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Junior Dos Santos ready to continue heavyweight drive

Junior Dos Santos ready to continue heavyweight drive

June 4, 2011

Keep a 26-year-old athlete on the sidelines for too long, and you’re going to have problems. They’re just not meant to go slow, wait or sit still.

Better put: What’s the point of keeping a Ferrari garaged? After all, that worked out real well in Ferris Bueller.

Junior Dos Santos has stormed to the top of the heavyweight mountain with six consecutive wins and run smack into the bottleneck that is the title picture (or “in the mix”). There’s a short line to summit, but it moves slow, as big guys generally do.

Except for Junior. He moves quickly, and his hands move even faster. They’ve helped him end eight of his 11 professional wins in the first round.

But his patience has been tested. First, he was supposed to get a title shot at UFC 129. But then current champ Cain Velasquez discovered a severe injury. So Dos Santos (12-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC) took a coaching slot on “The Ultimate Fighter 13″ – a great opportunity for exposure – with the promise of a No. 1 contender’s bout with former champ Brock Lesnar waiting at the show’s end. Then Lesnar fell ill with a second bout of diverticulitis, and onetime title-challenger Shane Carwin (12-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) stepped in to the position.

All the opponent switching is fine, Dos Santos said. But jeez, this waiting is not good.

“I’m very excited to be fighting against Shane because my last fight was almost 10 months ago,” he said during a conference call in support of UFC 131, which takes place June 11 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. “That’s too much time without (a) fight, so I’m very excited to be fighting.”

Carwin can relate. He hasn’t fought since this past July, when he lost to then-champ Lesnar by submission. A longstanding neck injury took him out of the game when he was forced to undergo surgery, and a January bout with Roy Nelson was shelved. The fulltime engineer mirrored Dos Santos’ eagerness to get back in the cage.

The two have run parallel careers, knocking out the majority of their opponents with their fists in the first round. The only difference is that Carwin has a recent setback from which to recover, and Dos Santos’ rise has seemed stoppable only by the UFC’s calendar of events and the injuries his opponents sustain.

Dos Santos is a decade younger than Carwin, though, so he’s down on the scorecards of wisdom and experience – traits that would help him deal with career curveballs.

“I really miss doing what I love to do, which is stepping in that octagon and doing what I’ve trained to do,” he said. “The main thing is to keep fighting. You’ve got to always be fighting to keep yourself up to date, and I feel this fight is going to be great to bring me back up and be ready for the title shot.”

The UFC wisely kept him busy on “TUF 13,” which Dos Santos said was a good use of his time. He learned a lot about teaching on the reality-show set and made several new friends on the team of fighters he coached. He has yet to make nice with Lew Polley, who served as his assistant coach for part of the show before being asked to leave. But along with patience, compromise can often be the last thing on a young fighter’s mind.

It was his personal coaching staff that ultimately kept things on an even keel and helped keep him sharp. With this past month’s announcement that Lesnar had been replaced by Carwin, they also re-directed his training camp. Going from a fight against a ground-and-pound specialist to a knockout artist with an unproven ground game was about as big of a change as you could throw his team.

Dos Santos, however, said he isn’t going to change his approach to fighting. Carwin may have equally heavy hands, but that just makes things a little more interesting.

“I’m always looking for the knockout in my fights, and this fight is not going to be any different,” he said. “I’m going to be looking for the knockout at all times.

“Shane Carwin can walk through some punches. He’s a really tough guy, but I have a lot of belief in the power of my hands, and maybe [Carwin] has never felt the power of the hands like I have.”

Ten days stand between Dos Santos and his passion. The winner of next Saturday’s fight will still get a title shot against Velasquez, assuming the champ is ready to go this fall. That’s a year from the moment Dos Santos got in queue for the division’s biggest prize. There have been some ups and downs on the way, but there’s now a clear path.

And the waiting ultimately has made him a wiser fighter. He still wants to go fast, but he’s more comfortable with putting the car in neutral.

“It’s really in God’s hands,” Dos Santos said. “Some things [happen] for the best, and I’m really focused on becoming the UFC heavyweight champion. So I want to be involved in all the fights (so) I can get up there.”

Source: MMAJunkie