Can Junior dos Santos rebound from his first loss since 2007? | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Like most professional mixed martial artists, Junior dos Santos finds motivation in the pursuit of championship gold.
The former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight titleholder aims to take the first step towards reclaiming his crown when he meets resurgent 2001 K-1 World Grand Prix winner Mark Hunt in the UFC 160 co-main event this Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Five months removed from his unanimous decision loss to Cain Velasquez, dos Santos understands he must first bring down Hunt in order to secure his desired rematch with the champion.
“It’s motivation, but I don’t think about that right now,” dos Santos said during a pre-fight media call. “I think about my fight with Mark. He’s the one I need to focus on. It’ll be great to have a title shot again if I beat Mark. For sure that motivates me, but that’s not what I’m thinking about right now.”
The one-sided loss to Velasquez, which saw dos Santos succumb to 11 takedowns and absorb more than 200 strikes, halted the Brazilian’s career-best 10-fight winning streak. The run included wins over Velasquez, former heavyweight champion Frank Mir, onetime International Fight League titleholder Roy Nelson, 2006 Pride Fighting Championships open weight grand prix winner Mirko Filipovic and two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist Fabricio Werdum.
“It was very difficult to accept my loss to Cain,” dos Santo said. “The first week was very tough, but Cain was better than me. He fought better than me, did a better job and deserved to win. Once you see that, you realize that’s what this sport is all about. Cain was the better fighter that day, and it was easy for me to accept that it’s just part of the sport.”
Velasquez has his own hurdle to clear. The American Kickboxing Academy will defend his championship in a rematch against Antonio Silva in the UFC 160 headliner. Velasquez won the first matchup between the two a little more than a year ago, as he ravaged “Bigfoot” with brutal ground-and-pound en route to a first-round technical knockout at UFC 146. Win or lose, dos Santos expects to face the 30-year-old Californian again in the near future.
“I don’t think I’m the only one who can beat Cain, but I’m sure I’m one of the people who is capable of doing that,” dos Santos said. “Cain and I will fight each other several times throughout our careers, because we’re both at another level.”
Ryan Bader’s loss was James Te Huna’s gain.
Te Huna will serve as an injury replacement for “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 8 winner, as he confronts Glover Teixeira in a pivotal showdown at 205 pounds. The 31-year-old Australia-based kiwi will enter the Octagon on the strength of a four-fight winning streak. Te Huna last appeared at UFC on Fuel TV 7 in February, when he weathered a damaging first-round head kick from Ryan Jimmo and snapped the former Maximum Fighting Championship kingpin’s streak of 17 consecutive victories with a unanimous decision at Wembley Arena in London.
Teixeira, a heavy-handed Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who has won 18 straight and emerged as one of the sport’s premier light heavyweights, poses even more of a threat. The 33-year-old Brazilian has stopped 13 of his last 18 foes in the first round.
“Glover is one of the most feared fighters in the light heavyweight division,” Te Huna said in his pre-fight interview with UFC.com. “He has the ability to control the fight and sets his own pace. It’ll be a great match.”
This & That
The MGM Grand Garden Arena has hosted 25 Ultimate Fighting Championship events, one less than the Mandalay Bay Events Center ... Among UFC lightweights who have faced at least 20 attempts, Gray Maynard ranks second in percentage of takedowns defended (86.4) ... When former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Brian Bowles climbs into the cage to battle George Roop, 553 days will have passed since his last appearance inside the Octagon ... Robert Whittaker trains in Sydney, 7,717 miles from Las Vegas ... Stephen Thompson was a five-time world kickboxing champion, with a 57-0 career record ... When Hawaiian featherweight Max Holloway was born on Dec. 4, 1991, “The Addams Family” was the No. 1 movie at the box office and Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” topped Billboard Magazine’s music charts ... Mike Pyle’s hometown of Dresden, Tenn., encompasses a little more than five square miles and is home to roughly 3,000 people ... Undefeated Russian lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov has finished 10 opponents inside one round ... Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts standout Donald Cerrone was a national muay Thai champion, but he has delivered 13 of his 19 professional MMA victories by submission ... Arizona Combat Sports featherweight Estevan Payan has held regional titles in two weight classes.