Junior dos Santos earned himself a title shot against the winner of the impending Brock Lesnar-Cain Velasquez fight by defeating the very game Roy Nelson Saturday night at UFC 117. Dos Santos hit Nelson with everything but the kitchen sink for three rounds en route to a unanimous decision victory and even though he was bruised, battered and more-than-once put on shaky legs, “Big Country” stayed in the fight and in dos Santos’ face, a fact that caught the Brazilian fighter by surprise.
“It was a nice fight, he surprised me,” dos Santos said in an interview with MMAFighting.com’s Ariel Helwani. “He’s a very tough fighter. I’m very happy with this victory.”
Dos Santos bested Nelson with crisp and powerful punch combinations punctuated by head-snapping uppercuts and thunderous body shots; the young fighter showed discipline by measuring his attack and keeping up a solid pace for three hard rounds and en route to his big win earned a ton of respect for the mullet-sporting Nelson.
“Yeah, tougher,” dos Santos responded when asked if Nelson was as tough as he thought he would be. “Some guys told me that he’s a tough guy but my thoughts about him now are that he is tougher than I thought before.”
Of the amount of shots Nelson took and kept fighting, dos Santos added, “It’s unbelievable. He’s got great defense too.”
Rumors spread after the fight that had dos Santos with a broken left hand but “Cigano” refuted them, saying only that his thumb is sore.
“No, no, it hurts a little bit, my thumb,” dos Santos said, trying out his English throughout the interview.
It was announced before they met in the cage that the dos Santos-Nelson bout would be a title eliminator but until the final bell rang, all of dos Santos’ focus was on “Big Country.” Now that the dust has settled, the Black House team member will begin putting some thought into his eventual UFC Heavyweight Championship bout.
“Yeah, now I’m gonna start thinking about this fight,” dos Santos said. “I’m very happy for this. My dream is to be UFC champion and I will.”