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Road to Vancouver: Junior dos Santos punches his ticket to the UFC

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When last we left Junior dos Santos, he had just suffered the first loss of his career, a humbling two minute submission to a fellow Brazilian. 

Undaunted, he continued his quest to become the world's best heavyweight mixed martial artist (MMA) which led him directly into the path of Geronimo "Mondragon" dos Santos.

Before "Cigano" steps into the Octagon for the biggest fight of his career, a headlining bout at UFC 131: 'Dos Santos vs. Carwin" against former Interim Heavyweight Champion Shane Carwin, we have been taking a look back at his career and the steps he took to get to where he will be on Saturday (June 11).

In the first entry, we discussed his MMA debut while the second entry focused on the aforementioned lose to Joaquim Ferreira.

Today's installment will highlight dos Santos' last fight in the regional Brazilian circuit before he was signed by the UFC and shot to the top of the MMA world.

Why is this fight significant?

It represents the culmination of seven fights and nearly two years worth of hard work and training. Coincidentally enough, the fight took place in Salvador, the same city that hosted his debut. And he faced off with a stalwart of the Brazilian scene in Geronimo dos Santos.

Besides sharing a family name, they also shared a knack for finishing their fights early as only two of "Mondragon's" 13 fights to this point had reached the second round with nearly all his wins coming via knockout.

This was "Cigano's" biggest test so far. His opponent was far more experienced than he was and wasn't afraid to throw leather.

What happened in the fight?

"Mondragon" slaps dos Santos' legs with a couple of kicks but whiffs on two others. Then they exchange wildly! No, wildly is an understatement. They look like two drunken frat boys at Mardi Gras throwing down. 

It's sloppy but exciting and it's exactly the kind of exchange that can get an otherwise good fighter knocked out with a punch that wouldn't normally find its mark.

Backed up against the cage, "Cigano" grabs ahold of dos Santos and drops him onto his back. But soon after the fight is temporarily halted due to a nasty cut over the left eye of "Mondragon."

It's bad but not stop the fight bad and the fighters are put back in the same position they were in before the stoppage.

From there, the more well-known dos Santos drives his giant forearm into "Mondragon's" neck, constricting his breathing before landing a big elbow across the once again bleeding cut.

Dos Santos grinds his forearms across the gash and the referee calls for yet another review from the ringside physician.

This time, however, "Mondragon" isn't lucky enough to avoid a permanent stoppage.

Clearly disappointed, the lesser known dos Santos falls to the mat leaving "Cigano" to celebrate his win.

What do we learn?

What sticks out the most is that dos Santos can take a shot.

If you look at the footage at the 1:16 moment, you see him eating a huge hook from "Mondragon." It lands flush and while it may stagger him a bit, he stays calm and is able to secure the takedown afterwards.

As stated previously, the lesser dos Santos isn't known for having pillow fists. Of his 22 wins, 14 have come via knockout or TKO. Taking a shot like that and not going to sleep or even getting dropped is impressive. 

While it seems that Carwin is packing more power in his punches than "Mondragon," it should ease "Cigano" supporters to know that a stronger than average chin protecting the Brazilian from getting his lights turned off.

In addition to that, dos Santos wasn't afraid to attack a now glaring weakness in his opponent. Cut and bleeding, "Mondragon" could have benefited from a bit of mercy from his opponent but received none. Killer instinct is something that fighters are born with and very rarely taught in the gym.

Also impressive is his ability to instantly go from striking to grappling mode, something "The Engineer" will have to defend against should he happen to land one of those truck-like fists.

As promised, here is footage of too short bout:

via Brsilva1

Tomorrow: After his shocking UFC debut, dos Santos continues to impress in 2009