Some of the final images of Junior dos Santos on the UFC 146 broadcast had the victorious heavyweight champ with a beaming Breno Luis Ferreira atop his shoulders, a 9-year-old boy from Dos Santos’ Brazilian hometown he brought to MGM Grand Garden Arena Saturday night.
Dos Santos understandably also had on a smile — an expression that has become his trademark just as much as his heavy fists — since he was minutes removed from a second-round TKO of Frank Mir to defend his UFC heavyweight title. It’s a look those who follow the UFC have seen a lot of since Dos Santos has won each of his nine fights with the MMA sanctioning body.
“When you believe so much in yourself, good things happen,” Dos Santos told reporters in the post-fight news conference. “That’s why I’m so positive.”
Dos Santos isn’t as bombastic as Brock Lesnar, a former UFC heavyweight champ who could be set to end his retirement. Dos Santos doesn’t have the appeal for former champ Cain Velasquez, Dos Santos’ likely next opponent who has the backing of the Mexican-American community. He’s not an Internet-created phenomenon like Kimbo Slice, who gained fame by knocking out people in backyards.
He just wins and grins.
“He’s a good guy,” UFC president Dana White said. “He’s an easy guy to deal with. I have never had a problem with Junior dos Santos, ever. That’s very rare, no matter how good the guy is. There always will be some type of issue. Never with him.”
Dos Santos won Saturday night the same way he usually takes down opponents: with his fists. He controlled the fight from the start, using his jabs to keep Mir — who mostly used his ground game en route to winning the heavyweight title twice before — off balance.
Dos Santos deflected a Mir kick nearly two minutes into the second round and countered with a right that crumpled Mir. Mir took one more punch in the head from Dos Santos before the fight was halted.
“He got to jump in and throw punches and before I could react, he’d jump out,” Mir said. “When I moved forward and tried to throw punches at him, he was never there. He’s faster. He got to decide when to fight and when not to fight.”
Even before he got knocked out, Mir was in trouble, at least when it came to geography. He was asked after the first round where he was and what day it was. Microphones caught him saying “Mandalay Bay,” which is located down the street.
“I was preoccupied at the time,” Mir said with a smirk. “I think I got the date right and that was the hard part, right?”
UFC president Dana White said he “liked” a Dos Santos-Velasquez rematch. Velasquez was dominant in a first-round TKO victory that left Antonio Silva bloodied.
This was the UFC’s first all-heavyweight main card. The other winners on the night — Roy Nelson, Stipe Miocic and Stefan Struve — also advanced their careers with victories.
And then there are those fighters who aren’t currently in the UFC fold for one reason or another that could already make the best crop of heavyweights even more formidable.
Lesnar — who retired after a loss to Alistair Overeem at UFC 141 in December — made a rare appearance at a UFC event and texted White on Saturday.
“He wanted to talk face to face and I said, ‘OK,’ ” White said. “I’m going to talk to him tonight. You never know with him. He might want to come back. He just may want to hang out.”
Overeem received a nine-month ban last month for having testosterone levels far outside of Nevada State Athletic Commission limits. He can’t reapply for a license in the state until Dec. 27, which means he’s effectively banned nationwide. White said while he felt betrayed by Overeem’s denials of using performance-enhancing drugs to him, he would likely let him back into UFC once he regains his license.
White also mentioned that Daniel Cormier — who recently had an impressive win over former UFC heavyweight champ Josh Barnett in the UFC-owned Strikeforce promotion last weekend — could be a top contender in the division if he’s signed.
Whoever Dos Santos faces next he could do something no other heavyweight has ever done: successfully defend the title for a second time.
“I am here to stay and I think like that,” Dos Santos said. “That’s why I’m working so hard on my career. I take everything serious.”
And whether that be against Velasquez or somebody else, you can expect the same positive, yet-focused, approach.
“I don’t care who is going to be my next opponent,” Dos Santos said.