Junior dos Santos confirmed his place as top heavyweight contender. | File photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Junior dos Santos put together a near-flawless performance in the main event of UFC 131, and as usual, the Brazilian heavyweight’s fists were his primary means of doling out punishment.
Dos Santos battered Shane Carwin Saturday night, walking away from Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, as the undisputed No. 1 contender to Cain Velasquez’s UFC heavyweight title. However, while the fight unfolded the way the Brazilian expected, “Cigano” acknowledged afterward that he felt the pressure that accompanies such a high-profile contest.
“All my fights I take very [seriously]. This fight was very important for me, and there was [a lot] on the line for me, so I was a little nervous,” said Dos Santos at the post-fight press conference. “But it was like I expected: I was faster, and my boxing skills were a little better than his.”
Dos Santos’ boxing indeed spelled the difference in the bout, as the Luiz Dorea student hurt Carwin with a combination in round one and nearly finished the fight. After staggering his foe, Cigano pinned him against the cage and unloaded with a plethora of unanswered shots that transformed Carwin’s face into a crimson mask. Carwin proved resilient, however, and managed to defend just well enough to prevent referee Herb Dean from stopping the contest.
“I tried to finish the fight in the first round, but he’s got a hard chin. He’s tough, so I couldn’t,” said Dos Santos, who appeared to expend a significant portion of his energy while unloading on his reeling foe. “I was getting tired from hitting him and [the referee] didn’t stop it. I asked him to stop it, but he told me to keep going. Shane did a good defense, and it was a good decision by the referee, because Shane continued to fight and stand up with me.”
Dos Santos used a sharp jab to set up his dominant moment in the first frame and continued to use his left lead to pepper Carwin for the remainder of the three-round contest. Dos Santos admitted after that the strategy was out of respect for his opponent’s well-documented punching power.
“I [threw] a lot jabs tonight, because it was a little bit [safer] for me,” said Dos Santos. “I just [continued] to throw jabs and stay a safe distance from him, because he hits hard, and I had to respect that.”
Ahead for the Brazilian lies Velasquez, the man who dethroned mammoth former champion Brock Lesnar in his most recent contest. Despite facing some of the heavyweight division’s best competition in his UFC career thus far, Dos Santos believes Velasquez will be his toughest test to date.
“I think my biggest challenge is coming. Cain is the champion and he deserves that. I will be ready for him,” said Dos Santos. “I think Cain’s best [attribute] is his cardio. He’s good in wrestling, but I’m learning wrestling very fast. I will try to [defend his takedowns] and [be] looking for the knockout with my boxing.”