Junior dos Santos (aka Cigano) will compete against Curtis Blaydes at UFC Raleigh. It is a classic striker versus grappler match-up. One holds the record for the most knockdowns and the other holds the record for the most takedowns.
Cigano was one of the fighters featured on the UFC’s 25-year special series. In the episode, dos Santos trains in Brazil. At the time, he was preparing to face Frank Mir. During camp, Cigano befriends a local boy. The boy grows attached to Cigano and requests to travel with him. The former heavyweight champ grants him his wish. Soon dos Santos emerges victorious against Mir and brings the little boy into the octagon to celebrate. Over a decade later, when dos Santos returns to find that the young boy has grown up. The boy, now 16 has become a fighter himself. He is competing in Bahia’s boxing competitions.
Cigano saw a dreamer
So what prompted him to take the young boy under his wing for that fight? When asked about it, dos Santos replied “I could see that he was a dreamer. I am also a dreamer”. That’s a sneak peek into the mindset of the former heavyweight champion.
Cigano is known as one of the most cheerful personalities in the UFC. To wit, he appeared in a dance show in Brazil.
Don’t let the smiles and cheeriness throw you off. Long-time fans of MMA know that Junior dos Santos is one of the most respected names in the heavyweight division. When he made his debut, he knocked out Fabricio Werdum in the first round. He holds a victory over current UFC heavyweight champion, and consensus all-time great Stipe Miocic and one over AKA mainstay Cain Velasquez. In more recent times he has also beaten the likes of the dangerous Derrick Lewis and Tai Tuivasa.
Boxing will be dos Santos’ advantage
Cigano is a boxer who likes the simple minimalist approach. He avoids throwing long combinations. Junior dos Santos avoids the clinch more than some other strikers, which may be slightly strange considering he will be going into this fight with Blaydes with a reach disadvantage, albeit a slight one.
Cigano’s last outing was against Francis Ngannou, and like most Ngannou fights ended in a first-round knockout loss. This is an interesting point, as both Cigano and Blaydes have had the same experience. It will certainly make the ramifications of this bout far more pronounced.
Cigano recently appeared on a panel where he discussed an infection. It was just in the nick of time styles story. The infection had threatened his leg. Cigano narrated how the doctor informed him that should he have come just a little while later, the consequences may have been dire. Despite that, he reiterated his intent to impose his will. He also mentioned his respect for Curtis Blaydes. He’s well-advised to pay this respect.
Blaydes has already amassed an impressive resume. He beat Shamir Abdurakhimov in his last outing. That was at UFC 242, a big event in Abu Dhabi. He beat a cocky Justin Willis before that. And he’s pretty much won every other fight he’s been a part of with the exception of Francis Ngannou. There’s really no shame in that. To make things more impressive, he’s received praise from none other than Daniel Cormier.
Junior dos Santos can smile and dance on and off camera. When that cage door shuts, he has his work cut out for him.