Junior Dos Santos: Can He Be Champion Again?

With the UFC’s annual Memorial Day pay-per-view less than a week away, most of the pre-fight talk is on whether or not co-main event participant Mark Hunt will be granted his work visa in time for the event. It was reported last Saturday that he has in fact gotten his work visa and will fight former champion Junior dos Santos at this weekend’s UFC 160 event in Las Vegas, leaving him about six days to fly out to Vegas for final preparations. All is well in the world again.

Because the bout was in jeopardy due to the issues mentioned above, one topic that was quickly pushed to the back seat was that this contest is expected to be a heavyweight title eliminator. Dos Santos is currently the favorite and should he win, he may be granted a title shot in the near future, perhaps even in his very next fight. Keep in mind that I am in no way overlooking Hunt – I’m simply taking a hypothetical look ahead should Dos Santos get past him. Realistically speaking, can Dos Santos become champion again?

The quick answer to that question is yes, of course. If the current champion, Cain Velasquez, retains his title this weekend, that’ll mean that Dos Santos may get another crack at Velasquez and we all saw what happened in their first bout in November of 2011. Should both of them win their respective bouts, UFC fans will be treated to only the second trilogy in UFC heavyweight history. However, after a rematch last December, we saw what Velasquez is capable of. He dominated Dos Santos for five full rounds, which in the eyes of many, was more impressive than the fashion in which he lost the title, a first-round knockout. Dos Santos is more than capable of winning back the title and since we’ve seen him do it once before, we have a general idea how he can achieve that second title reign. But as we saw in his rematch with Velasquez, it’s looking like another victory over the current champ is unlikely, considering how dominant Velasquez looked in that second bout. Can Dos Santos win? Sure he can, although it’s unlikely.

Perhaps another win over Velasquez is unlikely, but what if Velasquez loses the title to “Bigfoot” Silva this weekend? What then? If Dos Santos gets past the heavy-handed Hunt, what are his chances against Silva?

Knowing what we do about Dos Santos’ penchant for striking, we can assume that Bigfoot may have a more ground-oriented game plan. Besides being dominated by Velasquez in what was mostly a ground battle, we haven’t seen much of Dos Santos’ ground game. Keep in mind that his inferior ground game against Velasquez may have been a result of being softened up on the feet prior to going to the ground. He was stunned badly against Velasquez and that could very well have contributed to a subpar grappling defense. Barring a similar scenario, how well can Dos Santos do against an experienced grappler who is just as big as he is?

Even though Silva took out former K-1 champion Alistair Overeem, we can all agree that Dos Santos is the better striker in this equation. Overeem underestimated Silva’s power and paid for it with in full with the title shot as currency. But let’s not let that disguise the fact that Silva is not a great striker. He may have heavy hands, but a fight on the feet is the last thing Silva wants against Dos Santos. Therefore, it is safe to assume that Silva will need to take the fight to the ground to compete with JDS. Silva’s takedowns are most definitely not better than Velasquez, and because of that he will have a very difficult time taking the fight where he wants it.

After that brief analysis, we can say with a certain degree of assurance that JDS is definitely capable of winning the title once more. However, he stands a far better chance of taking the title from Silva than he does Velasquez. JDS will most likely be rooting for Velasquez this weekend in order for him to get another crack at the title from the person who took it from him, but after looking at all the facts, it may benefit JDS exponentially more if Bigfoot pulls off the upset. Can Dos Santos win the title back? Of course he can. Are his chances higher against the likes of Bigfoot as opposed to Velasquez? You better believe it.

PHOTO CREDIT: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports