Road to Vancouver: Junior dos Santos makes quick work of Gilbert Yvel and Gabriel Gonzaga

Photo via UFC.com

If the act of violence were a person, I'd bet hard cash its name would be Junior dos Santos.

Since first stepping foot inside the Octagon back in October 2008, he's been a whirlwind of aggression and brutality, stopping his first three opponents with relative ease.

We took a look back at his second and third UFC fights in yesterday's installment while the firstsecond, and third parts covered "Cigano's" early career in Brazil.

Today we will take a look at the two fights that established dos Santos' place at the top of the heavyweight food chain in the UFC. Two sudden and devastating knockouts against Gilbert Yvel and Gabriel Gonzaga proved that "Cigano" was here to stay. 

This special is all because this Saturday night (June 11), he will meet Shane Carwin in the main event of UFC 131: "Dos Santos vs. Carwin" with a title shot against UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez on the line.

We're inching ever closer to the big day, ladies and gentlemen.

Are you ready?

Why are these fights significant?

Fluke. Prospect. Over the hill.

Those are three words that naysayers could use to describe dos Santos' first three wins in the UFC.

And while people still brushed off his wins against Yvel and Gonzaga -- Yvel was never a world-beater and Gonzaga had dropped off considerably since being a title contender -- he beat them as an elite heavyweight should have: dominantly in one round.

He didn't fear the stand-up skills of "Hurricane," a kickboxer for two decades. And he stood toe-to-toe with the man who headkicked Mirko Filipovic into mediocrity.

It also gave dos Santos a 5-0 record in the UFC which is usually good enough for a title shot. For one reason or another, the Brazilian kept getting passed up when it came down to doling them out.

What happened in these fights?

In his bout with Yvel at UFC 108, there wasn't much action in the first minute. One exchange led to nothing but "Cigano" seemed to favor that straight to the abdomen. He throws it in every fight.

Dos Santos did manage to land a grazing hook that forced Yvel back, causing the Brazilian to pounce. He landed a couple of shots but ate a counter hook from "Hurricane" that didn't phase him at all. It's like watching a robot fight the way he takes punches.

A low kick was countered with a hook by Yvel but again, it didn't seem to bother "Cigano." The former Pride fighter then threw a lightning quick headkick that was blocked and followed up by dos Santos smiling and motioning with his hands to "bring it."

He threw the abdomen punch I mentioned earlier and backed Yvel against the cage. Dos Santos threw it again and immediately threw a hook while still a bit low, bringing his fist up and cover, crashing it into "Hurricane's" jaw.

The kickboxer collapsed to the mat and all the Brazilian knockout kid had to do is keep up the flurry to get the referee to call a stop to the fight.

Absolutely brutal.

Impressively enough, he kept up that same level of aggression when he fought Gonzaga two and a half months later.

"Napao" was able to land a leg kick in the opening minute but dos Santos drove his favorite punch right into his opponent's abdomen before circling away.

Gonzaga landed another leg kick and followed through on a takedown but "Cigano" almost immediately got back to his feet. It seemed that he doesn't want any part of "Napao's" grappling game.

The two fighters spent the next couple of minutes trying to find an opening in each other's seemingly impenetrable defenses that might get them the advantage. It's a physical chess match with fists instead of rooks and knees in place of bishops.

Gonzaga seemed content to score with leg kicks. Perhaps too content because after landing several of them, one got countered by dos Santos and the punch dropped the former title contender onto his back.

"Cigano" started landing ground-and-pound although Gonzaga was good about defending until a punch snuck through his defenses and bounced his head off the mat. And then another. And finally a third before the referee jumped in and stopped the bout.

What did we learn?

Junior's gameplanning has always been good, that much we have seen. He stands with grapplers and he outboxes strikers. He uses smart boxing to land the killing blow in each of these two fights, a testament to "Cigano's" rapid development as a fighter.

While it may have been easier to close the distance on "Hurricane" and execute a trip takedown leading to a submission, he chose to pick his shots and utilize the straight to the body over and over before looping around for the hook that ultimately led to the end.

That' s just damn good boxing.

In the Gonzaga tilt, he timed his opponent's leg kicks perfectly, landing a counter that dropped "Napao" onto his back before finishing him off with ground-and-pound.

Dos Santos keeps getting better and better with every fight.

How good will he be on Saturday night?

Tomorrow: "Cigano" punishes "Big Country" for 15 minutes.

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