Former Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight king Junior dos Santos steps inside the Octagon for the 18th time Saturday when he takes on surging contender Tai Tuivasa in the main event of the final UFC Fight Night Fox Sports card. Dos Santos is coming off a much-needed victory over Blagoy Ivanov earlier this year and with the state of the division, he could earn yet another title shot with a win over Tuivasa.
Since dos Santos won the title on the first UFC on Fox card ever, it only makes sense that he headlines the last Fight Night card before we start the ESPN era. Dos Santos shocked the world in 2011 when he won the heavyweight championship in just over a minute with his now famous overhand right set up with a feinted jab. Although the overhand garners all the attention, it would not be able to land if it wasn’t for this beautiful setup. Notice how both Velasquez and Mark Hunt bite on the feint and attempt to land a jab of their own, which dos Santos can counter with the wild overhand right over the top of their outstretched lead.
His other favorite leading attack is a looping rear uppercut that he again sets up with a feinted jab. In his very first UFC bout, dos Santos scored one of the nastiest knockouts in MMA history with this uppercut against Fabricio Werdum. Notice how he doubles up on the feinted jab, which Werdum attempts to counter with a right hook, but ends up placing himself right into the uppercut. These wild overhands and uppercuts might not seem like elite technical boxing -- and generally, they are not -- but they are set up by intelligently baiting opponents into them with feints. This not only allows the punches to land with more power, but it also negates any returning strikes if timed perfectly.
Although dos Santos is a meat and potatoes boxer, he does have the athleticism to pull off spinning heel kicks like these and you always must watch for brief moments of unorthodox striking when fighting “Cigano.” Although he doesn’t do it often, he can catch opponents off guard with kicks like this and other out of character strikes like a standing hammer fist or leaping side kick to the stomach that he only shows occasionally.
One of dos Santos’s finest moments in the Octagon came against former champion Stipe Miocic and showed just how tricky a boxer he can be. Miocic is regarded as the better boxer, but he often walks forward with wide punches that he overextends on and leaves himself open for counters. Notice how dos Santos throws a right straight while dipping to his left and switching to a southpaw stance, then landing the left hook at an unexpected angle as Miocic overlooked the switch.