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Monday Morning Hangover: What’s next for Junior dos Santos after KO loss in Minneapolis?

Another weekend of fisticuffs has come and gone as UFC on ESPN 3 blew the roof off Target Center last Saturday night (June 29, 2019) in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Plenty of fighters were left licking their wounds, including Jussier Formiga, who was knocked out of Flyweight title contention by Joseph Benavidez and his devastating head kick (see it again here). And Marco Polo Reyes, who was stopped by Drew Dober in the very first round.

But which fighter is suffering from the worst post-fight hangover, now a few days removed from the show?

Junior dos Santos.

Going into his headlining Heavyweight showdown against Francis Ngannou, Junior knew a title shot was on the line, though it wasn’t exactly being promoted that way. Winner of three in a row, “Cigano” was quickly reminding everyone that despite his ups-and-downs over the last few years, he was still a dangerous threat and legit player in the big-man division that isn’t exactly filled to the brim with potential title contenders.

Unfortunately for “JDS,” the fight was over as quickly as it began, as Ngannou connected with one of those boulders he calls fists to put an end to the fight in just 71 seconds (see it here). In defeat, Junior joined Curtis Blaydes and Cain Velasquez on “The Predator’s” highlight reel of lightning-quick knockouts.

Afterward, “Cigano” explained his mistake and followed it up by going on social media to explain where he goes from here.

”I’m sorry the show was short this time, and without a great result for us,” he wrote. “I’ve been on top of this sport and weight class for over a decade, and I plan to be here for a long time still. I love fighting, I love my life, and I’m really grateful for every opportunity I have to grow and evolve.”

”The climb is tough and long, as you all know and sometimes — like tonight — months of perfect preparation and strategy are overshadowed by a millisecond’s mistake. There isn’t much to say now other than to congratulate Francis Ngannou for capitalizing so effectively on my mistake.”

Indeed, when facing a power-puncher like Ngannou, the margin for error is slim-to-none. Still, Junior — despite the unfortunate defeat — is still a major player in the division and I’d love to see a rematch with Ngannou down the road.

As for what could be in Junior’s immediate future, perhaps a fight against Alexander Volkov is in order. Volkov hasn’t competed since getting knocked out by Derrick Lewis last October and his plans to return against Alistair Overeem earlier this year were derailed for undisclosed reasons.

With only three spots separating them on the official UFC rankings, there’s no reason for this fight not to take place. It’s a fresh bout between two heavy hitters who eagerly want to get back into the mix. And since the division will be left without one of its major players by the end of this year in Daniel Cormier, getting back into that mix is one big punch away.

Get UFC on ESPN 3: “Ngannou vs dos Santos” play-by-play right here.