JdS improving game with one eye on Cain


Ask Junior dos Santos what kind of fight he's expecting against Stipe Miocic this weekend, and he'll start off with a relatively predictable response.

"I believe he's going to try to stand up with me," dos Santos told ESPN.com. "But as soon as I start to hit him, he's going to try to take me down."

See? Predictable. Dos Santos (16-3) has essentially fought his entire career as a knockout-only specialist -- KO or bust.

But toward the end of his response, dos Santos, who faces Miocic (12-1) on Saturday's UFC on Fox card in Phoenix, raises his voice to emphasize a final thought.

"If he does take me down, I'm going to submit him," dos Santos said. "It will be Junior dos Santos' first submission win in the UFC. You like that, right?"

(For the record, dos Santos "submitted" Mirko Filipovic in September 2009 at UFC 103 -- but the submission was the result of punches.)

Whether the Brazilian actually does attempt a submission this weekend is anyone's guess. History suggests he won't. According to Fightmetric, dos Santos has averaged a whopping 0.10 submission attempts for every 15 minutes he's spent in the Octagon during a 12-fight career.

The mere mention of doing so, however, illustrates a potential change in the former heavyweight champion. Dos Santos has lost two of his past three fights -- both to current champion Cain Velasquez.

There is no shame in losing to Velasquez (13-1), who has solidified himself as the best heavyweight on the planet (and dos Santos has a knockout win over Velasquez from 2011).

The way the second and third fights went, however, produced a red flag for dos Santos. After suffering a one-sided loss to Velasquez in a five-round title fight in December 2012, dos Santos fought him a third time 10 months later in October 2013.

The second and third fights were near-mirror images of each another. None of the holes Velasquez exposed in dos Santos' game had been patched and the Brazilian was eventually finished in the fifth round.

Dos Santos, 30, admits he looked the same in both those fights and has addressed the issue by joining the highly regarded Nova Uniao camp in Rio de Janeiro ahead of his bout against Miocic.

"Yeah, I think I was the same," said dos Santos, on the two losses to Velasquez. "I had a different strategy for the third fight, but I wasn't able to show it and that's what I want to change. I'm a boxing guy and all the time I will try to use my boxing, but I have enough jiu-jitsu to submit people.

"Even when things aren't going good, I try to knock people out. It didn't work well against Cain Velasquez and I learned I needed to improve. Having strategy is one thing -- to put that strategy in action is another. I'm still a striking guy, but when I see I have to change my game plan I have to be able to do that -- not just physically but also mentally."

Dos Santos believes that working with Nova Uniao head trainer Andre Pederneiras has provided him a comfort level as mixed martial artist he's lacked before. He says he still maintains ties to his old camps, including Team Nogueira, and has continued working with boxing coach Luiz Dorea.

He says he's not a completely different fighter than he was before -- his skill set continues to be what it was -- but he's prepared, mentally, to use more of his tools now.

He says he doesn't count out interim heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum's chances against Velasquez, but says, "If Werdum fights like he fought against Mark Hunt, that will not be good for him."

Reclaiming his title and fighting Velasquez a fourth time isn't something dos Santos can ask for now, but it's on his radar. He knows, however, this weekend's fight against Miocic comes first.

"For sure, people will see [another fight] against Cain Velasquez," dos Santos said. "He's already said he doesn't want to fight me and this fight does not interest him, but, man, I have a lot to show for my fans. I don't want anybody to give me that. I'm going to conquer that and sooner or later we're going to have to fight again. It doesn't matter what he wants or not.

"But right now, I don't have much to say about that because I'm just thinking about Miocic. But after my fight, I'm going to have a lot of things to say about this because I'm very disappointed by what he said."