Since his debut, Junior “Cigano” Dos Santos has been a prominent figure among his fellow gargantuan pugilists in the UFC’s Heavyweight (206lbs – 265lbs) division. Since knocking out Fabricio Werdum at UFC 90 via hellacious uppercut, Junior carved a path through the division, finishing most who the UFC placed before him, and eventually won the championship. After losing the title to Cain Velasquez in 2012 then losing a second time to him in 2013, we saw an evolution in his striking. Junior became more tactical; instead of trying to decapitate his opponents, he became more patient, targeting the body and dressing up his power shots.
Junior wins the title against Cain Velasquez by TKO
Today, a crazed fanboy’s analysis on the Brazilian heavyweight fighter.
Winning six of his first nine UFC bouts by KO/TKO, Junior certainly had an air of invincibility around him. He became the most feared fighter in the division primarily with two punches: his deceptive uppercut, and his very furious overhand right.
Dos Santos has always had very excellent timing with his uppercut. Using it to knock out Werdum and to deliver massive amounts of damage to Roy Nelson, Junior’s uppercut deals considerable damage to whomever he hits with it. Against Werdum, Junior fired the blow while his opponent was moving backwards to maintain a safe distance, and leaning into a hesitant right. Against Nelson, Junior aimed his punch to fly past the guard that Nelson was maintaining to protect his face. Unfortunately, Nelson also crouched his stance to make himself a smaller target, effectively leaning into the punch and increasing its force exponentially. Junior timed that punch against both fighters while they were were leaning in, yet performing two completely different actions. Both highlight worthy performances were excellent displays of his very impressive fight IQ. Junior’s right uppercut has proven to be a very powerful weapon, and as such, is something that his die-hard fans are always looking out for in his current fights; he tends to throw it from time to time, but hasn’t had as much success with it lately since he is a much rangier fighter now.
JDS KOs Werdum with his uppercut
JDS decimates Roy Nelson’s brain cells with one punch
Dos Santos’ overhand right is another tool of octagon murder that he uses to either finish fights, or significantly damage his opponents. Using it to great effectiveness against Mark Hunt, Cain Velasquez, and Ben Rothwell, it has become a staple of his arsenal. Using only his gorgeous shot selection against Velasquez and Hunt, Junior dropped both men with it to further remind everyone of his ridiculous power. With this punch, he won the Heavyweight title of the world, and put a tremendous beating on one of the highest level strikers to fight in the division. Against “Big” Ben Rothwell, Junior set up his overhand with a well placed jab, then followed up the combination with a push kick right out of the film “300” that sent the 264 pound fighter flying several feet backwards. The punch is without a doubt one of the most powerful he has, and many agree with that sentiment with good reason.
(jab ->overhand )–>push kick
JDS drops the overhand hammer on Mark Hunt
Junior has made a bit of a stylistic change to his jab in his more recent match-ups. Against Stipe Miocic and Ben Rothwell, Junior was very committed to targeting the body, often throwing the jab to maintain distance and to accumulate body damage over time. The tactic proved effective, as both men visibly slowed as the shots to the body began to pile on in addition to the other strikes Junior was landing. By targeting the body with his jab, Junior creates many an opportunity for variance in his striking. His opponent may choose to lower their arms in order to protect their body, and consequentially become vulnerable to the overhand right, or any other punch that may be flying towards their head. With that same hand that Junior targets the body, he may also throw his left hook, useful when his opponents get too close. He made great use of that hook against Miocic, who maintained a constant forward pressure against dos Santos in their explosive five round battle. Using it to counter Stipe whenever he rushed in to strike, Junior managed to drop the Cleveland fighter and almost finish him, using his excellent timing yet again.
JDS drops Stipe with a blinding left hook
One of the largest holes in Cigano’s game has always been his footwork; he has always been shown to have very ineffective defense when his back is pressed against the cage. Velasquez(twice), Miocic, and to a small degree, Mark Hunt were able to exploit this flaw against Junior. When in that position, he tends to initiate a clinch or fire back a counter or two, causing Junior to take damage in the process. In his second and third bout with Cain Velasquez, Cain put an immense pressure on Junior, taking years off of Junior’s MMA career with an unrelenting pressure that many fans say caused Junior to never fight the same again. Stipe also put a similar pressure on Junior in their bout, and in their impending rematch, a fight for the Heavyweight Championship in May 2017, he may attempt to use the same tactic again. Junior must treat the fence similarly to a boxing ring’s ropes, to be avoided at all costs. If he allows himself to be cornered by the former Golden Gloves boxer, he will surely take damage, and possibly be finished by the power puncher. Junior must make use of lateral movement to steer clear of Miocic’s ring-craft and footwork or lose in the coming high stakes match.
Bad things tend to happen when Junior gets pressed against the cage
Dos Santos was my first ever favorite UFC fighter. After watching him knock out Werdum in a blurry youtube video, I was hooked on his boxing intensive style. It was violent, and angry and so damn fun to watch. To top off his already enchanting fighting style, he is one of the nicest MMA fighters alive, and a generally happy dude. Always smiling and with naught but respect for his fellow fighters. Junior was the fighter that made me obsessed with the UFC, and having the chance to watch him fight for the title again in May is something I’ve been fervently waiting for. No matter who wins that fight, there will surely be fireworks, and absolutely no one expects a disappointment match.