Junior dos Santos takes on Stipe Miocic in a heavyweight matchup between two quick, athletic boxers at UFC on Fox in Phoenix, Arizona.
The Match Up
Junior Dos Santos
History / Introduction
Phil: Junior Dos Santos is the ex-UFC champion. After a tough route to the belt, he knocked out Cain Velasquez to take the title, defended against Frank Mir, and then lost a dominant decision to Velasquez. After a thrilling third round wheel kick TKO against Mark Hunt, he fought Cain again, and got steamrolled once again. Since then he made a change of camp to Nova Uniao, but has been sidelined with a broken hand.
David: JDS is one of those feel good pugilist stories involving a fighter who came out of nowhere to become highly relevant. He’s also in danger of becoming the Kenny Florian of HW, which is not the insult it appears to be. Just a statement about his place in the division.
Phil: Stipe Miocic was a decent prospect who hurt Stefan Struve before getting finished by “The Skyscraper.” In losing, he seemingly announced his ceiling. Then, he dominated Roy Nelson and Gabriel Gonzaga to one-sided decisions.
David: Yea, Miocic is interesting because here was a guy who appeared to have a limited ceiling, only to redecorate, and turn into something much more dangerous to his contemporaries. The Nelson win is still the most impressive thing he’s done thus far. Roy’s a good fighter, and Miocic basically stole his biscuits and gravy.
Let’s talk context. Where do these fighters go after this?
Phil: It’s one of those classic fights where only one guy actually gets anything from beating the other. Unfortunately, JDS is going nowhere with a win. He needs strings of dominant wins over top-10 heavyweights, and his time off has done him no favours. Conversely, Stipe jumps right into title conversation with a win over the likable Brazilian.
David: I don’t know. As long as Joe Grasso overlooks Cain’s training like some overfed Palpatine, I can’t ever be confident that Cain won’t blow his knee out again and be sidelined long enough to have his belt stripped. Which means it’s actually quite possible for JDS to get a potential 4th shot. I’m not saying I’d want it. But I was playing 8 tracks and wearing flannel while Justin Eilers was doing the fishdance in Andrei Arlovski’s presence, and Keith Hackney was breaking his hand bones on Emmanuel Yarborough’s face. So JDS vs. Cain Velasquez IX is essentially progress.
These guys are going to punch each other. How?
Phil: Both fighters are lightfooted boxers. However, Dos Santos is someone who makes good use of really top-shelf athleticism, whereas Miocic is someone who makes debatably better use of lesser (but still good) athletic gifts. Miocic gets out of position less- he uses more lateral movement, and hurls himself into punches a bit less than Dos Santos does, and balances this out with decent wrestling. His gas tank was poor early on in his career, but he looked fine against Nelson and Gonzaga.
Dos Santos has blinding speed. He has an excellent jab to the head and body, and a ballpeen hammer of a right hand. His takedown defense is excellent, and he has serpentine hips which allow him to surge back to his feet if he does go down. His power and cardio are among the best in the division, and have only been effectively taken away by Velasquez.
David: Say what you hyperbolically want about JDS, but he goes about protecting his face from a straight right hand all wrong. Granted, positions and stances are no different than weapons in the arsenal. Different fighters are different efficiently. Prince Naseem probably got hit just as much as some of the so called defensive specialists in his division, yet his style was often viewed as too wide open, and dangerous. The difference is that Hamed made use of his offense in a way to made the sheer amount of defending less of an element. JDS is similar in that regard. His stance, and defensive posture invites an exchange he knows he can win.
The question is whether or not Miocic has the technical expertise to exploit JDS’ predictable movement. Miocic won’t be a threat wrestling wise, but I do think his straight punches down the middle could pose a problem. Stipe’s movement is slowly developing as well, but I just can’t shake the notion that Miocic does pretty much everything JDS does, but with less power, and variety.
Insight from past fights?
Phil: JDS has retained his flaws which were shown in both the Hunt and Velasquez fights. He still backs up in a straight line when pressed, until he runs straight into the fence. If Miocic has an advantage, it’s that for a heavyweight, he has a decent understanding of how to weight his punches. He doesn’t fling his entire body weight into shots, and instead knows the value of 40%, 50% power. This is where he can really hurt Dos Santos: he can back the Brazilian into the cage, carefully choose his shots, and judiciously hurt JDS. He did an excellent job of this against the always-dangerous (and similarly right-hand centric) Roy Nelson.
David: Pretty much. JDS has dealt with a lot f guys who could throw leather, but rarely with the kind of fighters with such a strong base for which they generate offense on the feet. Yes Hunt is awesome, but his style is very different from Miocic, and Cain won with phase shifting as much as he won with efficient boxing. Miocic is committed to his kickboxing in a very deliberate way. His movement is more active than Hunt, and less interrupted by wrestling like Cain. So there are certainly new wrinkles to this “JDS vs. another striker” matchup. They’re just subtle.
Phil: JDS has been training at Nova Uniao, but I think the real X-factor is where his head is at. Many people talk of how GSP broke his title challengers: after 25 minutes with the champ, few opponents were ever the same. Dos Santos, for his part, was on the receiving end of one of the most horrific beatings we’ve seen in the UFC. Then he went back, and took another one. That’s an insane amount of punishment and straight-up dominance to be subjected to. The kind that breaks all but the most special fighter.
David: True, but mentally JDS is one of the more jovial fighters you’ll ever see. He’s still relatively young, but I don’t think he’s silly to keep going back to the brain trauma well. It’s hard for me to consider what Miocic can actually do here besides intentionally land an unintentional eye poke. I have no idea why there isn’t some hard line rule on a second infraction being an automatic point deduction, if not a first. Don’t be surprised if this is what we’re talking about a mere day after Cruickshank vs. Noons.
Phil: I’ve tried to make myself see a way for Miocic to win. But I can’t, unless JDS has fallen off catastrophically badly. He’s faster, hits harder and can take more punishment. Junior Dos Santos by TKO, round 3.
David: Yep. Miocic is like JDS-lite, if JDS started out as a wrestler. Junior dos Santos by TKO, round 4.
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