Red hot heavyweight prospect Junior dos Santos (8-1) expects his next fight to come against Pride FC 2006 Open Weight Grand Prix winner Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic (25-6-2) at UFC 103, which is slated for the American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas, on Sept. 19, according GracieMag.com.
"Cigano" was today mysteriously scratched from a previously announced showdown opposite Justin McCully at UFC 102 on Aug. 29. Perhaps we now know the reason.
Here's a snip from dos Santos:
"They took me off the August 29 show. My opponent’s changed. I’ll probably face Cro Cop. If I beat him I’ll be in really good standing. If that’s truly the case, I’m guaranteed on the main card and in the main event of the evening. If I were to fight now it wouldn’t be on the main card.... To me it’s incredible. When they asked me if they could change the fight date I was a bit bothered, because I wanted to fight right away. I’ve been away for some time now. But the Fertitta brothers asked me and I accepted. After that I found out it would be against Cro Cop and was overjoyed. It’ll be a big opportunity in my career. Lots of good things have happened in my life and this is one more. I’m going to make the most of it."
The heavy-handed Brazilian knockout artist burst on the scene with an 81-second knockout of Fabricio Werdum — widely considered at the time a top player in the division — in his debut for the promotion at UFC 90: "Silva vs. Cote" back in October.
He most recently felled the Dutch "Skyscraper," also known as Stefan Struve, via technical knockout (strikes) in just 54 seconds at UFC 95: "Sanchez vs. Stevenson" earlier this year. The Team Nogueira-trained fighter has never been beyond the first round in his professional career, finishing his all of his opponents (with the exception of one) with a mix of submissions and (technical) knockouts.
That could all change if he does indeed opt to go toe-to-toe with the devastating Croatian striker.
"Cro Cop" most recently competed at UFC 99: "The Comeback," making a return to the Octagon to defeat British heavyweight Mostapha Al-turk in controversial fashion — an inadvertent eye poke that was missed by the referee led to a first round victory.
Prior to the win, Cro Cop has struggled mightily since coming stateside to compete inside the Octagon. Despite a win over Eddie Sanchez in his promotional debut back in 2007, Cro Cop would go on to lose back-to-back fights to Gabriel Gonzaga and Cheick Kongo, putting his UFC career on ice at the time.
He vowed to return, and did, but it appeared that he was on his way out the door again after UFC 99 when a miscommunication regarding his contract status cropped up between him and company president Dana White.
UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta reportedly came to the rescue, flying out to Zagreb to personally talk to Filipovic about another possible UFC return. The pair sat down and talked for two hours at Cro Cop’s house. And when it was all over, Fertitta apparently boarded his plane with a huge grin plastered on his face, saying that he made Cro Cop "an offer he can’t refuse."
Perhaps part of that deal was headlining a show against a top prospect such as dos Santos, which would more than likely position him among the handful of title contenders who have emerged over the course of the last 12 months if he can notch another victory.
For more on the still-developing UFC 103 fight card that includes possible bouts of Josh Koscheck vs. Frank Trigg and Martin Kampmann vs. Mike Swick, as well as Hermes Franca vs. Tyson Griffin, click here.