Junior dos Santos beats Stipe Miocic in instant classic
PHOENIX -- In his first fight in 14 months, Junior dos Santos did just enough to unanimously outpoint Stipe Miocic.
Yes, his hands were swift. Yes, they were accurate. No, they weren't devastating.
The former UFC heavyweight champion received winning scores of 48-47, 49-46, 49-46 from the judges Saturday night at US Airways Center in the first UFC event in Arizona.
Dos Santos (17-3) was a 5-to-1 favorite, but Miocic (12-2) made it difficult on the Brazilian for five back-and-forth rounds. In the end, dos Santos' consistency in landing straight right hands and left hooks looked to make the difference.
Miocic, a part-time firefighter from Cleveland, clearly thought it was a closer fight, immediately leaving the cage upon hearing the decision.
"Miocic is a great, great opponent," dos Santos said. "Man, that was a tough fight. It's good to come back. It makes me feel how tough it is in order to be the No. 1 in the world."
Another shot at the UFC heavyweight title belt that dos Santos wants may be in the offing, whether it's against champion Cain Velasquez, who dos Santos has lost to twice, or interim champ Fabricio Werdum, who dos Santos knocked out six years ago.
UFC President Dana White, though, wasn't too convinced.
"I don't know where exactly this puts him (in the heavyweight division)," White said about dos Santos. "I thought that he won the fight, but let me tell you what, he slowed down a lot. He took some big shots tonight. His eyes start to swell up, his cheeks starts to swell up and that was early in the fight. If that was a three-round fight, Stipe wins the fight."
Dos Santos was able to thwart Miocic's repeated takedown attempts for most of the bout. Miocic found success with lunging left hooks that landed as dos Santos tried to back away.
"He was trying to take me down all the time, that was a surprise to me," dos Santos said. "Normally he doesn't do that. He has really good boxing skills. And you can see that with my face."
Miocic seemed to be getting stronger as the fight wore on, landing straight rights that deformed dos Santos' cheekbones.
Dos Santos did drop Miocic to the canvas in the third round with a short left that caught Miocic coming in close to finish a combination.
The fifth round was a summary of the entire fight, an action-packing round that left the fighters' faces bruised and bloody and the crowd wanting more.
Saturday's heavyweight-dominated main card didn't disappoint those looking for first-round finishes.
It started with Matt Mitrione's TKO of Gabriel Gonzaga 1:49 into the fight. It was Mitrione's third straight first-round knockout win. Then Alistair Overeem (38-14, 1 no contest) took care of Stefan Struve (29-7) at 4:13 via TKO (punches) in the battle between Dutch giants.
Other notables: 2008 U.S. Olympic freestyle wrestling gold medalist Henry Cejudo (7-0), a Phoenix native, won his UFC debut with a dominant unanimous decision victory over Dustin Kimura (12-3) of Honolulu in a bantamweight bout on the preliminary card. Lightweight fighter Jamie Varner (21-11-1, 2 no contests), also a Phoenix native, retired in the octagon after losing to underdog Drew Dober (15-6) of Omaha, Nebraska, by submission (rear naked choke) 1:52 into the first round.