LAS VEGAS — There was a time when it was fair to say that Junior dos Santos had good boxing. There was a time when it was fair to say that he was a legitimate contender to regain the UFC heavyweight championship.
There was a time when the thought of dos Santos taking a fight was exciting, not nerve-wracking.
Sadly, those days are long gone. One of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet, in sports or out, dos Santos, 36, has come to the end of the line in his MMA career, and he seems to be the only one who doesn’t get that.
Dos Santos’ chin can no longer withstand the rigors of high-level MMA competition. He is on the road to disaster. If he continues to fight, this is not a story that will end well, or have a happy ending.
He needs to retire.
He needed to retire a while ago, to be honest, but if that was ever unclear, all one needed to do was watch his fight Saturday at Apex against Jairzinho Rozenstruik. The first truly significant punch that Rozenstruik landed ended the fight.
Dos Santos at one point in his career was 15-1, his only loss a submission to an armbar in his sixth pro fight. Now, he’s 21-8. He’s been knocked out three times in a row and in six of his last 11.
UFC president Dana White once campaigned for his friend and former light heavyweight champion, Chuck Liddell, to retire after Liddell was repeatedly knocked out.
At the UFC 252 post-fight news conference, I asked White if he felt the same way about dos Santos. He said he didn’t want to answer without thinking about it for a few days. He said he’d talk about dos Santos at Tuesday’s matchmaking meeting.
“He’s the nicest guy in the world,” White said. “I love that guy.”
There comes a time, though, when a fighter needs to be saved from himself, and that time has come for dos Santos.
Talking about his own retirement, former heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier said before he lost to Stipe Miocic at UFC 252 that it was important to get out before you become a steppingstone for young fighters to use to build their names.
Dos Santos may point out that there is no shame in being KO’d by the likes of Francis Ngannou, Curtis Blaydes and Rozenstruik, who are the three who have beaten him in his last three outings.
While that is true, what it proves is that he can’t take the punches from the heavyweights at the top of the division.
Rozenstruik landed 30 of 49 punches from a distance on Saturday, according to UFCstats.com. That in and of itself should belie the notion that dos Santos at this stage of his career is some kind of a great boxer. He’s getting hit far too easily and when he is hit, he doesn’t take them as well.
He’s a smart guy who has the ability to do far more than just fight. It’s time he uses those skills. If he doesn’t, this career that he’s chosen will, sadly, take those abilities away from him. It’s never pretty when it happens, but that’s the path dos Santos is on now.
He needs to be saved from himself. He no longer needs to be taking punches to the head.
This sport is not a long-term answer for anyone, and the time has come for the affable Brazilian to say goodbye.
Ranking Jon Jones’ top wins at 205
Jon Jones vacated the UFC light heavyweight championship on Monday, though he’s not necessarily retired. He’ll remain in the drug testing pool in case a heavyweight fight comes along that intrigues him.
But given that this looks like it’s it for him as a light heavyweight, here are my picks of his top five moments at 205:
5. UFC 126, Feb. 5, 2011, submitted Ryan Bader with a guillotine choke in the second round. Bader was undefeated and a high-level college wrestler, so he seemingly had the tools to deal with Jones. “Bones” proved that to be incorrect as he manhandled Bader before getting the submission.
4. UFC 135, Sept. 24, 2011, submitted Quinton “Rampage” Jackson with a rear naked choke in the fourth round. Jackson had the wrestling and the power in both hands to provide a threat to Jones, but Jones completely neutralized Jackson’s offense. He went on to hand Jackson only the second submission loss of his career.
3. UFC 182, Jan. 3, 2015, won a unanimous decision over Daniel Cormier. Cormier was unbeaten at this point and seemed to be the guy, with his Olympic wrestling pedigree, who could knock Jones off his pedestal. But Jones was fantastic and dominated Cormier in a fight that turned into a rout.
2. UFC 165, Sept. 21, 2013, won a unanimous decision over Alexander Gustafsson. Jones spent most of his training camp partying and barely trained for the fight. Gustafsson bolted to an early lead and Jones, who was badly beaten up, summoned all his forces to make an improbable comeback and win a classic battle.
1. UFC 128, March 19, 2011, stopped Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in the third round to win the light heavyweight title. This was the best performance of his career. Rua was in the prime of a Hall of Fame career and Jones manhandled him as if he were a winless preliminary fighter.
The MMA GOATs
Given that Saturday’s main event between Stipe Miocic and Cormier was for the unofficial status as greatest heavyweight of all-time, I decided to pick the GOAT in each weight class, with a runner-up if anyone, like Cormier at heavyweight, is close.
Heavyweight: Stipe Miocic. Runner-up: Daniel Cormier.
Light heavyweight: Jon Jones. No one else is remotely close.
Middleweight: Anderson Silva.
Welterweight: Georges St-Pierre. Runner-up: Matt Hughes.
Lightweight: Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Featherweight: Jose Aldo. Runner-up: Max Holloway.
Bantamweight: Dominick Cruz.
Flyweight: Demetrious Johnson. Runner-up: Henry Cejudo.
Women’s featherweight: Amanda Nunes. Runer-up: Cris “Cyborg” Justino.
Women’s bantamweight: Nunes. Runner-up: Ronda Rousey.
Women’s flyweight: Valentina Shevchenko.
Women’s strawweight: Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Top five men, pound-for-pound: Jon Jones, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Georges St-Pierre, Demetrious Johnson, Daniel Cormier.
Top five women, pound-for-pound: Amanda Nunes, Valentina Shevchenko, Cris “Cyborg” Justino, Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate.
He said it
“Joe Rogan gave me the best advice: Don’t read the comments, [and] don’t read negativity. I feed myself with positivity, my family, my friends. I know who are the real fans, who the hardcore ones are. I don’t have time to be going back and forth with people. Those guys are empty guys. Every time you answer them, they win. If you don’t answer them, you’re winning in life, so I’m in a good spot. I’ve said this before the fight and I’ll say it right now: I’m in good spirits, I’m a person that works hard for me, for my family, for my country and when you work the way I work, your dreams come true.” — Marlon “Chito” Vera after his TKO of Sean O’Malley Saturday at UFC 252.
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