In recent bouts, Junior dos Santos has engaged in the type of battles that can take years off a mixed martial arts career.
Since 2012, dos Santos has notably suffered a pair of brutal drawn-out losses to Cain Velasquez, been knocked out by Alistair Overeem and defeated current champion Stipe Miocic in a five-round affair that left his face swollen, bloodied and bruised. Even though it has been nearly five years since “Cigano” last entered the Octagon as UFC heavyweight champion, but he has never strayed too far from the title discussion.
Dos Santos will appear in the fourth championship bout of his Octagon tenure when he faces Miocic again in the UFC 211 headliner at American Airlines Arena in Dallas on Saturday night. Although he owns just a .500 record in his last six bouts, dos Santos does not believe this will be his final shot at wearing heavyweight gold if things do not go his way against Miocic.
“Oh my gosh, of course not. I’m just 33 years old and I’m on top of this -- I’m fighting against the top guys since the beginning,” dos Santos said during a recent conference call. “Since I arrived here in the UFC in 2008, I was fighting with the guy [Fabricio Werdum] who was supposed to fight for the title. Since that, I’m on top of this division. So it’s one more step in my career and I have no doubts that I’m going to become champion and what I miss the most is, man, I miss the feeling to be the baddest man on the planet, to be the number one in my division, to be the champion, and to leave the opportunity as a champion and enjoy it.”
Miocic had dos Santos in trouble early during their first meeting at UFC on Fox 13 in December 2014 and arguably landed the more significant blows over the course of the bout’s initial two stanzas. The Brazilian rallied down the stretch, however, as he floored Miocic with a left hook in the third and went to the body repeatedly to win a hard-fought unanimous decision. While it wasn’t an especially controversial verdict, there were some observers -- including a few media members tracked by MMADecisions.com -- who thought Miocic did enough to get the nod.
“At the end of the day, what matters is the victory and I think everything, what I did in that fight, you know, besides being a really tough fight, I deserved the win,” dos Santos said. “So I got the win and I was very happy. I’m still very happy from that. And now, I’m getting prepared to get a similar result in this one. Not the same way, but of course I want to win this fight on [Saturday].”
In regards to the method of victory, dos Santos is predicting a much shorter night at the office in his rematch with Miocic.
“I’m a very confident guy. I like to be positive so in my dreams, the way I see things going on in the fight. I can see myself beating him before the end of the second round,” dos Santos said. “That’s why I’m saying this. I’m very well prepared. I’m leading a great moment. I’m stronger. I’m smart. I have more experience now, and I think the same is happening with him. So man, it’s going to be a great fight for the fans.”
Dos Santos has fought infrequently in recent years, competing just once per year in 2014, 2015 and 2016. He will be returning to the Octagon for the first time since April 2016, when he cruised to a five-round verdict over Ben Rothwell at UFC Fight Night 86. Dos Santos doesn’t expect the layoff to be a hindrance when he squares off with Miocic for a second time.
“Well, I’m feeling one of the best moments of my life. I’m feeling very well, like I said. I’m feeling stronger. I’m feeling very healthy and I’m feeling this is my time,” he said. “I’m feeling things are working well for me and I put in good work in the gym and now, I’m ready for this fight. I respect Stipe a lot and the way I’m going to show this respect for him is giving my best during the fight. So I’m ready for this.”