Dos Santos aims to dethrone Velasquez
Junior dos Santos' mentor can tell him all about Cain Velasquez.
The conversations last longer than the legendary Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira did in the octagon against Velasquez, who earned a knockout victory midway through the first round of their bout at UFC 110 in February 2010.
“He’s helped me a lot throughout my career, but especially for this fight,” dos Santos told FOXSports.com. “He’s given me some good advice. It’s been great to have his support and we’re on the same page.”
Nogueira is a Brazilian who makes his career in mixed martial arts. That’s about where the similarities end between Nogueira and dos Santos. Dos Santos, 27, has some of the quickest hands in the sport in any weight division. Going against a Brazilian stereotype, he will attempt to do his damage against Velasquez in the debut of UFC on FOX on Saturday from the upright position.
“My ground game is pretty good, too,” dos Santos said. “I’m not like Big Nog (Nogueira) or Demian Maia. They are the A-Team when it comes to jiu jitsu in the world, but I’m pretty good. I prefer to fight standing up, but it goes to the ground, I’m ready for it. I have some positions I’m really, really good at.”
Velasquez, the reigning heavyweight champ, doesn’t see much of Nogueira in dos Santos’ game either.
“I think he’s a different fighter than Nogueira,” Velasquez said. “I think (dos Santos) has much quicker hands and is better overall. He’s one of the top guys in the world and he’s at his prime.”
For the first time in his UFC career, dos Santos showed he’s not strictly a boxer. In his last bout he used his ground game proficiently to earn a unanimous decision over Shane Carwin at UFC 131 in June.
“I see a lot of good things about his ground game,” said Billy Scheibe, a Muay Thai coach who has worked with dos Santos at the Black House Team Nogueira gym of San Diego. “He’s very good. Even though I do Muay Thai, I know he’s been working with some of the top jiu jitsu coaches in the world. It’s surprising for how fast he moves for how big he is.”
Velasquez, who trains out of the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., has used several different sparring partners adept at different MMA styles to prepare for dos Santos. One of those partners, Kyle Kingsbury, said he expects dos Santos to trade more punches than attempt submission holds.
“I think we’ve seen dos Santos win only one way, with his quick hands,” said Kingsbury, who is part of the undercard at UFC 139 on Nov. 19. “He leans toward trying to just knock guys out. One of the unknowns about dos Santos is his ground game. I’m not saying he isn’t strong in those areas, but it’s just an unknown. We really haven’t seen that much of it yet.”
Just like his ground game, dos Santos also hasn’t shown much of his personality, at least outwardly in his first seven UFC fights (He won each of those fights, four by knockout.) Dos Santos displays more of a quiet confidence without the bluster some have come to expect from the sport's top contenders.
Scheibe said the real dos Santos can only be seen behind the scenes, especially when he’s back in Brazil.
“He’s two different people,” Scheibe said. “When he’s outside of training or a fight, he’s a very personable guy. He’s very outgoing. He just enjoys life. When people come up to him on the streets for autographs, he’s always happy to sign whatever they have (and) talk to them. He turns his intensity off and on like nobody I have seen the business.”
Dos Santos said while he is fighting for a UFC title for the first time in an event that marks the promotion’s debut on national broadcast television, he doesn’t admit to being overwhelmed by the spotlight.
“The pressure is the same as any of my other fights,” dos Santos said. “I’m really happy to be here fighting for the title and getting a chance to fight for the division. It’s huge thing in my life and I’m enjoying it.”
Just because dos Santos appears fairly subdued in the days leading up to his bouts, that doesn’t make him timid. He said he’s prepared for a long fight — this is his first UFC title fight, thus his first bout scheduled for five rounds — but he thinks it’ll end sooner rather than later.
“All my fights, I look for the knockout. That’s what I’ll try to do, knock him out,” dos Santos said. “My team and I are bringing a really good strategy with me. I can tell you I am ready for this fight. It doesn’t matter when (in the bout), I’ll be trying to finish this fight.”