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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior dos Santos has faced a number of different stylistic challenges in his UFC career thus far. From kickboxers like Mirko Cro Cop, ground fighters with striking skills like Gabriel Gonzaga and Roy Nelson, to wrestlers like Cain Velasquez, he's seen many types of fighter in his time.
Now, he'll face off against another challenge on May 26 when he faces Alistair Overeem. Though both fighters have a significant background with their ground games, both are very much known as strikers in 2012. For dos Santos, taking on the former K-1 World Grand Prix Champ represents perhaps his biggest test to date, and it's one he feels ready to pass.
"I think it’s the ultimate test for my striking,” dos Santos said in an interview with Sherdog.com. “It’s still the biggest challenge. He was a K-1 champion, which is the greatest striking event in the world. He’s a very strong guy, good, but I trust in myself a lot and I try for the knockout in all of my fights. Regardless of him being a striker or not, I’m going for the knockout.”
Still, dos Santos has his ground game to fall back on if it becomes necessary in the course of the fight, but he makes it clear that it will not be his preferred course of action in Las Vegas.
"Jiu-jitsu can be Plan B," the Champion said. "I’m an MMA fighter, training in everything. I’m well prepared to fight, whether standing or on the ground, and if I find it necessary to take it to the ground, it will happen."
Penick's Analysis: This really is the two biggest and baddest strikers in the MMA world facing off for the biggest title in the sport, and it should be a huge fight on a literally massive card in Las Vegas. Dos Santos feels more than comfortable pitting his boxing game against Overeem's striking, and because of that we'll be in for a very technical battle on the feet. Can Overeem's kicks and knees get in on dos Santos' hands? Can dos Santos connect early and often? Can he find Overeem's chin before Overeem tests his? How well can dos Santos take a punch from one of the best strikers in the world? We'll get answers to all of these and more on May 26, and I can't wait to see it.
[Junior dos Santos art by Grant Gould (c) MMATorch.com]
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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