Junior dos Santos has won only half of his past six fights, yet he somehow finds himself in a title bout at UFC 211.
Dos Santos challenges heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic Saturday, a man he beat via controversial decision 29 months ago. Speaking of beating, dos Santos has taken plenty of those over the last five years.
It all started when longtime rival Cain Velasquez avenged his knockout loss to dos Santos at UFC 155 to reclaim the throne. Dos Santos was utterly destroyed through five landslide rounds.
The pummeling was so vicious, dos Santos didn’t return to action for 17 months when he kicked Mark Hunt into unconsciousness.
The good news was that the win landed dos Santos a title tilt. The bad news was that Velasquez was standing on the opposite end of the cage. The trilogy was a near carbon copy of their sequel, except this time Velasquez finished dos Santos off in the fifth round after ragdolling him for most of the fight.
Dos Santos was sidelined for 14 months after that lopsided assault.
In his return bout, dos Santos was battered, bloodied and bruised in a questionable victory over Miocic. Dos Santos took another year off before getting TKO’d by Alistair Overeem.
He then beat Ben Rothwell after another extended 16-month layoff. Which leads us to Saturday, just dos Santos’ seventh fight since 2012 due to all the punishment he’s endured.
The UFC and its fans love fighters with heart, but is a brain made of mush worth the trade?
The saddest part of it all is that you couldn’t meet a nicer guy.
Dos Santos is only 33, but who knows how many years all of those drubbings took off his career. Let’s not overlook the irreparable damage that will show up later in his life.
It can be argued that he hasn’t been the same fighter since his rematch with Velasquez.
In fact, dos Santos wasn’t even supposed to be here. As luck and timing would have it, an injury forced Stefan Struve out of their February fight and dos Santos fortuitously landed in a championship affair after some reshuffling.
So with Velasquez out indefinitely recovering from various injuries, the time is now for dos Santos to recapture what was once his. Sadly, dos Santos will never be able to recover all the brain cells he’s lost along the way.