March 8, 2019

UFC Wichita: Second Wind: Junior dos Santos Looking To Make Another Heavyweight Title Run

By Adam Martin

It wasn't long ago that many were writing off Junior dos Santos as never again competing with the upper echelon of UFC heavyweights. And for good reason, as the former champ had endured a rough stretch where he went 3-4, punctuated by career-altering knockout losses to Cain Velasquez, Alistair Overeem, and Stipe Miocic. After being flagged by USADA in the fall of 2017, leading to the cancellation of his UFC 215 bout against Francis Ngannou, it seemed like dos Santos' career might be over.

But like a true champion does, JDS rose from the ashes and put that ugly period of his career behind him. First, he got cleared by USADA with no wrongdoing declared in relation to his failed drug test, as it was determined that he ingested a contaminated substance. Though he lost nine months from the prime of his career, it's almost like the time away from the Octagon -- and away from getting punched in the head -- had done JDS plenty of good. Since returning to the UFC active roster last July, JDS has picked up back-to-back dominant wins over Blagoy Ivanov and Tai Tuivasa. From all indications, it certainly appears that the champ is back.


This weekend, JDS takes on Derrick Lewis in the main event of UFC on ESPN+ 4, which takes place this Saturday in Wichita, Kansas. Lewis is coming off of a submission loss to Daniel Cormier in his bid to become the UFC Heavyweight Champion, but he remains one of the top fighters in the division, and of course one of its most dangerous knockout artists. However, if JDS wants to truly make another run for the belt, he'll have to put away Lewis in impressive fashion, because despite being a tough test for anyone at heavyweight, Lewis has been finished a number of times inside the Octagon, and JDS really needs to look good here if he's to be considered for a fourth shot at the UFC heavyweight title.

It's rare to see a fighter get that many cracks at the belt (unless you're Urijah Faber), but in the case of JDS in a relatively weak heavyweight division, it makes sense. The first time he fought for the belt, he finished Velasquez in upset fashion and won it on the first UFC on FOX card. The second time he was the challenger for the belt was the rubber match in his trilogy with Velasquez, where he suffered an epic beatdown at UFC 166. The third time he tried to win the belt, he was viciously finished by Miocic at UFC 211. And if he can score a big win over Lewis at UFC Wichita, JDS wouldn't be far from shot #4.


When the day comes that he finally hangs up his gloves, there's no doubt JDS is going to go into the UFC Hall of Fame. Though he ran into a rough patch in his career where he suffered some brutal knockout losses, for the most part he's been the rare model of excellence in the UFC heavyweight division. It's amazing that he continues to win in such dominant fashion at this later stage of his career against younger, hungrier fighters like Ivanov and Tuivasa, but perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. After all, JDS is a former champ for a reason, and he's proven time and time again that he knows how to rebound from a loss to get back into title contention. Now riding his first multi-fight win streak since 2012, it looks like "Cigano" has risen from the ashes when everyone wrote him off, and now let's see if he can get the opportunity to get the heavyweight title back.

UFC on ESPN+ 4
Derrick Lewis vs. Junior Dos Santos

UFC on ESPN+ 4: Lewis vs. Dos Santos takes place March 9, 2019 at INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas.

Click HERE for more UFC on ESPN+ 4 Pre-Fight Analysis


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