Dos Santos more than just a boxer

June, 12, 2011
6/12/11
8:29
AM ET
Mindenhall By Chuck Mindenhall
ESPN.com
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dos Santos/CarwinRod Mar for ESPN.comJunior dos Santos proved he's more than just a one-trick pony against Shane Carwin.
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- It wasn’t that he beat Shane Carwin in the main event of UFC 131; it was the topsy-turvy nature of how Junior dos Santos did it.

Not only did dos Santos prevent Carwin from dumping him to the ground with a surprisingly strong takedown defense, but he also took down the wrestler on several occasions for good measure. The boxing, we knew about -- the jab was there any time dos Santos wanted to deploy it; the right was coiled and opportunistic; he had good head movement and he was cutting off angles. At the end of the night, Carwin’s nose was broken, and his face bordered on the macabre.

Some of this was predictable. Cigano -- the boxer. But Cigano -- the wrestler?

“As a fighter I train everything, and I’m improving in jiu-jitsu, I’m improving in wrestling, and I’m improving in boxing,” he told ESPN.com after dominating the heavyweight title contender with Carwin. “So I showed a little bit to the people tonight how I’m good in wrestling. I put him down, and I think it was good.”
[+] EnlargeCarwin/dos Santos
Rod Mar for ESPN.comJunior dos Santos' improved takedown defense came in handy versus Shane Carwin.

This bout didn’t play out the way people thought it might. All the prefight blather was about why they were bothering with judges at all, that this thing would be over in moments. For his part, dos Santos himself said repeatedly throughout the week, “Don’t blink.” Turns out this was a cruel and unusual request for a fight that was destined to go a full 15 minutes.

Who knew?

Dos Santos did. He had his way in every area of this fight, and he was very close to finishing Carwin in the first round with strikes. Instead, Carwin survived and survived and kept on surviving, through the blood that streamed down his face from Round 1 on from severe gashes above his eye and through a mangled nose that took the shape of a comma. Carwin proved his chin and heart, but dos Santos proved he’s a more well-rounded fighter than we’ve seen (even if his jiu-jitsu is still entirely theoretical). In fact, the fight was so one-sided against a very tough customer that it was hard to imagine dos Santos’ original opponent, Brock Lesnar, faring any better.

“Yeah, I think that Lesnar was maybe a little bit easier for me in fight [standing up], because he doesn’t have very good boxing skills and Muay Thai skills,” dos Santos said. “But he does have good takedowns. Both Shane Carwin and Brock Lesnar are good wrestlers. So that was a good challenge for me to keep the fight standing.”

Now that he’s beaten Carwin, dos Santos is set up to face the man he was supposed to face by now anyway, champion Cain Velasquez. Cigano's manager Ed Soares said he was pretty sure the fight would happen in 2011, and the thinking is that Velasquez will be able to return from his nearly yearlong layoff after shoulder surgery. Against Velasquez, dos Santos will meet a wrestler who was thought to be the most well-rounded in the division. That is, until dos Santos began showing up with added wrinkles and depths in his game.

The fight could be in November, and dos Santos would have to wait -- but he’d do it reluctantly.

“I want to fight as soon as possible with Cain,” he said. “It’s going to be a very important for me, because my dream is to win a title. So I will be ready for him. He’s very tough, but I will be ready.”

More ready than we were previously led to believe.

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