Coming off of a loss and having lost three out of his five most recent bouts heading into Sunday’s showdown with Ben Rothwell, former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos wasn’t exactly looking to take a bunch of unwarranted risks to try and be the show stopper.
After all, his goal isn’t to “wow” the crowd for one night; his goal is to regain UFC gold.
If he wanted to use the UFC Fight Night 86 main event to help put him back in the hunt for the title, dos Santos simply needed to do one thing: he needed to win. And that’s exactly what he did.
There weren’t a lot of bells and whistles, but dos Santos dominated one of the hottest fighters in the heavyweight division, taking Rothwell bell to bell by working the body, slowing him down, and then making a bloody, swollen mess of his face. That was entirely by design, as Rothwell outweighed him by more the 20 pounds and had a 1.5-inch reach advantage.
“With a guy that size, you can’t collide with him. I was moving a lot, using my footwork and my speed; my boxing skills,” said an elated dos Santos on the FOX Sports 1 post-fight show.
“I did everything I could to avoid his power. I (kept) myself calm and just doing my job, moving a lot, avoiding his punches and his attacks, and throwing some hard jabs against him.”
Having alternated betweens wins and losses over the course of his last seven fights, dos Santos is in no position to call for an immediate title shot, even with the dominant performance against Rothwell, who probably would have found himself in such a position had he won. In fact, dos Santos isn’t really sure what’s next for him. He just knows that an enormous weight was lifted off his shoulders by getting back in the win column.
“I don’t know whats next, that’s up to the UFC, but I needed this to feel the passion inside my heart again,” he said. “I gave my all to win the fight. I found that passion tonight and now anything is possible.”
What he’s sure is not only possible, but a certainty, is that he will one day again have the UFC heavyweight championship belt wrapped around his waist.
“Write it down, I’m gonna be champion again.”