Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweight fighters Junior dos Santos and Stipe Miocic battled in a potential title eliminator last night (Dec. 13, 2014) at UFC on FOX 13 inside U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona.
It's been some time since fight fans have seen dos Santos inside the Octagon, and even longer since he's had a winning performance. After his savage beating and lengthy layoff, dos Santos needed to put on a strong performance in his return bout.
On the other hand, Miocic has been building momentum for some time. In the biggest step up of his career, Miocic looked to pull off a major upset.
Both fighters connected quite a bit inside the first round. Dos Santos landed some brutal body punches, but Miocic was the aggressor and continued to push dos Santos against the fence and land straight punches. In addition, he was constantly looking for the takedown, but he found no success.
Though dos Santos connected with several nice check hooks, he also turned away and put himself in a bad spot when put against the fence.
Overall, it was a close round, though Miocic's pressure may have edged it.
Miocic had an excellent second round. Dos Santos continued to find his opponent's body, but he was moving backwards during many of his punches. Meanwhile, Miocic was stepping deep into his power punches and landed a good amount of them.
Worse still for dos Santos, Miocic landed a takedown in the final minute of the bout. That more than likely sealed the round for the Croatian, in addition to giving him some free elbow strikes on an already bloody dos Santos.
Dos Santos found his grove in the third round. He sprawled on a takedown early, which sapped quite a bit of Miocic's energy. Miocic tried to gut through the fatigue with a combo, but dos Santos dropped him with a counter punch.
Miocic hung in for the rest of the round, but dos Santos landed at will. He continued his assault on Miocic's body, occasionally coming up for a big overhand. By the end of the round, dos Santos looked rather fresh, while Miocic struggled to breathe.
After coasting a bit against a tired Miocic to start the fourth round -- during which both fighters landed some okay punches -- dos Santos landed a nice trip from the clinch. Before he could do much with it, Miocic used a switch to get back to his feet.
At the end of the fourth, dos Santos landed a combination that stumbled Miocic, but he could not secure a finish from this opportunity.
The fifth round was quite the back-and-forth battle. Dos Santos would control pretty lengthy portions of the stand up, only for Miocic to storm forward, push dos Santos against the fence, and then smash his face with a combination.
By the end of the bout, both men were bloody and swollen. Still, the judges unanimously awarded the decision to the former heavyweight kingpin.
First, let's talk about Miocic. In an absolute war, Miocic proved his toughness, skill and chin. In addition, he brought an intelligent game plan into the cage with him.
However, his inability to fully replicate Cain Velasquez's success was mostly because of two issues. Mainly, he failed to put constant pressure on dos Santos. Instead, he'd back off, letting dos Santos easily land damaging combos of his own, whereas Velasquez was all over dos Santos from start to finish.
Miocic's conditioning also failed him. He pushed a very hard pace for the first two rounds, but dos Santos pull away after that.
This was still a great performance, and Miocic's stock should not fall. For his next bout, Miocic should pair off with Mark Hunt for an excellent fight.
Though dos Santos won in entertaining and clear fashion, he failed to improve on several areas. Even after he got through the ring rust, dos Santos made numerous mistakes.
Most importantly, dos Santos repeatedly allowed himself to be pushed into the fence. From that position, his defense suffered terribly. Velasquez ruthlessly exploited this flaw, but dos Santos has done little to improve upon it
Additionally, dos Santos kept backing up and switching into southpaw. While attempting to throw right-handed jabs and awkwardly circle, dos Santos absorbed a bunch of shots without landing anything meaningful.
Together, both of these flaws make dos Santos' chances against Velasquez in a fourth bout look horrid. In his next appearance, "Cigano" should battle with Travis Browne.
At UFC on FOX 13, dos Santos made his successful return to the Octagon at the expense of Miocic. Can dos Santos ever recover his belt?
For complete UFC on FOX 13 results and play-by-play click HERE.