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Junior Dos Santos still hoping to headline UFC Fight Night 105 in Halifax, but against whom?
It wasn’t that long ago that Junior Dos Santos was flying high, getting ready to headline an event in Canada next month.
Then a week ago, Stefan Struve (28-8 MMA, 12-6 UFC) injured his shoulder, forcing him out of the UFC Fight Night 105 main event against Dos Santos (18-4 MMA, 12-3 UFC), and the former heavyweight champion’s world was thrust into a little bit of chaos.
UFC Fight Night 105 takes place Feb. 19, a Sunday, at Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and airs live on FS1 following prelims on UFC Fight Pass. Dos Santos still is scheduled for the main event, but the question is, who’s he going to fight?
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“We don’t really know the situation,” Dos Santos told MMAjunkie. “What the UFC told us is that they’re looking for an opponent, especially because we were the main event in Halifax. So I’m still training and awaiting news.”
Dos Santos is coming off a dominant unanimous decision win over the then-streaking Ben Rothwell in April 2016, but he hasn’t fought since then. For nearly five years, “Cigano” has alternated wins and losses. He defended the heavyweight title at UFC 146 against Frank Mir, but lost it in a rematch to Cain Velasquez at UFC 155.
He knocked out Mark Hunt at UFC 160 to rebound, but again lost to Velasquez in their trilogy fight at UFC 166 in a title shot. He beat current champion Stipe Miocic in December 2014, but lost to Alistair Overeem his next time out before beating Rothwell.
The fight against Struve represented a chance to put together consecutive wins for the first time since he was champion five years ago.
“It’s very frustrating, to be honest,” Dos Santos said. “It’s tough, because you know how hard it was to find an opponent. I think many things were happening in the division, but we weren’t able to find an opponent. A few of them were injured, others serving suspensions, others with fights booked and others who wouldn’t take the fight – which for me is kind of absurd, but OK. Unfortunately, (Struve) got hurt. I can’t judge things without knowing, and I’ve been in his position before, so I can only wish him a good recovery so he can return as fast as possible. Who knows – maybe in the future we can fight.”
The consensus seemed to be that Fabricio Werdum was the best choice to step in for Struve to fight Dos Santos. The two first fought more than eight years ago at Dos Santos’ promotional debut at UFC 90 in Chicago. And in that fight, as a heavy underdog, “JDS” burst on the scene with a “Knockout of the Night” bonus in just 80 seconds.
He won six more fights after that, including a TKO of Struve right after beating Werdum, to get his shot at Velasquez to win the title. But for some reason, Werdum, Dos Santos said, doesn’t seem to want the rematch.
“Werdum was the UFC’s first option,” Dos Santos said. “Before even talking to me, they’d talked to him. But once again, I think he turned it down. I don’t know the reasons, but once more he turned it down – I believe it was the third time in these past few months that he refused to fight me, which is kind of senseless. He turned it down (and) the UFC went after other opponents. But, really, if you look at it, it was so hard to find a fight for me before Stefan Struve.
“No one could fight, nobody had enough time to prepare – like Alistair. He said he didn’t have enough time to get ready for the fight. And then after my fight was announced, everyone in the division got fights scheduled. So that was pretty funny, that before no one could (fight) and then everyone could. Alistair is going to fight one, two weeks after Halifax. With me, he couldn’t, but then with Hunt he can? It’s a weird situation. But that’s how it happened and now there’s not much else to do but wait for the UFC to find this opponent so that we can continue the preparation and finally fight.”
Whoever the UFC puts in front of him, Dos Santos believes his win over Rothwell started to put him in position to get a shot at the title. Rothwell likely would’ve been ahead of recent title loser Overeem until Dos Santos beat him. Werdum beat Travis Browne this past fall, then was supposed to fight Velasquez before Velasquez pulled out of UFC 207.
So Werdum now may be sitting back waiting for what he hopes is a shot at champ Miocic. But Dos Santos believes he should be right there, too.
“I think I’m more than qualified to fight for the belt,” he said. “The other names up there to get a title shot both come off wins over Travis Browne – who’s been doing very poorly in the division. It doesn’t really add anything. So what’s the difference of me coming off a win over Rothwell? I’m more than qualified to fight for the belt. But that’s the thing – I don’t pick fights, I don’t pick opponents. That’s how it’s always been in my career. And I think that’s something I need to change a little. Because, if you look at it, people only want to fight me when it’s extremely beneficial to them. When it’s not, they don’t want to fight me.
“… I’m absolutely certain that in 2017, I will be able to show even to those who don’t believe my words, I will be able to prove to everyone that what I’m saying is true. I will end this year as heavyweight champion, I have no doubt about that.”