entertaining competitors in the sport, as he blends otherworldly athleticism and resilience with exceptional all-around skills and a willingness to take risks. Edgar’s lateral movement, boxing ability and indomitable fighting spirit, showcased in his two scintillating fights with Gray Maynard, make a matchup with Henderson a must-see event.
Clay Guida vs. Gray Maynard: Following his loss to Henderson, one has to wonder if Guida will ever clear the final hurdle standing between him and title contention. Heart, desire and conditioning have carried him to the brink, but he was at times physically overmatched against Henderson, who bullied him in the clinch, powered out of his submission attempts and generally made life difficult for him. Guida may opt for a move to 145 pounds, a much shallower division where new opportunities would abound. Until then, he figures to hover between the middle and upper tiers of the lightweight ranks, providing worthy tests for up-and-comers and veterans who wish to rejoin the circle of contenders. After his knockout loss to Edgar at UFC 136, Maynard fits the latter mold.
Dustin Poirier vs. Mark Hominick-Chan Sung Jung winner: At 22, Poirier can only be described as a rising star at featherweight. The once-beaten Louisianan was utterly brilliant in dispatching Pablo Garza with a slick second-round brabo choke. It was the fourth submission of his career but his first under the Zuffa banner. Poirier, who trains under “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 7 alum Tim Credeur, wields a potent, well-rounded skill set, and he has never tasted defeat at 145 pounds. The only real hole in his game seems to be in the defensive wrestling department, a weakness only a handful of featherweights figure to probe. Poirier will carry a four-fight winning streak into his next appearance, which will almost certainly come against someone much higher up on the totem pole. Give him the winner of the Mark Hominick-Chan Sung Jung bout at UFC 140 next month.
Mike Pierce vs. Rory MacDonald: Pierce’s approach may not be aesthetically pleasing, but he gets the job done. Now 5-2 inside the UFC, he took a split decision from two-time NCAA All-American wrestler Paul Bradley, a man he had already defeated in regional competition back in 2009. Pierce, 31, an experienced and intelligent fighter with few weaknesses, will provide a stern test for any rising contender at 170 pounds. No one fits that mold better than MacDonald, a superstar in the making who was forced to withdraw from his UFC 140 bout with Brian Ebersole with an undisclosed injury. Once he heals, let the 22-year-old have a go at Pierce, who, in 17 professional appearances, has never been finished.
Ricardo Lamas vs. Darren Elkins: Quietly a winner in five of his past six fights, Lamas continues to fly under the radar at 145 pounds. Considering the effort he put forth against Cub Swanson, that relative anonymity may not last much longer. Lamas overcame a slow start to submit the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts representative with a second-round arm-triangle choke. An accomplished wrestler with a developing standup game, he has finished consecutive opponents since dropping anchor in the featherweight division. A matchup with Elkins, another rising threat, seems appropriate. Elkins, who trains alongside former WEC bantamweight champion Eddie Wineland, has also posted five wins in six outings, including a unanimous decision over Chinese import Tiequan Zhang at UFC 136.