Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE
Long before Junior dos Santos was UFC heavyweight champion, "Cigano" was a power-punching up-and-comer who was so dangerous with his hands, he could make you quit in the middle of a fight. Just ask Mirko "Cro Cop," who found out the hard way when they went to war at UFC 103 back in late 2009.
Who needs a ground game when you can tap people with your fists?
Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight titleholder Junior dos Santos is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under friends and fellow fighters Antonio Rodrigo and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. Yet 11 of his 15 wins have come by way of knockout and technical knockout.
Just let him bang, bro.
"Cigano" has already professed his love for boxing and usually schools his foes in the "sweet science" whenever possible. Sometimes they can survive 15 minutes of pain (Roy Nelson and Shane Carwin). Most of the time, they cannot (Cain Velasquez and Frank Mir).
And sometimes they tap out before we know one way or the other.
Such was the case with longtime mixed martial arts (MMA) veteran Mirko Filipovic. Following a putrid run under the ZUFFA banner in 2007, "Cro Cop" made his triumphant return to the Octagon at UFC 99: "The Comeback" nearly two years later, blinding Mostapha Al-Turk before pounding him into peanuts.
Now it was time to face another rising prospect.
While he was 2-0 inside the Octagon, little was known about the staying power of Dos Santos. He had not yet mastered the English language and after knocking Fabricio Werdum right out of the promotion, his win over Stefan Struve came in "The Skyscraper's" UFC debut.
Quite simply, it was still early, and there was much to prove.
In a classic battle of old school vs. new, UFC 103 featured Dos Santos and Filipovic battling it out on the pay-per-view main card to see who would inch themselves closer to the heavyweight title, then held by professional wrestling import Brock Lesnar.
Here's how it all went down.
Gloves won't be touched and Junior rumbles out of the gate with a combination. Cro Cop backpedals into the fence with a slap-happy defense and pushes off before circling left and out of danger. A leg kick from the Croatian finds the body but his Brazilian stalker walks right through it.
Double-C uncorks his patented left high kick but it sails wide.
Dos Santos lumbers forward and opens up his hands. Filipovic crashes against the fence and covers up while Junior unloads. Cro Cop circles left and "Cigano" has him on the run. I mean that literally, as Mirko is flat-out running away. The Brazilian chases him down and they hug.
Junior is cut below his right eye.
Cro Cop uses a body lock to force the takedown but Junior has none of it. A straight left lands for the man in checkered shorts and now Dos Santos is cut under both eyes. One minute left in the round and both fighters are breathing heavily as the pace slows to a crawl.
Dos Santos eats a left at the buzzer.
For the first time in his UFC career, "Cigano" enters a second round, where's he's immediately greeted with a left high kick that swings and misses. Cro Cop slaps two leg kicks to the thigh of his opponent and Junior bum rushes him with fists of fury. Once again, he's driven to the wall and forced to cover up.
The straight left continues to find a home and Filipovic punches his way to safety.
The crowd gets restless as the fighters spend the next minute or so pawing at each other. Mirko with a left high kick but like its predecessors, it goes wide. As both fighters struggle to maintain their conditioning, Dos Santos begins to box more methodically, picking his shots and working the angles.
The crowd boos in disapproval.
Just under a minute to go in the second stanza and Filipovic lands a deadly kick. Unfortunately, it's to the Brazilian's ball bag and Dos Santos slumps to the ground in pain. Cro Cop apologetically waves and an ugly fight just got uglier. Action resumes with a touch of gloves and "Cigano" opens up a cut on the Croatian as time expires.
And he looks all kinds of mad.
The final frame brings a huge left hand from Cro Cop but Dos Santos waltzes right through it. Mirko in retreat and out of nowhere Junior jumps in with a knee to the body. Filipovic circles out and the Brazilian blasts him with two more and the former PRIDE star is in trouble.
The Brazilian pops him with a right and chases him to the fence, securing the clinch and driving a knee to the dome. Cro Cop does the stanky leg and the crowd gasps. Junior swings and misses and Mirko tries to make a break for it. Dos Santos chases him down and secures the clinch, popping off another hard knee to the face followed by two to the body.
Suddenly, Junior pushes off, throws his arms in the air and begins to scream.
The arena falls silent. UFC play-by-play man Mike Goldberg, at a loss, mutters, "Cro Cop said ... wait ... wait ... he can't see! Mirko Cro Cop says he cannot see!" Referee Dan Miragliotta dramatically runs in and wave his arms to halt the action, despite the fact that you could land a 747 between the two fighters.
With three minutes left in the fight, Filipovic surrenders.
In just a few days, Dos Santos will once again have a chance to make history, or at least continue it, when he trades leather with former division titleholder Cain Velasquez at the UFC 155 event from the MGM Grand Garden Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada on Dec. 29, 2012.
To see how Velasquez made his mark on history on his way to his "Cigano" rematch click here.